Actress Cloris Leachman on the red carpet at the 75th Academy Awards at the Kodak Theater, March 23, 2003.
I never thought Cloris would die because she was more alive than anyone Iâve ever known. Her daughter, Dinah, and I were/are chums and put together a kidsâ cooking show where Cloris played a kitchen elf. Couldnât sell it (go figure) but I sure as hell had a great time hanging out with the divine Ms. Leachman, who never failed to keep you off balance with her antics but was always warm and kind-hearted.
We once went to a movie and dinner. Well known as a speed-driving freak, she exhorted me to drive faster, FASTER, and pass all cars on treacherous Topanga Canyon Blvd. Unnerved, I finally said âCloris! Stop yelling at me to go faster! Iâve never gotten a speeding ticket!â She replied, âWell thatâs nothing to brag about.â
She came to the premiere of my short film, Curse of the Sunset Starlet, at Raleigh Studios. Afterwards, she stood up in the crowded theater and said, âYour film is perfect from beginning to end and the only way it would have been better is if I was in it.â
Her daughter, Dinahâs Darlin daughter aka Clorisâs grand-daughter, Hallelujah, and Silanchi were/are chums. Silanchi with her outsized comedic talent would invariably get the lead comedic role in elementary school plays (the donkey in Shrek, the genie in Aladdin...). Cloris would go to lots of the kidsâ activities, but especially the performances. After each play, she would tell Silanchi some version of âYouâve got âITâ kid; not just anyone can do comedyâ. Silanchi really only knew Cloris as someoneâs crazy grandmother and would shrug off the compliment.
Everyone who knew Cloris knows Cloris was the Great Truth Teller, who never, ever faked a complimentâor a criticism. She once told an elementary school play director it was the worst thing sheâd ever seen but somehow made the criticism sound funny.
One memorable evening over dinner and a whole lotta wine, Cloris and Dinah re-enacted, word for word, the iconic HILARIOUS scene from Young Frankenstein that Iâve attached here in video because youâll want to see it yourself just to have a laugh. Now thatâs comedic timing! (Can you imagine this scene in the hands of a lesser comedian? youtube.com/watch?v=lcgEN3CaqXs
Last but not least, The Last Picture Show is my favorite film ever.
RIP funny, wacky, wild, and wonderful Cloris. There wonât be another like you, thatâs for sure. Sending love and Kitchen Elves to the Great Beyond.