According to Barbara Feldon, not a day goes by when somebody doesn't yell, "Hey, 99," out a cab window or smile and say hello to her on the street.
The recognition from fans, she says, "is the most extraordinary gift in life."
From 1965 to 1970, Feldon, a former dancer, played the beautiful, intelligent CONTROL. Agent 99, who was partnered with the bumbling, dimwitted Maxwell Smart (Don Adams), on the classic NBC and CBS series "Get Smart." "I don't watch reruns," she says. "I haven't seen the show since 1970, so for 23 years it has been totally out of my life."
But the series has come back into her life thanks to cable's Nickelodeon, which began running the Emmy-winning comedy two years ago. "Ninty-Nine is not me," Feldon explains. "It's like I am getting the reflected pleasure she would be getting. I feel like an inposter in a way, but I just gobble it up. "
On May 8, Feldon makes a rare TV appearance on the NBC comedy series "Mad About You" as the star of a famous '60s spy series. "It's sort of a parody," Feldon says. "I am playing a woman who used to be on a series called 'Spy Girl.' "
Spy Girl enters the lives of publicist Jamie (Helen Hunt) and her filmmaker husband Paul (Paul Reiser) when she comes to New York to promote a book. "It turns out she is incredibly difficult and high-handed," Feldon says.
Though Feldon was trained as a dramatic actress, she gets the most satisfaction doing comedy. "I think you are either born with (the ability to do comedy) or not," Feldon explains. "It is more like music than acting. Comedy has so much to do with timing."
She learned a lot about her craft appearing opposite Adams, whom she describes as a "tremendous comedic talent." Working with someone like Adams, she says, "just kind of elevates you."
Feldon, who grew up in Pittsburgh, always wanted to live in New York. "The minute I graduated (from high school), I was on the next train to New York," she says.
After living in California for 12 years, Feldon moved back to New York in 1977 and rarely leaves the city. "I am just so happy that I live here," she says, adding "it's the surprises and the variety" of the Big Apple that she finds so appealing.
Feldon makes a good living these days primarily doing voice-overs, currently for such commercials as Nice Cough drops and Campbell Soup. Last fall, she narrated PBS' four-part documentary "The Dinosaurs!"
"I just love doing voice-over work," Feldon says. "I love singing. I was on the board of the Poetry Society of America for a while and gave lots of poetry readings -- not my poetry, but great love poetry."
Feldon also has put together a one-woman show featuring music and literature on the themes of love. She's been trying the show out in Pennsylvania and Connecticut and hopes to bring it into New York.
"I thought of it as a cabaret, but the more I thought about it, I would like it to be in a little theater where people could be right there concentrating and not eating," Feldon says. "It takes a lot of concentration to listen to really ravishing poetry."
A Big Tip O' The Hat to Ryan Schroer for sending me this! Thanks, Ryan! J