She Slyly Spoofs Sex and Spies
By Martin Tolchin
The long-limbed model, swathed in towels on the tigerskin rug, growled seductively, narrowed her eyes meaningfully, jutted her jaw and purred: "I want a word with all you tigers. (Pause, underscored by a dreamy, steamy stare.) Oh, you men know which ones you are. Grrr. I like you. But, I don't like lions, you know, men with wild, dry manes."
Her delicious delivery of the Top Brass hair cream television commercial was full of all kinds of promise, which was at least partially fulfilled by "Tiger Girl" Barbara Feldon's elevation this season to a starring role in Get Smart, a TV takeoff on spy thrillers that is scoring impressively in the early ratings. Her style remains tongue-in-cheek as the mock sexpot of the hair cream commercial becomes a mock spy and sexy sidekick of Maxwell Smart, the series' hapless hero. The program is televised Saturdays on NBC from 8:30 to 9 P.M."I have a spoofy quality," the silken-voiced actress said over a vegetable dinner at Sardi's during a brief sabbatical from the Hollywood shooting. "It's a put-on. You know I'm not serious." Miss Feldon's personal style is more Vogue than Playboy. In fact, she entered television after a career as a high fashion model who savored yogurt( a chic, low-calorie, repast) for breakfast in hotels around the world.
Natural Comedienne"What I do isn't funny," said Miss Feldon, who is in her mid-'20s and considered by some to be a natural comedienne. "It's my attitude toward what I do. I perform as honestly as I can, but there's a part of me that's just not buying it. That's my wink at the audience. I invite them not to buy it either." Her attitude toward her acting career is casual. "What's not to like?", she said. "Acting is my business. It's the best business for me because I've trained for it the longest. Don't ask what I'll be doing 10 years from now."
Miss Feldon's acting career began taking shape during preschool years in her native Pittsburgh, when she saw and imitated Walt Disney's Pinocchio. This was closely followed by her Tarzan phase, characterized by much leaping and yelling, her Margaret O'Brien period "I was waiflike. I prayed for everyone and wished my eyes were a little larger and a little bluer."As an adolescent, Miss Feldon took ballet training, then went to the Carnegie Tech drama school. She came to New York in 1957 and walked to music in the Ziegfeld Follies. The other showgirls were "disaster bent," she recalled. "A lot of them, that's all they had. They had no place to go when that life was over."
For Miss Feldon, the Follies provided bread and butter money, considerably enhanced when, as a showgirl, she won $64,000 as a Shakespeare expert on The $64,000 Question. She invested mostly in "blue-chippy kinds of things Xerox is as venturesome as I've become." The one exception was when she put some of her winnings into a Greenwich Village art gallery. This she called "an esthetic success but a financial failure people were appreciating but not buying."Then came a modeling career "I was always lying on something soft and furry." In six months, she was modeling all over the world. "I thought, who needs Pinocchio or Margaret O'Brien? I wasn't at all interested in anything but flying around the world and eating yogurt in expensive hotels." A few appearances on TV dramatic programs, including East Side, West Side, helped her get her present television assignment, which she finds "so much easier than modeling. All you have to do is show up."
The show is shot in short takes "I've never had to say as much as I've said in a one-minute commercial," she said. Her life as a television actress begins at 6:30 A.M. with a telephone call from the switchboard operator. She arrives at the studio at 7, and works until 7 P.M., arriving home at 7:30."I go directly do not pass go, do not collect $200__to the bath. Then to the icebox. I crawl into bed with a tray, turn on television, and the next thing I know, I get my 6:30 call." She calls the regimen "my vegetable life I feel and act like a vegetable and eat nothing but."
Weekends she is joined by her husband, Lucien Feldon, a photographer's representative who works in New York and whom she calls the most reasonable human being I've ever run across." "We're very understanding of each other," she said. What's important in life? "Right now. I have my eye on right now. That's as important as anything will ever get."
I'd like to give a big thanks to Ryan Schroer who provided this article!!! J