LINDA ON SURGERY
Linda Gray reveals her thoughts on cosmetic surgery..
Linda Gray does not believe in face-lifts, but she does believe in the power of juicing. Every morning, she gets up bright and early, exercises for an hour and then chucks a load of fruit and veg in her juicer.
“I’ve softened my line on surgery a little,” she says. “If that’s what you want, go for it. But it’s not for me. In my home town I’ve seen a lot of scary things. I have peers who don’t look too natural. So my approach is to eat healthily, exercise and bless my genes.”
At this moment, I am tempted, for the first time in my life, to take her advice, and get down to the gym. Last week, Gray turned 60, yet here she is looking – and I really mean this – absolutely ravishing. Her skin is as soft and golden as a ripe apricot and her lips – those famous wiggly, waggly lips – are as plump as the finest feather pillows.
Then there is her body. That looks pretty trim, too – which is just as well since she will be unveiling it on a nightly basis on the London stage when she takes over from Anne Archer as Mrs Robinson in The Graduate on 1 October. Gray is the oldest glamour puss to take on the part so far.
Did she hesitate before saying yes? Only for a second. “You don’t say: ‘Yes, I’m doing the nude role.’ You say: ‘Yes, I’m doing the female role that just happens to include things I don’t normally do like smoking and stripping.’ I’ve never done nudity before, but it’s such a delicious part.”
When it comes to her body, there are “bits and pieces” that she isn’t crazy about – but she’s certainly not going to tell me where they are. Instead, for the next few weeks, she will simply exercise a little bit harder – the producers having ignored her suggestion that the audience be asked to leave their clothes at the coat-check as a sign of solidarity with the leading lady.
In the public mind, of course, Gray will always be Sue Ellen (“Have you bin drinkin’ again, S’Wellin?”), the character she played for 11 years in the Texan soap Dallas. But, unlike most actors, who hate it when people confuse with their on-screen alter-egos, Gray doesn’t mind. “The man who drove me to the theatre this morning didn’t say a word for the entire journey then, when we got out, he said: ‘May I help you, Sue Ellen?’ So cute! He was adorable!”
When she landed the part of Mrs Robinson, the first two people she called were Larry Hagman (who played her TV husband JR Ewing) and Patrick Duffy (who was Bobby Ewing). “Larry is just adorable! He mentioned the nudity. He said: ‘I’ll be there!’ Patrick just told me to do it. He was in Art in the West End and that was one of the most creative experiences he had ever had.”
Gray began her career as a model (when, coincidentally, she provided a stocking-clad leg for the original poster ad for The Graduate) and her part in Dallas was only ever intended to be a tiny one. But after she shot JR lots of meaningful glances with those eyes of hers she was a cast regular. “Larry and I just had chemistry,” she says.
Apart from her fondness for bourbon, Sue Ellen was famous for two things: her clothes and her voice. Her outfits involved lots of appliquè and shoulderpads the size of the Pyramids. “I loved wearing them,” says Gray. “Now, though, I’m in the Zen period of my life. By which I mean it’s more creative to look in your closet and say, OK, I have a more limited amount of clothing, how can I mix and match it?”
As for the voice, Gray hired a coach. “In west Texas, it was very hot and dry and people would expend too much energy if they … spoke … too … fast. That’s how the Texan drawl happened. The producers were always telling me to speak faster, but when I told my dialect coach this, he said: ‘Well, darlin’, tell them that Texan women never ever raise their voices. They just cut you up in little pieces so you just die right there on the floor in front of ‘em, and then they walk over you in their high heels.”
Gray left Dallas in 1989, not long before the series was axed. Afterwards, she briefly starred in Aaron Spelling’s doomed series Models Inc. More recently, she has appeared in The Vagina Monologues in Los Angeles and Atlanta and has been working as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations. She has two grown-up children (she divorced their father, art director Ed Thrasher, in 1983) and a 10-year-old grandson, but lives alone in Los Angeles.
“Yes, I’m single,” she says, then adds, “but I’m not saying I don’t have a lovely man in my life.”
Right now she’s about to get stuck into yet another rehearsal. “It’s quite gruelling,” she says. “It’s tricky remembering to drop the towel here, unbutton the blouse there. Obviously it is a big deal. But I’m a pioneer. I don’t think about my age. I think about doing great things. I feel better than I ever have before
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