Debbie Reynolds has starred in scores of movies and helped raise millions for a mental-health charity, but still she gets asked about that brief time in the 1950s when her husband, crooner Eddie Fisher, notoriously divorced her with two children to marry Reynolds' friend Elizabeth Taylor. It was fodder for the tabloids again with Taylor's recent death, but Reynolds brushes it off. After all, she didn't play the title role in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" for nothing.
That 1964 role proved oddly prophetic. She's faced her own Titanics since then -- namely two post-Eddie husbands who used up her money. Hence, two bankruptcies, two more divorces. But she always bounces back -- and keeps working.
On Friday she's bringing her act to C.W. Post's Tilles Center, in Greenvale. She chatted by phone last week with Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio.
So what can we expect in your act?
I call it "vaudeville." I'm 65 years now in the business, so I like the name vaudeville. I'm gonna sing, dance, do impressions -- Streisand, Dietrich, Garbo. I bring clips of films I'm proud of -- "Singin' in the Rain," "The Tender Trap," "Molly Brown," "Tammy." I sing those songs, and do some Sondheim and Gershwin.
No plans to retire?
I'm gonna wait till I drop dead. Just let God take me out. I'd rather die onstage. I really mean it. I'm happiest onstage. I've missed one show in 65 years.
No matter how sick I am, I go on. It's a tradition. Y'know. "TRADITIOOOON." It's just something I think is right. I'll be 79 on April 1st and I just feel . . .
Hey, happy birthday!
Thank you. April Fools' Day. It's a lucky day.
Is it? Do they say that?
I say that. I just feel it's a funny day. Valentine's Day is romantic. April Fools' Day is just fun. So you should have fun.
You've been in the news lately, with the death of Elizabeth Taylor.
Oh! Everybody called me. I lost my voice -- I did about 30 interviews.
Is it weird or just annoying to have people still asking about that painful time in your life?
You'd think everybody would be finished with it. Everybody knows what happened. Elizabeth and I made up. And Eddie got his dues -- he led a very lonely, miserable life and died alone. Now we're being compared to Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston. It's so silly.
How's your Hollywood memorabilia collection?
I give up. I can't get anyone interested enough to make a museum happen. And I'm tired of trying myself. So I'm going to have an auction in June in Beverly Hills and sell it all. I have thousands of costumes, the largest private collection in the world. Marilyn Monroe's subway dress. Audrey Hepburn's ascot dress from "My Fair Lady." I said I'd never sell, but here I am, doing another never. Never say never.
I'm sorry about that.
Me, too. Makes me very sad. But I can't do anything about it.
You're still The Unsinkable Debbie Reynolds.
Well, yes. So far, I made it, and I haven't sunk yet.
WHO Debbie Reynolds
You don't see her type much anymore. She's a "triple threat" who can sing, dance and act. Debbie Reynolds is the real deal.
What mom and dad named her Mary Frances Reynolds. (Debbie's a stage name.)
How she was discovered By talent scouts, after winning a Miss Burbank beauty pageant in 1948.
Golden oldie "Tammy," her single from the 1957 film "Tammy and the Bachelor," went gold, selling more than a million copies.
Trophy life She's been nominated for a best actress Academy Award (1965 for "The Unsinkable Molly Brown"), Tony Award ("Irene," 1974), Emmy Award (for her star turn as Grace's diva mama on "Will & Grace," 2000), and five Golden Globes (including for Albert Brooks' "Mother," 1997).
Charity begins at home Reynolds helped found The Thalians, an organization (named for the Greek Muse of comedy) that has raised millions of dollars in the past five decades for mental-health care.