21 questions

Rue McClanahan Thinks a Really Good Haircut Is Priceless

Name: Rue McClanahan
Age: 75
Neighborhood: Sutton Place
Occupation: Actress

Who’s your favorite New Yorker, living or dead, real or fictional?
I guess it would have to be Marlon Brando. Or maybe Superman — he was from Gotham. Although Superman and Marlon Brando are pretty much the same thing in my book.

What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in New York?
You know, I’d have to say my husband’s dinners. He cooks our dinner most nights.

In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?
I pretend to be somebody else.

Would you still live here on a $35,000 salary?
No, no — heavens no. Although you know what, maybe I would. When I came to New York I was earning less than that in equivalency. I was working Off Broadway making $55 a week, I had no clothing allowance whatsoever. I used to buy material by the yard — it was back in the miniskirt days of the late sixties — and I would buy two yards of material for a dollar a yard, and I’d make a pattern out of a newspaper drawn from a picture I’d seen in a store window, and I bought a $40 Singer sewing machine secondhand, and I made my own clothes. And I made [her son] Mark’s clothes. I couldn’t make little boys’ shirts and pants, my mother usually bought Mark’s clothes. But I made him a bathrobe that I still have.

What’s the last thing you saw on Broadway?
The last thing I saw was 33 Variations. My producer and I saw it together, and we both liked it very much. It was quite well handled.

Do you give money to panhandlers?
No. Although when my husband isn’t looking, I do.

What’s your drink?
Kangen water.

How often do you prepare your own meals?
On Thursday nights when my husband goes to the Player’s Club.

What’s your favorite medication?

What’s hanging above your sofa?
There’s a handmade wooden framed mirror, with turned wood made by a fellow in Wisconsin named Stephen Spina. He is an artist in wood and he’s made the coffee table and the mirror to match, and he’s also made us a rocking chair out of one piece of wood and a hall tree for your coats and hats and various other pieces of furniture. And then above the mirror are two very rough masks from Mexico in dark wood.

How much is too much to spend on a haircut?
I think $200 is too much. I even feel itchy about $150. But I mean, to tell you the truth, a really good haircut is priceless.

When’s bedtime?
When I’m sleepy.

Which do you prefer, the old Times Square or the new Times Square?
I prefer the new Times Square. I never felt safe in the old Times Square when I lived in New York in those years. Well, it wasn’t really Times Square, it was really Eighth Avenue that made me uncomfortable, and I had to go up and down it because I was working on Broadway. But that whole area was so tacky and it was so unsafe. I felt unsafe, anyway. I don’t like the looks and the ambiance of the new Times Square because I don’t like to have a theater named the American Airlines Theater, that’s so untheatrical. And I also don’t like the ones that look like hotels. I like a theater that looks like a theater, with a marquee and lights and the old-time look. But I do prefer safety and cleanliness and I do think the new Times Square, although it’s just jammed with people, is also safer.

What do you think of Donald Trump?
I think of him as little, as infrequently as possible. But I do think he has a very bad hairdo.

What do you hate most about living in New York?
Crosstown traffic. I wish we had smart cars or electric golf carts — that would be just perfect. We could get around so wonderfully. It’s all the big ol’ stupid trucks and the millions of cars going crosstown. I was doing Wicked over at the George Gershwin theater and I live over on the East Side, practically in the East River, and it took 45 minutes to get across town, which is just ridiculous.

Who is your mortal enemy?
Well, I don’t think I have any.

When’s the last time you drove a car?
About 2005. I was doing a Hallmark movie in California. We were shooting in Pasadena and they put me up in North Hollywood. And I had to drive over to Pasadena, and that’s when I said, “I’m not doing this one more day. Someone has to come over here and get me, because these California drivers are suicidal.”

Oh, no, I take it back. I went on a little country trip — a girlfriend and I drove up to the Berkshires, and that was about three years ago.

How has the Wall Street crash affected you?
Oh, I lost 40 percent of my retirement account. But my sister, who is brilliant, lost 39 percent of hers. So I don’t feel too bad.

Times, Post, or Daily News?
The Times.

Where do you go to be alone?
My tendency is to go to my office. Very often I am invaded. I also go to the backyard. We have a lovely little backyard or big back garden, whichever way you want to look at it.

What makes someone a New Yorker?
I was 15 when I realized, my dad had driven us up from Oklahoma for a trip, and I guess we must have parked the car in Jersey and taken a train over, because I remember walking up out of this underground place into what seemed to be Times Square. There I was, I saw this city and I said, “This is home.” I recognized it. I always felt like I had been born into the wrong place, back in Oklahoma. And when I discovered New York, I knew I had to get back to it. So it’s the feeling of having to get back to it.

Rue McClanahan Thinks a Really Good Haircut Is Priceless