Cloris Leachman’s Unique Life Inspires Vancouver Audience

83-going-on-23-year-old actor Cloris Leachman regaled fans with tales from her six decades in showbiz with all the energy of a teenager

Credit: nicvder1

Cloris Leachman as grand marshal of the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, 2009

When your own life is too busy, too fraught with projects and deadlines for much semblance of adventure, there’s nothing like living vicariously through someone whose very life has been the definition of the word.

Last night I had the opportunity to do just that when I was offered a ticket to see actor Cloris Leachman speak as part of the Unique Lives & Experiences series.

Though she might not be a household name, Leachman may have one of the most recognizable faces on television right now due to a stint last season on Dancing with the Stars. Then again, you might also recognize her from any one of the 137 TV shows and 57 films she’s appeared in, not to mention the 11 Broadway plays.

Leachman’s Life Well-lived

At 83 years old, Leachman has led the kind of full and rewarding life any mere mortal could ever dream of – a fantastically successful career, a loving family, five children, countless grandchildren and a recent great-grandchild, and even her own clothing line (which she proudly modelled for us on stage).

That’s not to say there haven’t been dark days along the way – the loss of one of her sons to a drug overdose being the most obvious, a story she recounted with visible emotion. But Leachman proudly declared that she had always embraced “the glory of each new day,” and displayed an overall level of positivity and candor rarely seen in today’s Hollywood set – at any age.

83 Going on 23

She literally bounded onto the Orpheum stage, and half floated/half jogged over to her seat, where a crew of helpful, if not somewhat annoying, aids helped her get installed. While a post-Dancing with the Stars knee-replacement surgery should have limited her mobility, she’s clearly one of those people who can’t stay seated for long, and she proceeded to elicit the frequent appearance of the concerned aids every time she got up to illustrate a point.

And her illustrated points were many—from spirited tales of her early Hollywood auditions and award show appearances, to recounted conversations with her cohorts, to brief piano interludes, Leachman kept the storytelling light and swift.

She didn’t come with an agenda or a specific message, just a clear gratitude for the life she had lived, and a professed propensity to embrace each day with vigor. A self-declared giver of hugs and rule-breaker, she managed to heckle the on-stage sign language interpreters, invite a male audience member on-stage and (literally) into her arms, and elude the evening host’s agenda all the while charming the audience with her bon-vivant attitude and 83-year-old’s eccentricity.

Given her lifetime’s accomplishments, I’d say she’s entitled to as much eccentricity as she can muster, and I left the theatre feeling considerably uplifted and inspired. I also couldn’t help but wonder if I stopped living so vicariously and injected even half as much of her energy into my every day experiences, whether my life, too, would someday be as well lived.

Tickets are still available through Ticketmaster for upcoming Unique Lives speakers Charmaine Crooks (May 4), Sir Sidney Poitier (May 18) and Cherie Blair (June 8).