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A candid conversation with a woman of many parts—actress, photographer, writer, off-key singer—about overcoming fame and wealth in Beverly Hills. Oh, well, the way people view me, I think, has changed dramatically with Murphy Brown. People see how silly I am. You act on impulses. In every relationship, you give part of yourself away. I would like to have dated fewer men.
He said all the beautiful women he knew ended up committing suicide or being failures as human beings. He said I should always cultivate everything in spite of it. On billboards. At bus stops. In advertisements in newspapers and magazines. Actually, one of the few things that Candice Bergen, at 43, has not been is a wild and crazy guy. Can someone be too pretty? All this in addition to her roles as mother and wife. Candy Bergen is everywhere these days because of Murphy Brown , the often hilarious, sometimes predictable comedy in which she plays a journalist on a TV news magazine.
For a pioneer Beverly Hills brat, it has been a strange, circuitous journey back to Hollywood. Bergen was born in the cradle of show business, receiving her earliest notices as the first real child of fabulously popular ventriloquist Edgar Bergen—his other child being the dummy, Charlie McCarthy.
Her brother Kris was born when she was She was a model, the Chesterfield girl. Their daughter, Candy, had a charmed childhood—growing up on the laps of family friends who included the Jimmy Stewarts, the Charlton Hestons, even the Ronald Reagans. Her childhood girlfriends included Liza Minnelli and Mia Farrow.
Growing up in Hollywood was life in the fastest of lanes—and Bergen found herself overwhelmed by it as she became a teenager. To get away from Beverly Hills and all that glittered, at 14, she asked to be sent abroad—to a Swiss boarding school. She was ordered home again at 15 when her parents discovered that while in Switzerland, she had bleached her hair, started smoking and was drinking bloody marys.
At 18, she enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania—mostly because three fourths of the student population was male. She modeled on the side. In , she was the Tawny Girl for Revlon. Her perfect teeth and sapphire eyes graced covers of magazines such as Vogue and McCalls. She was kicked out of college after flunking opera and art and, at 19, was cast in her first film, The Group , in which she played a lesbian from Vassar and earned her first terrible reviews. She wrote about the making of the movie for Esquire and showed a stronger talent for journalism—and self-deprecation—than for acting.
Inspired by legends such as Dorothea Lange and Margaret Bourke-White and encouraged by her friend photographer Mary Ellen Mark, Bergen worked as a photojournalist and then as a writer, contributing to magazines including Playboy. That, in part, challenged her to write—by herself— Knock Wood at 40, published in It received highly respectful reviews for its candor, humor and style.
Reviews for the most part were scathing. Then she was encouraged to do what she had long insisted was in her genes: comedy. She received an Academy Award nomination and then followed it up with her comic role in Rich and Famous , with Jacqueline Bisset, which was also praised. Her personal life was as dramatic as her career. She had adventures with drugs, Sixties and post-Sixties politics from hanging out with the late Huey Newton and Abbie Hoffman to campaigning for George McGovern and other political causes.
She was Rolfed, went through group therapy, was arrested in an antiwar sit-in. She had relationships with radicals and royalty, with movie stars and politicians. In , she married Louis Malle. Although she said that she probably had the maternal instincts of a cantaloupe, she is now the doting mother of Chloe, four.
To interview Bergen—herself a journalist who now plays a journalist—we sent journalist and Contributing Editor David Sheff to meet her in New York and Paris. His report:. The place is comfortable, decorated with mementos of her travels to India, Africa, the Orient.
Once we relaxed and started talking, she appeared more delicate than she does on screen. Her wit is quick and often bawdy. When I jumped too quickly in an early session to the subject of some of her juicier exploits, she zapped me. She had just come from the Louvre her mother was in town and it was one of those sultry Parisian summer days. She was wearing a baseball cap and her white T-shirt stuck to her. She was utterly different from the person I had met in New York—far less formal, more bubbly.
It was the centennial celebration of the Eiffel Tower. Bergen : I never thought I would be doing a sitcom. I even have trouble saying it. Bergen : Definitely. I never even watched TV. But now there are all kinds of people in movies and theater who you would never think would admit they watch television who are fans of the show. Bergen : For me, in so many ways, this role is the answer to everything I want to do.
I knew as soon as I read the script of the pilot. And the show just sparkles at its best. I love not just that Murphy is at the top of her profession but that she is, in a very realistic way, paying the price for it.
The women who really do what she does are so despondent that the landscape of their personal lives is so bleak. Murphy can hardly have a date. I just see her as fast and furious and funny. Humiliating yourself is risky. Bergen : Yeah, I suppose its brought back some of the bravado that I abandoned. I used to be an incredible smartass and I sort of willed myself to stop doing that as much as I could.
Playboy : Murphy Brown practices some pretty tough journalism. Do you believe that a woman in big-time TV journalism has to be as tough as Murphy? It requires dedication and talent but also exceptional toughness. Bergen : There are exceptions. But having a strong, distinctive style is a liability. I think it was a liability for Linda Ellerbee, for instance, who is much more a prototype for Murphy than almost anyone. Murphy was able not to play by the rules because she played so well. And that became her sort of stock in trade, as it did for Ellerbee.
And local news? Forget it! It must take some of those guys days. Do they sleep with it like that? Is it fiberglass? Give me a break. I remember him wearing that stupid vest in July. Now, mind you, I watch Dan Rather. But the ratings are on every one of their desks the first thing every morning. Good night. The guys are sillier than the women most of the time.
Half of the correspondents dye their hair and have gotten face lifts. Bergen : Once in a while, a fluke happens. Does the attention to your looks embarrass you? At least, I never did. Bergen : Well, my father made me suspicious of it, just by making me aware of the pitfalls.
He said all the beautiful women he knew were unhappy. In fact, he went further than that. He said all the beautiful women he knew ended up committing suicide or being miserable, being failures as human beings. So he said I should always cultivate everything in spite of it.
Some of it was unconscious—my looks were intimidating to people—but also I was so intimidated by people that I really used that facade as a defense. I do lose my patience with people and I take on this attitude and I just hate it when I do that. Bergen : I am always getting into fights at the supermarket, because the check-out clerks can be so rude that I get really rude back.
I always have Chloe in a Snugli and here I am, being the devoted mom, and I have to take shit from these check-out clerks. If you could just say good morning …. Consumer crisis. My time is really valuable. Because of my persona. I suppose I was aloof. Bergen : Patrician is used a lot. Bergen : The people at the network had their doubts, which stunned me. I thought they would be so thrilled.Candice bergen smoking
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Candice Bergen says she's happy being fat and fondly recalls playing Murphy Brown