GRADUATE STUDIES 


Morgan Fairchild has done well for herself indeed since this reporter developed a hopeless case of the hotchas for her more than two decades ago. She's cultivated an enduring TV career that's ranged from Flamingo Road to Friends. She's traveled the globe standing up for all manner of progressive causes, including AIDS awareness, reproductive rights and environmental protection. She's helped raise millions for liberal candidates and testified before the U.S. Senate. And she's been a sort of one-woman Social Security program for comedian Jon Lovitz, who practically built his career on telling audiences that the two were man and wife.

Now, Fairchild is touring the country playing the part of Mrs. Robinson in the stage version of the classic coming-of-age film The Graduate (an adaptation that features an infamous nude scene). The theater tour is the reason I recently got to hear a publicist mouth the five most rewarding words in the English language: "Morgan Fairchild will call you." So I plunked myself down by the phone and waited to hear from … my … wife. Morgan Fairchild. Who I've seen naked.

Yeah, that's the ticket.

Orlando Weekly: I'm betting this is the first time you've been interviewed by a reporter who once owned a copy of your official magazine and paid to see The Seduction (1982) in a theater.

Fairchild: Oh! Well, that's nice. The Seduction did OK. It's amazing how well it did with video. I had video-store owners tell me that that video kept them in business the first couple of years that videos were out.

OW: What were the guiding motivations and character notes that you took for yourself in deciding how to play Mrs. Robinson (a character that's been interpreted by Anne Bancroft and Kathleen Turner, among others)?

MF: Basically, I have two tacks on her, which is tapping into her anger and why she's angry, and the alcoholism. We know now a lot more than we did back in '63, when the play takes place; we know how much alcoholism affects all the family dynamics and everything.

This woman would have been a bride of the World War II generation. So you just have to take into consideration that this is a very different generation with a very different set of values. Adultery was really frowned upon: If you caught your spouse cheating, that was pretty much grounds for divorce anywhere. But a lot of women grinned and beared `sic` it, because there was nowhere to go. Even if you had an education, women's options in the job department were still very limited. Women were much more trapped in whatever marriage they chose at that time.

The big question is, "Why?" Why would she risk the stigma of being caught not only in adultery, but with a much younger guy – which, if you think it gets you on the cover of People magazine now, just imagine what it was like then – and also the son of her husband's best friend? To me, `it's` somewhat her anger at her husband for the neglect that she perceives. Some of it `may be` reaching out for her lost youth. She's just at an age when she's probably feeling like her looks are fading. And that was the one thing she had to hang onto.

OW: After visiting your website (www.morganfairchild.com), I have this pet theory that the whole nude-scene business is really an incredibly sly way to cross-market your skin-care line. Am I on to something here?

MF: (Laughs) No, not really. We don't have a body lotion. (More laughter)

OW: As a political progressive with plenty of credentials in that area, how would you describe your mood after the last election? Use a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being "mildly depressed" and 10 being "suicidally depressed."

MF: Well, if 10 is suicide, I guess I'd be a 9. Not quite to suicide, still willing to fight the good fight. Unhappy with the Democrats for not standing up on the Schiavo case. Unhappy with the Democrats for rolling over on some of these things recently. (pause) And a big believer in God and all of these things, but also that religion should not be mixed up in our government.

OW: Did Kerry being a candidate impede you from commenting on the race last year? (The two were once a couple.)

MF: Umm … John Kerry didn't seem to, I guess, want me to comment. I wasn't really invited to comment, and I thought that it would be more discreet – as the lady I was raised to be – to not comment publicly on certain things. However, I did get up and campaign when I was asked to do so. And was always available to.

OW: You use phrases like "rolling over" … would you have given Kerry advice to be more aggressive as a campaigner?

MF: I actually gave John some advice. (Laughs) It was along those lines. Not exactly "Be tougher," but to define himself better. In May I told him that. I've seen some of these guys, I saw what they did, and … you know, I am from Texas. And I saw what they had done to McCain in South Carolina. You know, you try to be helpful where you can. `You` try not to pile on. Because, God knows, everybody and their dog is giving presidential candidates advice. But when you feel like you could be of help, you try to be of help.

OW: This is a side of you that a lot of people don't tend to know about. They don't know about how much work you do, and how much experience you have, in areas like foreign affairs.

MF: Oh, I'm very interested in foreign affairs, yeah.

OW: So which would you say was more difficult or more harrowing: touring war-torn Bosnia or kissing Sandra Bernhard (on Roseanne)?

MF: (Wild laughter) Well, you know … Sandra's a nice person, you know. She's a very different kind of person than I am. Let's just put it this way: Being in a town where the concentration camps had been just a couple of weeks before is on a whole other scale than any personal feeling I might have about any individual `I've met` in my entire life. Being in those towns puts anything else you've ever been through in a totally different perspective. (chuckles)

OW: In your other interviews, you've seemed pretty upfront about "Morgan Fairchild" being a creation or invention of Patsy Ann McClenny `her real name`.

MF: No, not really. "Morgan Fairchild" is me. It's just sort of an aspect of me. I sort of invented the look when I first started doing makeup, and I think that's what I always refer to as "inventing" Morgan Fairchild. I just came up with a way to take the bland, boring little white creature that I am and turn her into something different. But that's just the look. The persona and the wise-ass is something that was always there. (laughs)

I always read voraciously. I like history. I'm fascinated with some of the interesting women in history – Catherine the Great or Elizabeth the First – and how hard it was to be a woman in those times. To be a ruler in those times. Just different, interesting women. Marie Curie. Elizabeth Blackwell, who was the first female doctor. I got interested in women of achievement. But also just in history, in the sweep of history and the decisions that are made that change the course of history, even if you may not realize it at the time.

I told my mother one day that I didn't want to just read about great adventures, I wanted my life to be a great adventure. I wanted to do interesting things, and go interesting places and meet interesting people. And by God, I've done it. I have met everybody from `Rudolf` Nureyev and `Mikhail` Baryshnikov to Gorbachev. I've had dinner with Franjo Tudjman, who was the president of Croatia, who … (pause) well, I won't say that.

OW: Whoa, whoa, whoa! What were you going to say?

MF: Nothing, nothing. I don't want to create an international incident.

OW: But it would make my career!

MF: No, no. I've just met a lot of very interesting people, from Susan Sontag to Joseph Brodsky. I've gotten to go to the Iran-Contra hearings. I've gotten to be in Israel just before the first Intifada started. I'm very interested in people. I like hearing people's life stories.

OW: Last question: After all these years, can you finally admit that you like Jon Lovitz just a little bit?

MF: Oh, I can always admit that. I love Jon. I think he's hysterical. I always got a kick out of `that routine`. He's a very dear man and very funny. Just the sweetest guy in the world. I love Jon.

OW: So if I say in print that you're my wife, does that mean I'll get all the good will from you that Jon does?

MF: (laughs) Sure, sure.

Go see The Graduate. It'll make the missus happy.


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