Renee Taylor remembers everything in her life by what diet she was on at the time.
Best known for playing Fran Drescher’s mother on the 1990s sitcom “The Nanny,” Taylor’s one-woman-show “My Life on a Diet” opens Thursday, Jan. 16 at the Plaza Theatre in Manalapan and runs through Feb. 9.
“A lot of people remember things in their life by what they wore,” Taylor says in a telephone interview from her home in Beverly Hills, which she shares with her husband, the actor Joseph Bologna. “I always remember what I was eating. I say I’m a food tramp, someone who eats around.”
The show is based on her best-selling 1980s book “My Life on a Diet: Confessions of a Hollywood Diet Junkie.” Having co-written “Lovers and Other Strangers” (1970) on Broadway and getting an Oscar nod for the screenplay later that year, Bologna and Taylor went on to work together in the romantic comedy “Made for Each Other” (1971), both onstage and on the screen. In the ’80s, they repeated their co-starring coupling with the stage and movie version of “It Had To Be You.” Bologna directed “My Life on a Diet.”
“I guess it was about two years ago when we were in Vermont and wondering what we should work on next,” Taylor recalls. “He said, ‘Why don’t you make your book into a one-woman show?’ I said, ‘I don’t think people want to hear about someone talking about dieting.’ He said, ‘Are you kidding? That’s all people talk about.’ So he really encouraged me to do it.”
Taylor grew up in Miami Beach, attending South Beach Elementary School and Miami Beach High School. “There I spent the happiest time in my life.” she says, “Until now, of course.” After small parts in movies (1967’s “The Producers”), she racked up numerous television credits. As she enters her 80s, she is still busy guest-appearing on TV series such as “Bob’s Burgers,” “How I Met Your Mother” and “Happily Divorced” (teaming up again with Drescher).
Her Tinseltown years form the basis of the show, making use of her access to stars such as Marilyn Monroe (grapes), Joan Crawford (whole-wheat raisin bread) and Grace Kelley (yogurt).
“I asked everyone what they ate,” she says. “I thought if I did their diet, I would look like them. Some of the diets were dangerous. I was on that Last Chance Diet. You ever heard of that? It was three ounces of protein a day, and some people died from it. It was too much of a shock to the system. The most ridiculous one was the Vogue Champagne Diet. You had to have two glasses of champagne before every meal. I lost weight, but I became a drunk. I also had a $300-a-day habit. Cheap champagne had more calories. You had to have Cristal.”
“My Life on a Diet” will run through Feb. 9 at the Plaza Theatre, 262 S. Ocean Blvd., in Manalapan. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, with 2 p.m. matinees Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets cost $45. Call 561-588-1820 or go to ThePlazaTheatre.net.