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| Sunday, 18 Mar 2018
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Interview with amazing Rita Moreno -- 55+ Magazine, Issue 1

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When we were determining which celebrity would grace our inaugural cover, only one legendary triple threat came to mind, Rita Moreno. Ms. Moreno embodies the active lifestyle of our 55+ Magazine reader.

Her name is synonymous with excellence, having won an Oscar, two Emmys, a Tony and a Grammy. 55+ Magazine was fortunate to catch up with Ms. Moreno via her longtime friend NY public relations guru Bill Kapfer. As Bill put it, “She’s a gem!"

55+: You look great. Do you follow an exercise regimen?

R.M.: I try to walk four to five miles, three or four times a week, when I can. I am usually on a plane flying somewhere. I travel a lot, but I must exercise.

55+: In your opinion, what is the key to staying healthy?

R.M.: I believe staying young at heart is all in one’s personal attitude… you can’t instill that in anyone. I am a naturally buoyant person. I am a naturally energetic person… always have been. I have to say that it’s important for everyone, but especially for women (given our bone density issues) to walk – even ambling for a couple of miles is better than not walking at all. When I walk, I try to set a fairly brisk rate. I love walking outside. I hate machines like treadmills. The path that I have chosen to walk is just city streets, but you see pretty houses, trees... my routes have some hills in them; it’s not just straight walking. You have to exercise your heart and lungs.

55+: Do you follow a special diet?

R.M. : I’m trying, now that I am in my dotage, (laughter erupts) to use a lot less sugar and my husband and I really try to keep close to a minimum of fat; chicken, fish, loads of salads and legumes. We both love all of those. To be honest, nothing that is in our diet is that original. We eat seafood but we do not eat shellfish. On the other hand, if my body says to me, “eat meat” I do. I listen to my body, I think that’s important.

55+: We all watched the National Medal of Arts ceremony at the White House. You gave the President a hug. What was it like to be honored by President Obama?

R.M.: The hug I gave the President was not even planned. All morning I practiced my handshake and bowing my hip slightly but when I was right there in front of him, I was so thrilled I hugged him! He was very charming, sweet… he whispered in my ear, ‘Michelle doesn’t mind!’ I am being honored again by the Here I Stand award, so I’ll be in DC again soon. I have to say quite honestly, although it may sound like bragging (she laughs), when I was called for the National Endowment Medal of Honor I said, ‘You mean there is another medal?!’ I just couldn’t believe there was another honor.

55+: I heard you sing at last year’s Kennedy Center Honors- you were great – what do you do to maintain your voice?

R.M.: I do vocal exercises. As you get older one tends to develop what I call a wobble. I would rather eat glass than let that happen to my voice. Before a show I do an hour vocal warm-up. You may have noticed that I do not have that wobble. I’ve been told I have a youthful voice.

55+: We would be remiss if we didn’t ask you about West Side Story? Are you tired of questions regarding the movie?

R.M.: No not at all! I just saw West Side Story again a few weeks ago. Actually, I was in Chicago at a signing with George Chakiris and Russ Tamblyn. I never get tired of being associated with such a significant role. I see that movie and I still cry.

55+: It seems like everyone has unusual places to keep their Academy Award. Where is yours?

R.M.: I don’t do anything gimmicky with them. I have so many different types of awards, statues, medals, the Presidential Medal of Freedom that President Bush gave me…there’s just so many. I just have them on a very long shelf. When I received my star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, they gave me a replica of the star itself. It looks like it does on the ground, it’s really quite pretty. It’s about two feet long. It’s lovely.

55+: You and Dr. Gordon have been married for 45 yrs. What do you attribute your long marriage to?

R.M.: I think we both made very, very wise choices. Our choices were hardly impulsive. And I think that we both understand that there is no one else in this world that is going to be better suited to us then us. And we really do understand that. That doesn’t mean that we have this perfect marriage…I don’t think there is any such thing. We are two very, very different people; I’m the more impulsive one and Leonard is the more considerate one. That’s the kind of person I need in my life. I would not dream of marrying someone in my business… I can’t even imagine that. What if I was married to an actor and I see him in something and I hate his work, what do you say? How do you handle that (she laughs)?!

55+: How long have you lived in Berkeley?

R.M.: About 16 years. We moved up here from Los Angeles. Los Angles is not my favorite city. Well, I shouldn’t say that … I love to visit it, on a temporary basis. It’s just such a company town! You can’t go anywhere and not run into someone who wants to be in the business … up here, it’s different. We both adore Berkeley. Ultimately, a city is formed by its people and the women here are just great. They are opinionated, they have ideas, they belong to boards, and they write letters to editors (she laughs)… really wonderful people.

55+: What type of music do you listen to?

R.M.: I love Jazz, I love the American Songbook, love Sinatra, I love Peggy Lee. She was my idol. In my cabaret act I do a tribute to her… I do a couple of her songs. I have a concert act and a cabaret act. I do lectures also. I’m one busy Spanish woman!

55+: You’ve done some great TV! Are you a fan of any programs today?

R.M.: You know I’m so bloody busy; I don’t have the time to watch a lot of television. But I’ve become a fan of In Plain Sight on the USA Network. It’s so well written. Take a good look at it; the actors are really marvelous. Actually, I just did a role in it- it’s a sweet funny kind of role.

55+: What was your favorite movie last year?

R.M.: I vote for the Oscars, so I get the extended screeners. I really loved three films last year. I loved A Single Man, The Hurt Locker and Precious. If you haven’t seen The Hurt Locker, everyone really needs to see it… it’s okay to get upset by it. It will surprise you how it’s much more than a war movie, it’s not littered with explosions and all that. It’s about what war does to people.

55+: What are you working on now?

R.M.: I do some of my best work at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. I played Maria Callas in Master Class and I just played Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. Right now the Artistic Director, Tony Taconne and I are putting together an autobiographical, one woman show that is aimed at Broadway. I’m very excited! Tom Fontana, a dear friend of mine and the man who produced HBO’s Oz may be part of this project as well. It’s already on the theatre’s schedule for next season. Assuming it goes well, we will take it to some different regional theatres around the country to refine it.

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