Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Unfashionable Hepburn here for fashion play

Cleveland Press January 8, 1971

It was less an interview than a conversation and less a conversation than a monologue.

And when you are with Katherine Hepburn, a lady noted for her desire for privacy and for her disinterest in granting interviews, one would be fool to want to do more than listen.

She comes on like a small whirlwind, eyes sparkling, hands moving quickly. She's not a person, she's a vent.

YOU EXPECT someone tall and immense but in spite of her height (5 ft., 7 in.) she appears tiny and slight. She dresses in the outfit that has become her trademark -- tan trousers, black shirt with a white, knit shirt beneath it, black socks and sturdy, no nonsense low-heel brown loafers.

"When you've lived a long time you get one thing you find comfortable and stick to it," she explained. "I guess I had lived a long time at the age of 25," she added.

"I'm not terribly interested in clothes and finery," she went on. "I just try to do the best with what I have. The older I get the less I have to work with," she said clutching at her collar momentarily and touching her hair.

THERE ARE DUPLICATES of that outfit, she explains, with broadcloth shirts for summer, flannel for winter and a plentiful supply of white shirts.

"I'm very clean."

It is rather odd that Miss Hepburn is here to star in "Coco," a musical based on the life of Coco Chanel, that most famous of fashion designers.

"SHE WEARS either a black suit or a white suit and a little rattle-bang hat. She's skinny and never stops talking and only in French. My French is about 50% so I struggled and suffered.

"She gave me a look like this" -- and Kate Hepburn's eyes went up and down -- "and then she held out her arms and gave me a big hug.

"You have the feeling she has no age at all. She's 88 so you have to say she's an old lady but you can see clearly the little girl she must have been.

"No, she has not seen the show, and I don't blame her. She wouldn't like it . I think she is very tactful not to come. I'm glad she hasn't. I would not like to see her disappointed."

DOES PLAYING a living person put an extra strain on her?

"No, as long as the living person doesn't see me, it's okay," she answered candidly.

"Coco" will open Monday at the Music Hall under Hanna auspices for two weeks, the beginning of a six month tour.

Miss Hepburn has a reputation for physical fitness workouts -- daily tennis, long walks, running in Central Park -- ("The police asked me to stop"). But she says that the show is strenuous enough that she will need no workouts, just plenty of sleep.

"I go up a long flight of stairs about 30 times in the show and that keeps me in trim. I sleep a lot. That's why I survive."

SHE EXPRESSES no preference for theater or movies, says she likes to do both. "At my age I can't do anything unless it interests me and is stimulating.

"My mother told me that if you please yourself you can be sure someone is pleased.

"I don't read the critics," she continued, "not until long after. I just do my best. One is tempted to believe flattery and the other just niggles at your brain."

IT WAS ABOUT Miss Hepburn that Dorothy Parker wrote the famous line --"She ran the gamut of emotions from A to B."

"Yes, I remember that but Miss Parker has been misquoted. She spelled the word 'gamutt' several t's; she coined a word.

"She was right, but I'm not sure I ever got to B."

MISS HEPBURN admits that during her long career, particularly in the beginning, she copied from other actresses. But now the Hepburn style -- brittle, brilliant, witty -- is clearly her own. How does she react to actresses who copy Hepburn?

"We'll, I'm flattered.But I think they miss the essence."

Of course they do.