love the road, greasepaint, and roar of the crowd. I love
performing live," Debbie Reynolds, as fit and feisty
as ever, told the Post while on tour in Canada. "I am
onstage two hours singing, dancing, and doing impressions
in a variety show. It keeps you on your toes. You better
be in shape, or you won't make it through the show."
One of America's most
enduring stars of screen, stage, and song, Reynolds
stepped into the spotlight at age 17 and has remained
center stage ever since. Last year marked the 50th
anniversary of the Hollywood musical classic Singin'
in the Rain, which essentially made a star of
Reynolds, then 19. The perky, wholesome newcomer landed
her first leading role opposite dance icon Gene Kelly
and established hoofer Donald O'Connor. Handpicked
by MGM mogul Louis Mayer, Reynolds at the time was
a plucky young contract player, armed with a beauty title,
a few minor-role credits, and one major deficit - she
couldn't dance. Enduring weeks of grueling tap lessons to
meet the exacting standards of Kelly, the spirited starlet
relied upon her natural athletic and acrobatic skills to
master the film's dazzling choreography, dancing her way
into film history.
"Singin' in the
Rain and childbirth were the two hardest things I ever
had to do in my life," Reynolds later said.
When offered the
star-making role, Mary Frances Reynolds - Jack Warner
christened the 16-year-old starlet "Debbie" when
Warner Brothers placed her on contract in 1948 - was
apprehensive about the reaction of her conservative
parents back home in the Texas panhandle.
"I had no singing or
dancing training," Reynolds remembers. "I was a
sports enthusiast and wanted to be a gym teacher. But none
of my family was in show business. When I told him about
the offer to star in Singin' in the Rain, my father
said, 'Why would they want you? You have no singing or
dancing training.' I said, 'Daddy, I don't know why they
want me, but if they do, don't you think I should do it?'
He said, 'I think it's OK with me.'"
After the box office hit,
Reynolds entered Hollywood's inner circle, and her career
took off. She starred in over 30 motion pictures,
including what many consider her most memorable role - the
Oscar-nominated performance in The Unsinkable Molly
Brown. The little Texas tornado later carved out a new
career as a Las Vegas headliner and
international touring sensation.
Throughout her celebrated
career, the always-outspoken and health-conscious Reynolds
has tackled issues that she believes are important,
including breast cancer screening awareness and
bone-density testing for osteoporosis.
Most recently, Reynolds
launched Standing Ovations, a consumer-education campaign
to raise awareness of overactive bladder. After suffering
for years with overactive bladder, the actress stepped
forward to share her personal experience with the
disorder, hoping others suffering with the problem can
find answers as well.
affects you because it defects you," she explains.
"The condition makes you redirect the way you plan
and live your life. I suffered with the symptoms of
overactive bladder for years, too embarrassed to talk with
my physician. I want people to feel empowered to seek
The condition seriously
affected the way the entertainer ran her life and career.
"As a busy
performer, it really slowed me down. If you have an
overactive bladder, overactive means exactly that,"
Reynolds stresses. "You are not in control of the
problem; the problem controls you. Before seeking
treatment, I scheduled my life around the overactive
bladder. I was embarrassed to speak up, so over time I
developed ways to cope, like avoiding long car trips and
making sure I knew the location of the nearest rest
fear are the most common barriers to effective treatment
and can cause people to withdraw from family, friends, and
"People do not need
to be frightened. Instead of staying home and hiding out
with a problem, discuss it with friends or others with the
problem," Reynolds says candidly. "Many people
with overactive bladders won't go out. If you invite them
out, they won't go. They really don't know what to do
about the problem.
"Many people wonder
how my life works out to be so normal," she
continues. "It is because I went to the doctor and
sought help, and I wanted to be the 'mouth' to encourage
others to do the same."
For Reynolds, admitting a
problem existed and seeking professional help led to a
"I encourage anyone
who thinks they may have overactive bladder to talk to
their doctor because effective treatment is
available," advises Reynolds. "Years ago, there
wasn't any help. Today, they have answers. You can get
your life back on track - that's important."
LA, a prescription medication that helps control
involuntary contractions of the bladder muscle - the cause
of the strong, sudden urges. Drug therapy is often coupled
with behavioral technique and bladder training, which help
individuals gain even greater bladder control.
As for Reynolds' future,
the star plans to take a couple months off to spend time
with her granddaughter and preserve her most precious
asset - her health. While the energetic, outgoing star
projects the glamour and glitz of show business, she
always prefers home life over Tinseltown's social circuit.
"I'm not a party
person because I am always working and do not really care
to stand around at cocktail parties," she admits.
"If it's a dinner party for a few friends - six,
eight, or ten - that's as much as I want. I would rather
read a book or play Ping-Pong with my granddaughter."
Another passion is
finding a permanent home for the Hollywood
Motion Picture and Television Museum to house
Reynolds' huge collection of movie memorabilia that she
has been amassing for over three decades - the largest of
its kind in the world. The collection includes Judy
Garland's gingham dress from The Wizard of Oz and
the billowing "subway skirt" that Marilyn
Monroe wrestled with in The Seven Year Itch.
Over 3,000 costumes and memorabilia are available from
films of the silent era through the 1970s, including
entire sets from Planet of the Apes, Hello, Dolly!,
Citizen Kane, Singin' in the Rain, and, of course, The
Unsinkable Molly Brown.
If you're curious about
the location of the permanent home for these Hollywood
treasures, so is Reynolds. Her son Todd Fisher, the
general manager of the nonprofit foundation, oversees the
collection while mother and son explore funding to build a
permanent museum. Reynolds herself has spent millions
collecting, preserving, and housing the impressive
historical collection, but convincing Hollywood of its
importance to the moviegoing public is another matter
"It is so hard to
get this museum accomplished," admits Reynolds.
"The industry doesn't care about its history or
preservation. But the public loves their movie stars - Jimmy
Stewart, John Wayne, Bette Davis. Today,
it's Tom Hanks and many others. Where can fans see
their favorite star's costumes, film clips, and everything
else from their movies? What's wrong with preserving the
While Reynolds certainly
cherishes memories from the past, the future is clearly
her focus. Who needs retirement when you have work to do?
And who needs to change gears when you've made it to 70
with humor, health, and stardom firmly in tow?
"I am eccentric and
want to stay that way," the unsinkable Reynolds
proudly declares. "I plan on becoming more eccentric
You Have Overactive Bladder?
affects more than 17 million Americans. The condition is
not a natural part of aging, nor does it affect only
senior women. The condition occurs when contraction of the
large muscle of the bladder - the detrusor muscle -
happens too frequently. Symptoms of these contractions
• Urgency --strong,
sudden urges to urinate.
• Frequency --desire
to go to the bathroom more than eight times during a
24-hour period and two or more times a night.
• Urge incontinence --wetting
accidents due to sudden, unstoppable urges to urinate.