Comedienne/actress/singer/impressionist Marilyn Michaels has a new book with a truly intriguing title: How Not To Cook For the Rest of Your Life. Her son Mark Wilk, a performer in his own right, is her co-author. Although it seems that almost every celebrity eventually comes out with a cookbook nowadays, make no mistake: Ms. Michaels’ new tome is NOT a collection of recipes gathered from her famous family tree. Put another way, the only “dish” you’ll get in How Not to Cook for the Rest of Your Life is celebrity gossip– and be warned: No one is safe! In addition to showbiz stories, the book is a tasting table of treats: Michaels tells her own life story, offers self-help advice, and shares her useful scrimp-n’-save philosophies. In between promoting her book and engaging in her passion for painting (“The house is full of art, and a lot of it is celebrity art!”, she tells me.), Marilyn Michaels took the time to speak to me about joys of “not cooking”… and much more!
JR: Hello, Marilyn! Thank you for speaking with me!
MM: Thank YOU! It’s a rainy Sunday afternoon and they are playing all Judy Garland movies on Turner Classic. Thank God for Turner Classic Movies. What would we do without it? Because, nobody can touch Judy Garland! Not her daughter, no one! That talent… That blazing talent was so precious, so great! I was just feeling that– so I’m sharing it with you!
JR: (Laughs) Go on, share away!
MM: And we lost Aretha Franklin. (Sighs) The hourglass is emptying real quick!
JR: Well, luckily, thanks to the wonders of YouTube, DVD, and cable TV, we can still see and hear all those amazing performances from the past… in 2018 and beyond!
MM: Yes! That’s the saving grace here. People go crazy when they see me on, like, that Love Boat episode with Debbie Reynolds… and they carry on as though it was just yesterday!
JR: (Laughs) Indeed. I actually just saw that episode yesterday on MeTV! Loved the tangerine colored dress with spaghetti straps! But just like you and Debbie, that dress was… well, misbehaving! (Laughs)
MM: People tell me, “Oh my G*d! You’re on TV!” I tell them, “I’m napping!”. They say, “No, no, you gotta see it! It’s so great!”
JR: Just tell them, “I don’t need to see it on TV. I was THERE, dummy!”
MM: (Laughs) That is the great thing about Internet culture. We are preserved for all time. We don’t turn around. We’ll turn to stone!
JR: (Laughs) Yes, but that classic TV holds up so well. It’s just as funny now as it was back then! So… tell me about your book. I can’t wait to read it!
MM: The book is called How Not to Cook For the Rest of Your Life. It’s for sale on Amazon.com. People have been going crazy over it and giving it five star reviews. It has NOTHING to do with cooking!
JR: I was going to ask you about that! The title is so titillating… but what does it mean?
MM: Well… I’m not good at cooking. I don’t want to stand on my feet and do it. (Pauses) Let’s talk about what happens after sex…
JR: Well! OK, then…!
MM: I don’t know what happens if it’s a same-sex relationship. If it’s two women together, they are going to fight as to who gets into the kitchen first and fixes something! (Laughs) But in a heterosexual situation, it’s the woman who invariably says, “Honey, I’m going into the kitchen. Can I fix something for you?” Well. those days are over! I don’t like it, I don’t do it well, and part of the book is to encourage people– men AND women– to let the cooking get done by people who do it well! I order in or eat out for almost every meal– even if it’s Jello and mashed potatoes! I do. I’m going broke here! (Laughs) I just hate walking into the kitchen! It’s all about that.
JR: Agreed! I’ll get in trouble for saying this, because my other half is a gourmet cook– but personally, I think all women AND men should throw away their pots and pans once and for all. If I never set foot into a kitchen again in my life, I’d be happy with that!
MM: You’re my kind of guy! The book also tells you how you can live my lifestyle– because it’s not easy! You have to save on a lot of stuff to be able to live this way. So, there’s a lot of social commentary on how we spend money on things that make us feel better for the moment– like when women spend money on seven-inch heels and all that! I do my own nails. I do everything for myself. Except, I didn’t make my own baby! (Laughs)
MM: I’m not a traveler. I talk a lot about traveling because I traveled all my life to make a living, and the big bucks are “out of town”– meaning, you have to get out of New York to make money! I hate getting on a plane. It’s agony for me. I was a white knuckle flyer. So, all I’m interested in is ordering up food or eating out– and having somebody do that for me. And, having a housekeeper! These are the things that really make your life easier, you know? But some people want to buy this or buy that, or have ten rooms on Park Avenue, and so forth. But that’s not me. When you read the book, you will know what I am talking about. In between all of that are the anecdotes about my life and working with… oh, where do I begin? Joan Crawford. Bette Davis. Sammy Davis, Jr. Burt Reynolds…
MM: I’ve got Donald Trump in there. I’ve got Ivana Trump in there. I have Judy Garland in there: stories about getting to meet her. And there’s a LOT of Barbra Streisand stuff in there. So, it’s very much a celebrity tome: very gossipy. It’s a lot like that! By the way, my son Mark Wilk is my co-author, and he’s just a very cute and talented singer, musician, and writer… and he’s also an impressionist too. He does a great Woody Allen. You can see him on YouTube!
JR: Ahhh. He’s a “multi-hyphenate”! That’s so “New York”! You must have an infinite number of showbiz stories! Without giving too much away, do you have any big surprises– or scandals– in store for the reader when they get their copy of How Not to Cook For the Rest of Your Life?
MM: Yes! (Laughs) Yes, I do. But I can’t give it away!
JR: That’s the spirit!
MM: There are things about Debbie and Carrie that are funny, I think. There’s a lot of that stuff in there– anecdotes and things like that. And Woody Allen. Yes! I worked on a film with Woody Allen, and I ended on the cutting room floor. He was very strange to work with. I thought, “Well, maybe if I had brought along a small Asian daughter with me, I wouldn’t have been cut!” (Laughs) But unfortunately I don’t have a small Asian daughter. I talk about Joan Crawford when I did a thing for Pepsi. She was so overcome with my performance, but she didn’t just let it be. She ran up to the stage and dragged me by my wrists around and around on the ballroom floor.
JR: I’d be afraid to say “No!” to her. She’d scare the s**t out of me!
MM: There are enormous insights about her, and about the way she dressed– which I found strange. She looked elegant, but when you looked down you saw that she was wearing these plastic, see-through Cinderella shoes from 1951! This woman obviously needed a designer like Adrian or Edith Head to keep her together. She couldn’t do it. She really didn’t have enough taste not to wear those funny shoes. There are a lot of observations about everything in the book. A lot of plastic surgery stuff! A lot of stuff about EVERYBODY!
JR: Sounds great! So, what made this the right time to come out with your book?
MM: I’ve always written. I’ve done a few articles for The New York Times on the proposed revival of Funny Girl, in which they were gonna cast this cute Irish redheaded girl. No, no… You can’t do that with Fanny Brice. It’s not going to happen! The Times saw that there was an opportunity there to get a lot of traffic with that. So, I wrote one article, and the article was so good that they had me write another one. My son helped me with these articles. The Times loved them because they were funny. Now, the girl is now doing My Fair Lady on Broadway. OK, that’s fine! She’s fine in My Fair Lady. But with Fanny Brice, you can’t screw around! It doesn’t just have to be me or Barbra Streisand (Laughs). But it has to be honest– really honest– and it has to be somebody who knows the whole inflection and the whole Jewish thing. And it has to be somebody who can sing the whole Jule Styne score. I wrote a lot about my experience with doing Funny Girl with Jule Styne. (Pauses) What was the question again? (Laughs)
MM: I don’t know! This was just the right time! I’ve written a show– a musical comedy– with my son called Alysha. It’s a multi-cultural “Alice in Wonderland” with a black Alice. I wrote the music for it, and we believe in it one hundred percent. But, raising the money for a musical comedy is not that easy– even for off-Broadway. I figured, “Hmmm… What can I do that’s affordable?” I have a voice, and this book is my voice. So, I guess I’ve had in my mind for a long time. A while back, I had done an article for Us Magazine because I worked in that Woody Allen movie. So, I had done some writing here and there, but doing a book is really different from just doing a piece. It was quite demanding. It was a lot of sleepless nights for my son and me. It was either “Great! What a great line! This is exciting!”— because Mark is a terrific comedy writer– or there would be times when I just couldn’t think of something. Sometimes we would just lock horns, and it was like, “I’m not doing this. This is never coming out!” We’d say, “OK, it’s done!”— and then, it WOULDN’T be done! It drove him crazy. He thought it would never see the light of day. He was wrong! (Laughs) So, that was it. It was in me, and it was ready to come out! It’s very exciting to be getting the kind of feedback that I’ve been getting. It’s great to see people enjoying it, and also great to see them relate to all this stuff. If you’re into the celebrity gossip, there’s a lot of that. And if you’re into my lifestyle tips, then it satisfies that too. There’s a lot going on. I write about everything– from “relationships” to “why not to get more pots and pans”.
JR: Oh, no! No… pots and pans…EVER!
MM: Everybody has pots and pans. Even when you die, your kids don’t want your pots and pans. They have pots and pans of their own!
JR: Agreed! So, enough about “pots and pans”. What about “relationships”?
MM: Well, you’ve heard that there are no such things as accidents. Things are meant to happen a certain way. I was meant to marry the three men I married. (Laughs) That was it. Whether it worked out or not, it worked for the time that it happened! And if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t have done it any differently!
JR: Well, you know, people live to be 100 years old nowadays…
MM: Oh, honey… what are you trying to tell me? (Laughs)
JR: I’m just saying that the whole idea about being married for the rest of your life… well, it ain’t necessarily so! If you get married when you’re 25, are you really gonna spend 75 years with the same person?
MM: Maybe I’m jealous of the people who are married for a long time and who can really do it. I can’t be with one person, especially if they are retired. Oh G*d… the rocking chair blues! (Laughs) It’s too much. I need a lot of “alone time”. I spend an awful lot of time just by myself, thinking and coming up with things.. like my book! It’s virtually impossible with a husband or a lover in tow! I’ve always been “in love with love”… but for me, love has always been very creative. It takes all my energy, you know? Especially if you really feel strongly about that person! You want to please them. You give them your attention and your EN-ER-GY! I don’t have that kind of energy to give them! I’m really into perpetuating a legacy. My family were performers. My mother was a great cantoress. My uncle was a great cantor. My father sang with the Metropolitan Opera. This is the stuff that’s on Wikipedia! So, it’s very important that I perpetuate my own legacy, whatever that may be!
JR: Well, you’ve indeed made your mark on pop culture. And like we talked about before, art never goes away. The songs that you’ve recorded will be here until the end of time, and we can all be grateful for that! And only Marilyn Michaels could have sang them that way! That episode of The Love Boat will be here forever too. And now, you’re book will be here forever too!
MM: Thank you! I think in terms of Barbra Streisand, who I consider an original. Judy Garland is an original. Lena Horne is an original. Aretha is an original. I don’t think of myself as an original, because I’m not. I think of myself as a great eclectic artist. But then, talking to you, I’m saying, “Wait a minute! I’m the ORIGINAL eclectic artist!” (Laughs)
JR: Yes! Not every artist can blend comedy and music and make it work! You mentioned Barbra. She’s a very mannered singer. From what I have heard and read about her, every note of her performances is meticulously planned and rehearsed thoroughly, and everything is diligently put together…
MM: Yes. She’s very controlled and structured.
JR: … but with comedy, you have to lose some of that restraint and control when you’re performing, and you want the audience to lose some restraint and control too. Comedy is not easy. It’s not easy making people laugh!
MM: Oh, honey! You really understand what it is! I have to take risks. If I don’t take risks, I don’t get the laugh. And there has to be a kind of craziness, a looseness. And you’re right, that’s nothing of what Ms. Streisand’s greatness is! It’s totally different. It was even hard for me to be on Broadway. I did a revue called Catskills on Broadway. It was very successful but very tough for me, because it had to be the same way every night. You stand here, you do this, you do that… There was not a lot of room for improvisation. But as a comedienne, that’s the drug that I need: being able to improvise. Not that I don’t have a blueprint… but being able to improvise is where the big payoff is!
JR: It’s like being in “real time”, as the kids say nowadays… because you have to “read” your audience and react to them, and give them what they want as you go along! Not everybody can do that. It’s like the old cliché: Comedy ain’t no joke! While we are on the subject: As a comedienne, were there any subjects that were strictly off-limits?
MM: Yes… EVERYTHING! (Laughs)
MM: Everything was off limits. I don’t know how I ever got to be funny! There’s a whole story about Funny Girl and the seduction scene with the fan. I had to be very careful! I would fan myself all over, and I was getting screams from Jule Styne: “No! You can’t fan under your skirt!”
JR: Oh, my…
MM: There were a lot of things that we couldn’t do. Now, you can do AN-Y-THING. You can say AN-Y-THING! There’s some good to that, and some “not so good” to that! Because, just because you can say anything doesn’t make it funny. It’s hard to be funny! You don’t necessarily have to shock to be funny, but you have to be clever to be funny. It’s work!
JR: Yes, it’s work… but at least it’s better than cooking!
MM: Oh, honey! How true!
JR: So… lastly: Your fans will want to know: How do you stay so youthful and fresh? Don’t tell me it’s from “clean living”– because I don’t want to know that!
MM: “Clean living”? I don’t know! Am I that “fresh”? (Laughs) That’s a nice compliment! I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, and I don’t do recreational drugs. I never did. So, that must be it. But I do chocolates. (Laughs) Other than being Marilyn Michaels, whoever that is, I’m living probably too quite a life, babe, you know? Maybe “a little too quiet”!
JR: We’ll keep that between us! Thanks for speaking with me… and congratulations again on the new book!
How Not to Cook For the Rest of Your Life by Marilyn Michaels and Mark Wilk is now available in paperback and Kindle versions. Click here to get your copy! Also visit