September 06, 2007

What Illness? Pleshette Still a Spitfire

Suzanne Pleshette speaks during a discussion for TV Land's 35th anniversary tribute to "The Bob Newhart Show," Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2007, in Beverly Hills, Calif.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Suzanne Pleshette is very much alive, and ever her saucy self.

In a rare public appearance Wednesday night for a 35th-anniversary tribute to "The Bob Newhart Show" (1972-78), her most enduring work, the veteran actress showed that a year of serious personal and health matters hasn't dampened her spitfire personality.

"I'm cancer-free, my (breasts) are great and ... I'm extremely, extremely rich," she responded to a question from The Associated Press, generating howls of laughter from a packed audience during a panel discussion featuring the cast of the beloved sitcom.

The tribute, co-hosted by the TV Land cable network and the Paley Center for Media, attracted most of the show's principals, as well as legendary-comic guests Don Rickles and Tim Conway. But Pleshette's attendance had been a question mark.

In August 2006, it was announced that the actress, 70, was being treated for lung cancer. In April, her actor-husband Tom Poston died from respiratory failure. Even as late as Wednesday afternoon, publicists would not confirm Pleshette's participation in the tribute, and she did not walk the arrivals line, where Newhart spoke about his longtime leading lady's health.

"It is not cancer," he said. "She had an operation, they got it all. She then developed a pulmonary problem. She went in the hospital. When she went in the hospital, she caught pneumonia, so she went back in the hospital. It was touch and go. She's here tonight, and she told me, `Yesterday, I couldn't have made it.'"

Early into the panel discussion, Pleshette noted, "I could have dropped dead. There are three doctors who kept me alive, just for tonight."

Pleshette, looking fresh in a black pinstriped suit, was asked what she thought the classic show's real secret of success was. "The sexual energy between us," she responded dryly, inspiring a belly laugh from Newhart.

"I don't remember that," he shot back.

She was serious for a moment, though, when talking about working with Newhart as the ever amusing and ever loving Bob and Emily.

"We were a bright couple," Pleshette said. "We were a couple who cared deeply for each other. We were a working couple, both making substantial amounts of money. And I just think we were fabulous."

TV Land airs a 35th-anniversary marathon of "The Bob Newhart Show" on Monday, running eight episodes selected by Newhart, from 8 p.m. to midnight.

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