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Teri Hatcher has a Vera wang dress in a garment bag thrown over her tanned shoulder. She’s going to wear the dress in a few hours to the opening of the New York Film Festival. But right now, all she wants is a tall glass of Samuel Adams beer, really cold. Her long legs seem poured into the kind of formfitting jeans her character on DH, Susan Mayer, is always wearing on Wisteria Lane. Hatcher repeatedly taps the toe of one spike-heel shoe as she rides an elevator to a rooftop bar overlooking the Hudson River. She’s not tapping that Manolo out of diva-like impatience—the 40 year-old actress has neither a publicist nor an assistant to haul around her Vera Wangs and she appears far from divadom. In fact, she’s got a toe-tapping John Micael Montgomery song stuck in her head. Screw it: She starts to sing it in full twang. She knows every word of the ditty, which has something to do with a guy falling for a girl on the second row of an auction somewhere in a place called Grundy Country.

“It’s my Okie blood,” she says, recalling that her father was from Oklahoma stock. “My daughter and I love country music, and we sang that song over and over on a recent camping trip.” Hatcher softens whenever she talks about 9-yr-old Emerson Rose, her daughter with her ex-husband, actor Jon Tenney. “Emerson and I went on safari in Africa. She wants to be an archeologist,” she says, her brown eyes brightening a shade lighter than the lager she’s abut to drink. Her eyes appear slightely tired, yet have a certain sparkle. It’s the essence of her appeal, this harried insouciance. She can seem on the verge of tears, or ready with a tough little hoot, perhaps a reaction to the ups and downs that life has trown her way. There is a fiercely self-protective glint in those baby browns. Experience adds a knowing cast to them.

“A knowing cast” is an apt description for Hatcher and her costars on DH–Huffman, Cross, Longoria and Sheridan. Among them, they have around a century’s worth of show-business knowledge, which probably helps them deal with the mania and rumors about the series, such as the other ladies’ alleged resentment of Hatcher after she won both the Golden Globe and SAG awards for best actress in a comedy series. (Huffman’s Emmy this year seems to have evened the score.) Do the rumors still bother Hatcher? She dramatically pulls a giant pair of Yves Saint Laurent sunglasses from her purse and puts them on. Settling into her chair, she sighs as she answers that question for the umpteenth time. “we all drew the lucky straw with this show, and we’re all aware of it,” she says, remembering the years when she couldn’t get an audition, wasn’t sure she cuold pay her motgage, and bgan to market bath salts to make ends meet. “None of us walks around thinking we’re all that,” she insists. “It’s all about the chemistry that happens among us. We know the bad-blood stories are not true.” Does she think the question is based on a sexist construct: that a group of female stars must engage in catfights? “Nicollette definitely thinks it’s sexist. But do I feel that way? Yeah. Maybe. But I’ve got better things to worry about—like raising a child and finding a man.”

Hatcher was the only child of a difficult marriage. She has worked hard over the years not to repeat mistakes in her life—the ones she has made herself and the ones she saw her parents make. Still, she’s amazed that she is now a divorced mother of an only child. “It absolutely surprises me that I have only one child and am repeating that in my life,” she says. “Obviously, you don’t get married and have a child thinking you’re going to get a divorce. Well, I didn’t, anyway. I never thought we’d have just have one child, but when we ended the marriage—and honestly I haven’t had a boyfriend since I’ve been divorced—I looked deep inside myself, and I realized that I’m not the kind of person who would bring another child into a single household. Either of my choices—adoption or getting pregnant just to have a baby—would still leave this other child without a father. And marriage—since I can’t seem to even get to the boyfriend stage—is so implausible to me at this point in my life.”

“You can’t even get to the one-night-stand stage?” I ask.

“No, I can’t even get there. I’m hoping to hook up with somebody at this party after the film festival tonight,” she says. I figure this is as good a time as any to offer her the dozen roses I’ve brought along. “Oh, a man is finally giving me flowers,” she says, pretending to swoon.

“I read, though, after I bought them today, that you don’t like roses. You said they were too predictable.”

“But there are white roses,” she says, quickly reassuring me. “It’s red roses I don’t like.”
“Anyway, I also bought a pack of batteries for my tape recorder and have some extra ones. I read, too, that you got so lonely you went out and bought yourself a new vibrator. So be my guest,” I say, handing her a couple of Duracells.

Hatcher whips off her Yves Saint Laurents. Her brown eyes widen in horror. “That’s just garbage. That was a joke,” she says, breaking into a raucous laugh. “No, I don’t need those batteries. Oh, my God! I’m not that desperate.”

Batteries aside, what’s Hatcher’s type? “I don’t know what I want in a man. I just know that I’m ready to meet one,” she says. “I’m pretty solid about not wanting to date an actor—that’s about it. Dating an actor would be a mistake at this point.” She admits that her career was the more successful one during her marriage, so is she the one who had to pony up alimony? Hatcher chugs the rest of her Sam Adams and wipes her mouth with the back of her hand. “I’m not going to talk about that. But…hmm…let’s put it this way: I will never pay for dinner again. I will never pull out my credit card on a date again. I don’t have to marry a gazillionaire, but I don’t want to pay for dinner anymore.”

The last time I saw Hatcher and her daughter was at a picnic thrown by Diane von Furstenberg and the designer’s gazillionaire husband, Barry Diller, during the weekend of the Academy Awards. “I ended up taking care of Diane’s grandchildren at that picnic,” she says. “That could have been an opportunity for me to meet a guy that day. But that’s just not me. It’s more me to say, ‘You and your husband go have a good time, I’ll watch the grandkids,’ ” Yet Hatcher was the “get” of the picnic, which is annually composed of family friends and industry bigwigs, supplemented by that year’s hotteset star or two. “Isn’t that funny?” she remarks. “I just felt uncomfortable and felt like I didn’t belong there. So the way I made myself comfortable was to take care of the grandkids.”

Hatcher’s own childhood was not a storybook one. “I don’t think my parents talked about feelings at all,” she remembers. “My dad was a VP of a big Silicon Valley company, and my mother was a computer programmer. My dad put himself through Berkeley on full scholarship. My mom grew up very poor in Chicago, and her mother died when she was three. Neither of them had the best upbringing, so that’s how it got passed down to me. They weren’t rotten parents; they did the best they could. I do know they love me. My mother would just keep things in and keep things in and keep things in, and then just blow up, crazy, out-of-proportion. I would feel crappy about myself because I was getting dumped on like that. And I longed for them to stop fighting. When I was nine, I sat them down and said I hoped that they weren’t staying together because of me and suggested they get a divorce. I just hated the way they tortured each other in front of me. But now, as an adult, I can look at them and say, ‘You know what, it was none of my business.’ The dance that a couple does together and the behind-the-door needs can be kind of oddball and mysterious.” She thinks about how this upbringing affected her, furrowing her brow in the expressively neurotic way Susan can when fumbling for a way out of her latest predicament. “I have doubts about myself every single day,” she says. “I’m actually writing a book about it called Burnt Toast. It’s about trying to understand that it’s OK for you to deserve things and OK for life to go your way and OK not to always have to eat the piece of burnt toast beacuse that’s what you’re used to. But it’s not anything I’ve conquered. I still work on it every day. The best thing about my own parents is that everything they did wrong with me I try consciously to correct with Emerson. As much as I’m admitting to you that I beat myself up, I try and not do it in front of Emerson. I think she sees me as a person who can handle the punches and can enjoy life.”

Marc Cherry, creator and exec. producer of DH, believes that a combination of resilence and vulnerability gives Hatcher her kooky charm. “She can break your heart and touch your funny bone at the same time,” he says. “And she has this unnerving ability to deliver my lines exactly the way I hear them in my head. That’s an amazing, instinctive quality. Bust most of all, Teri and I have bonded over this sense of self-doubt we can’t seem to shake. We have a hard time believing all this success right now is real. We feel—no we know—that it could go away at any second, because it went away before. A lot of people were shocked when I cast her as Susan, especially the famous actresses I passed on, but Teri has come roaring back like I knew she would.”

Hatcher is definitely back, not just with the Sunday night comedic soap opera—a kind of Peyton Place on pot—but with endorsements from companies such as Clairol, which as signed her to be its new spokeswoman for Nice’n Easy hair color (which she claims makes perfect sense because she’s been coloring a gray patch in her own hair since she was in her late 20s). “I can enjoy this new success and make the most of it, but not be defined by it,” she says. “I am so un-Hollywood. Someone asked me the other day, ‘What do you think about Britney having a baby?’ And my answer was ‘Britney had a baby?’ I don’t crowd my brain with all that nonsense.” Hatcher, who studied math in college, seems able to balance these different aspects of her personality, unlike her character, Susan, whose demeanor and intellect appear to be sweetly jumbled. “I do identify with Susan,” she says. “Yet Susan is the absolute antithesis of the kind of mother I am. She’s such a child herself. She’s so frozen and needy. But that’s what’s funny about her and what she has to learn. That’s not what I have to learn. Where we do cross is the chronic insecurity issue: Can I walk across the street and ask a guy out? Even now, if someone says they have someone they want me to meet, I go, ‘What if he meets me and doesn’t like me?’ instead of thinking I might not like him.” With a perfect Susan take–befddlement filled with longing—she eyes those batteries and shakes her beautiful heard in disbelief.

“Honey, you need a man,” I tell her.

“I do. I really do,” she says. She throws that Vera Wang back over her shoulder and, with a bouquet of roses already in hand, head out into the Manhattan night to find herself one.”

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