MARIE CLAIRE

Teri Hatcher has tried on her last designer dress. ‘I want to get naked,’ the 41-year-old brunette declares. ‘Will all the men here who aren’t gay please turn around?’ No one at the Marie Claire photo shoot so much as swivels a hip. ‘See,’ Teri collapses with laughter, ‘this is why I can’t get any dates.’

She can’t possibly be serious. ‘I’m looking,’ insists the single mum of eight-year-old Emerson Rose, the only child of her nine-year marriage to actor JonTenney. ‘I’m looking with binoculars and I can’t even see anyone in the distance.’

Let’s get this straight: the woman who played Lois Lane to Dean Cain’s Clark Kent, the Seinfeld guest star known as the ‘girl with the perfect rack’ and, now, the foxy star of Desperate Housewives isn’t besieged with suitors? ‘I haven’t been on a date in, I don’t know, nine months?’ she says in a voice that is a cross between a vixen’s purr and a girlish squeal. ‘I don’t always get looked at. I don’t walk down the street strutting my stuff and go to bars and have guys send me drinks. I’ve never been that girl.’

It’s harder now that she’s famous – again. ‘A few people have tried to set me up and it’s been awkward because I feel like these guys have the perception of knowing me, and I don’t know them back. That’s strange. I also have this “no actor” dating rule. And friends say that men might be intimidated by me.’ She stops, rolls her eyes and mutters comically, ‘What is it with Teri and her problem?’ ‘I never was very good at meeting anybody,’ she continues. ‘I wouldn’t call myself shy really, but I’m never going to be your instant best friend. But when I get to know you and we become friends, I’ll jump in front of a bus to save you.’

Despite what she says, Teri Hatcher is bright, quick-witted and so free of pretence that she instantly makes you feel comfortable. So comfortable, in fact, that you end up asking, ‘If you haven’t been on a date, do you at least have some kind of sex life?’ ‘Shut up!’ she replies. ‘I’m not talking about that, and clearly the answer would be, “No!” I’m not a woman who would say, “I’ve got a vibrator so everything is fine.” That’s not what sex is, anyway. I miss there being somebody to snuggle with in bed. I miss somebody bringing me chicken soup when I have a fever.’

Such are the sacrifices of the single working mum. Each hour-long episode of Desperate Housewives is shot in just eight days. Now the show is in its second season, the pressure is on to keep ratings up, which means rewrites and reshoots, days that drag into nights and very early mornings. There is also promotion, a gig as the face of Clairol and charity work. Even so, Teri Hatcher gets up ‘every day at six, no matter what’ to make Emerson breakfast, pack her lunch and drive her to school. She also takes her daughter riding a couple of times a week. In two years, discussions about buying Emerson a horse will begin. ‘I like delayed gratification and earned behaviour,’ explains Teri. ‘Our society is so microwave, so instant everything.’

Emerson does not watch TV, although she visits Teri on set and is often found in the company of Eva Longoria’s dog. ‘1 have a kid who says, “Mom, can we bake banana bread or sew an apron or go on a treasure hunt?” says Teri. Inevitably, she says yes. ‘I feel like the trick is not can I give more, but can I find some space to take care of myself?’

After the shoot, Ten e-mails to set up lunch and we agree on an old favourite, Art’s Delicatessen, where the sign says, ‘Every sandwich is a work of Art.’ It’s down the hill from where she lives. She is there waiting at the appointed hour even though she has been up all night and just had a romp with her 11-month-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Klaus. He joins a menagerie of another spaniel, three cats, a rabbit and a bird.

She is wearing a plain white T-shirt and bejewelled Juicy jeans. Around her neck is a gold chain with a tiny charm of a bird in flight. Her dad gave it to her at 16, the first thing she remembers him buying especially for his only child.

The waitress arrives with a refill of her Arnold Palmer, a concoction that is half iced tea and half lemonade. ‘I eat like a pig,’ Teri confesses, ordering split pea soup, a scoop of egg salad, one stuffed cabbage and bagel chips, but none with raisins, please. ‘What is life without food? I love a hot dog with sauerkraut, relish, mustard and onions and a beer. There isn’t a better meal than that, especially at a baseball game.’

Stories about her weight and eating habits irritate her. ‘To be thin and to be anorexic are completely different things. And it’s doing a disservice to people who have a debilitating, horrifying disease.’ She is hardly amused that one of the American tabloids quoted a psychologist as saying that Teri was the thinnest housewife because she had to justify her higher salary. ‘They should have their license taken away for commenting on someone’s health without them being a patient’ she says. And I don’t know if I even earn the most. I make exactly what I made when I signed my initial contract and I don’t know what the other girls get. So all that stuff about $285,000 an episode? I wish. I don’t know why my honesty gets me into trouble because I never say anything vicious, but people tend to want to twist the things you say’.

Most of the time, she ignores it. She has, however, issued a libel suit against the Daily Sport in Britain over one false story. ‘They wrote that I had sex in my VW bus in my driveway while I left my daughter in the house, because I didn’t want her to hear.’ Just repeating it upsets her. ‘I have made mothering my priority,’ she states. ‘I have given up so many things to be the kind of mother I am, so you cannot talk about my mothering and get away with that. You can say I’m a bitch, you can make up stories about cat fights and you can maybe get away with saying that I don’t eat, but you have crossed the line by talking about my mothering’.

Teri Hatcher is clearly as tough as theTV characters she portrays. Between Lois and Clark and Desperate Housewives, she slapped James Bond in Tomorrow Never Dies, and in 2 Days in the Valley took Charlize Theron down, smacking her so hard she felt compelled to buy Charlize a six-pack of beer to apologise.

That was less than a decade ago and much has changed in the world since she was last a household name. Now, the oft-told tale of how she stumbled into acting by going to support a friend on an audition and ending up with the role of a mermaid on the kitsch-fest of TV’s The Love Boat has an almost camp innocence. Similarly, when she wore nothing but Superman’s cape in the mid-Nineties, the photo made her the most downloaded woman of the early internet age; now, the image just seems sweet.

Last year, long before she picked up a Golden Globe, Teri did a shoot for FHM, coming on strong as a leggy brunette, playing bored Beverly Hills housewife. It was her way of celebrating the role of a lifetime and saying 40 could be fabulous. ‘I wasn’t anywhere near the top of the list to get this show — either I deserved it or somebody thought I was the weakest person on the planet and if they didn’t do something spectacular for me, I’d off myself out of depression!

‘I know I will not be hot again soon,’ she continues. ‘I don’t know if that means two years or five years, but it lets me enjoy what is happening now to the fullest. It also makes me smart about securing a future for me and for my family.’ That doesn’t necessarily mean a future in front of the camera. This May, Teri is publishing her first book, Burnt Toast and Other Philosophies of Life. ‘It explains how to set better priorities, how not to be afraid of what you want and how to treat yourself better. How to avoid eating burnt toast, which is what, metaphorically, I watched my mother do’. The book, she says, reveals her vulnerability. ‘I’m just like anyone else – I have good days and bad days, I am full of doubt and full of confidence.’ Growing up, Teri says, ‘I was the fixer, the caretaker. There are things in the book that are not intended to slam my parents. They did their best and they love me to death, but they are better grandparents than they were parents.

Teri did her learning early. In her twenties, she saw a therapist. ‘I don’t feel the urge to talk to a professional these days,’ she says. ‘I’m not fixed, I just have the tools to work on it myself. We’re all dealt a hand of cards. Some are easier to deal with than others, but at some point you have to go, “It doesn’t matter what I’m dealt.” You have to make your life what you want it to be.’

Sometimes, she wobbles. The only common trait she shares with Susan Mayer, she says, is insecurity about men. ‘When I meet someone, I do worry more about if they will like me and less about if I will like them. I’ve never conquered that, but I’m very strong, smart and hard-working. Yeah, inside there is the voice that asks, “Am I OK?” That doesn’t mean I never feel good; that just means I’m human.’

Teri doesn’t talk about all the cards she’s been dealt in the book; some are ‘so deeply private, I don’t know if I’ll ever talk about them’. Others she will lay on the table: ‘I’m a big fan of monogamy,’ she says. ‘I want to have that deep, knowing trust where you feel you can be the completely exposed dark, reckless pit of yourself with someone and they still love you.
But I don’t think I’ll ever marry. I would have a spiritual ceremony in front of friends, but I don’t think I need a wedding licence.’

After an eight-month marriage when she was 23 and her second divorce three years ago, perhaps this reticence is understandable. ‘It took a year to let go of the anger. I did not marry bad guys, but ultimately I didn’t make good choices.’ Today, Teri and her ex have ‘a good parenting situation. It’s important Emerson has a good relationship with her dad and I
don’t want to raise a girl that doesn’t get along with men’. And she is equally clear about what she is looking for in future partners. ‘I don’t want someone I have to buy dinner, but I don’t need a billionaire either. I don’t need a marathon runner, but I don’t like a sedentary couch potato. I need someone who is confident and kind, funny and adventurous and takes care
of me. Basically, someone perfect.’

She must go now, she apologises, to head off to film The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Then she’ll pick up Emerson and spend a quiet evening at home. ‘Motherhood has made me an entirely different person, as has age,’ she says. ‘In your twenties, you think nothing is ever going to be different. When you turn 40, you understand that there is a finish line. Age makes you wiser. At least I hope it does; otherwise what is the point of growing older?’.

The second series of Desperate Housewives starts on 18 January at 10pm, with the second episode following on E4 at 11pm.

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