For as long as she can remember, Renée Taylor has been on a diet. We’re talking seven decades, because Taylor — who among other things played Fran Drescher’s mom on “The Nanny” — is 85.
“I think I was 11 when the teacher called my mother and said I couldn’t go five minutes without having a bagel in my mouth,” the Bronx native tells The Post. Soon after, she says, her mom started clipping movie-star diets from Photoplay magazine, reasoning, “If we ate like that, we’d look like that!”
They never did look like that, but their efforts launched Taylor on a lifetime of ups and downs and dress sizes, all the way to 20-plus. Her relationship with food also inspired a book and then a one-woman show, “My Life on a Diet.” Kicking off its six-week, off-Broadway run on Thursday, the show is Taylor’s final collaboration with her actor-writer husband of 52 years, Joseph Bologna, who died in August.
“Joe said he loved me at any weight,” she says of the man with whom she wrote the hit ’70s movies “Lovers and Other Strangers” and “Made for Each Other.” He had only one request: “He loved to dance, and he’d say, ‘Just don’t get so heavy I can’t dip you!’ ”
These days, she looks quite dippable, thanks to some newfound restraint. Moderation, she says, was never her strong suit: “I can feast or fast — nothing in between.”
That pretty much sums up her diets, including the regimens recommended by Marilyn Monroe. They met in the ’50s at the Actors Studio, where Taylor was stunned by Monroe’s beauty.
“I asked, ‘What do you eat, to look like that?’ ” Taylor recalls. Grapes, Monroe told her. So Taylor ate grapes. Lots and lots of them. When she gained weight, Monroe chided her: “You’re just supposed to have a few!”
Next came Monroe’s “master-cleanse diet,” a mix of lemon juice, cayenne pepper and maple syrup. Foiled again: “I put in too much maple syrup,” Taylor says.
And then there was “The Last Chance Diet,” a popular book that outlined a method Taylor tried in the ’70s with a friend, actress Lainie Kazan.
“All you could have was 2 ounces of liquid protein, three times a day,” Taylor says. She’s not sure how long she lasted, but she lost 40 pounds. “Then I read that someone on it died and I called Lainie and said, ‘We better eat more protein!’ ”
That wasn’t the only time death ended a diet. Taylor says she followed Dr. Stuart Berger’s “Southampton Diet” until she heard he’d regained some 150 pounds and then died. Then came the “Scarsdale Diet,” whose author, Dr. Herman Tarnower, was shot dead by his girlfriend.
“Supposedly, she found him in bed shtupping someone,” Taylor says, impishly, “but I think she shot him because she just wanted to get off that diet!”
There are no real diets. It’s really a lifestyle. Eat less! Drink more water!
There was “The Beverly Hills Diet,” which let her eat pineapple all day (“Boring!”), and the Champagne diet, which had her downing two glassfuls before every breakfast, lunch and dinner. “And it had to be expensive Champagne,” since that has fewer calories, Taylor says. “I became a Cristal drunk!”
Meanwhile, she and the perennially lean Bologna (“He’d never eat dinner!”) lived amid the thin and glamorous. Taylor recalls watching a toothpick-slender Lee Radziwill work a buffet.
“First she took three peas and sat down,” Taylor jokes. “Then she went up and came back with two string beans . . . When she came back with three carrots I said, ‘Overeating again?’ ”
Gradually, Taylor says, she discovered it wasn’t hunger she felt, just an emptiness she tried filling with food. That realization — coupled with a “10-Day Belly Slimdown” touted on “The Dr. Oz Show,” which kept her off gluten, sugar, alcohol and beans — helped her lose weight and keep it off.
Nowadays, breakfast consists of berries with maybe a little yogurt; lunch is a “colorful” salad; and dinner is fish or chicken and steamed vegetables.
“There are no real diets,” Taylor says. “It’s really a lifestyle. Eat less! Drink more water!”