If you're rich and famous, you don't see Washington from the third row of a Tourmobile. You have your own limo. A silver limo. And a chauffeur named Edward who politely slides the plastic partition shut, separating the R & F from the P & O (poor and obscure.)
If you're Jacqueline Bisset, star of "Rich and Famous," you curl up on the plush back seat, adjust the leopard-print silk scarf knotted at your throat, fix your gray-blue eyes into space and answer questions on men, women, friendship and sex with a throaty British clip, letting the silence between them dangle like the silver earrings bobbing beneath your French poodle coif.
"I can't sign this now," she says impatiently, handing Edward's pale blue leatherette autograph book back to the front seat. "I'll get carsick. Can I do it when we stop?"
She settles back, pulls a black plastic Afro comb from her soft leather purse and runs it through her golden-brown tousled mane for the photographer at her feet. She wears a red T-shirt and light brown corduroy jodhpurs tucked into butternut leather boots.
Dumb Question No. 1: If you had your choice, what would you rather be -- rich or famous?
"Rich," says Bisset, which rhymes with "miss-it." Which stands for sultry, savvy, international star of over 35 films, including "The Deep," "Bullitt," "Day for Night," "Airport" and "The Greek Tycoon."
Dumb Question No. 2: What do you get asked most often?
"What's it like to be rich and famous, and what's Nick Nolte's phone number."
She's warming up. Smiling, even.
Born in Surrey, England, the daughter of a Scottish physician and a French attorney (who divorced several years ago), Bisset lives alone in a 14-room "cottage" once owned by Clark Gable and Carole Lombard in the exclusive Benedict Canyon area of Los Angeles. A struggling London model before turning actress in Roman Polanski's 1966 "Cul-de-Sac," Bisset can now command $1 million per film.
Now, after years of playing the beautiful British birdbrain, 37-year-old Bisset wants to be Taken Seriously. So in her latest film, an affectionate look at a 20-year-old friendship between two college roommates, costarring Candice Bergen and directed by George Cukor, she put aside her glamor-puss persona to play Liz Hamilton, a hard-drinking writer who's more interested in dry martinis than wet T-shirts.
"I feel the character in this film is far sexier than the character in 'The Deep,' " she says, riding down Pennsylvania Avenue on the way to the White House. "It's a little more earthy. A little more of my idea of what's erotic and sexy. I think I'd rather be intellectually sexy."
With well-rehearsed Hollywood Talk Show Humility, Bisset says she is insecure about her looks. No, she doesn't think she has a great body. No, she doesn't think she's beautiful. "I've always been terribly shy about myself. I thought, 'God, everyone else has a better figure than I have.' "
She pauses, fiddling with the two gold Cartier rings on her right hand. "I think I have a terrific personality."
This, from the woman who sent millions of men into gaga land over that unauthorized wet T-shirt poster from "The Deep," which she successfully quashed with a lawsuit. "It wasn't even a good shot," she says. "It was just silly. It wasn't even a sexy picture.
"It's hard to think of myself as sexy." She bites her pink, pouty bottom lip and breaks into a grin. "Sometimes I feel dead naughty."
An irresistible flirt, Bisset says she falls in love easily. And when you're rich and famous, chances are you fall in love with someone who's also rich and famous. She lived with actor Michael Sarrazin for seven years, had a brief affair with director Francois Truffaut and just broke up last year with French designer-turned-L.A.-real-estate-magnate Victor Drai. Is she in love now?
The gray-blue eyes twinkle.
"Is it that obvious?" she says.
She doesn't want to talk about it, though Hollywood gossips (somebody has to talk about it) say the new man in her life is actor Jon Voight, star of "Midnight Cowboy" and "Coming Home."
It's a serious relationship, Bisset hints. But not necessarily for life. "I'm afraid of the word 'forever.' With all my relationships, I've tried to figure out what would be the best way to keep them. I never thought marriage was the best way."
She pauses. "Well, who the hell knows. My impulse is to be with one man. I have to be supportive of somebody."
She's attracted to bright, amusing, intelligent men of her own age who have nice skin. Nice skin? "I think nice skin's important. People's contact is a skin contact."
Edward the chauffeur points out the White House.
"Where? Where?" Bisset says, playing Hollywood star on her first trip to the nation's capital. On cue, she leans forward, looks out to the right, flashes a perfect profile and says, "God, it looks so unprotected."
The limo stops at the Lincoln Memorial. Bisset takes Edward's hand and steps from the car. She walks across the street to pose in front of the marble building. The photographer asks Bisset to stand near the shrubs. She balks. "No, I think I should be where you are. I want the light in my face." The photographer demurs. "Please," says Bisset. "It's better that way." She poses no-nonsense style for two minutes, crinkling her face into a wry smile. Hands on hips. Hands off hips. Head tilted right. Head tilted left. Subject in complete control.
Which is where Bisset says she is headed professionally. One of the best ways to be Taken Seriously is to co-produce your own film. Bisset says she became involved in "Rich and Famous" several years ago, thought it perfect for herself and Bergen, and tried to get financing for the project.
"Men are extremely patronizing. I got totally fed up with their attitude. It took months for them to come around to me. They thought I was just a pain in the neck. Now they respect me because they know how hard I work. And that I'm frequently right. I can't tell you what I was up against. I mean, talk about chauvinism. It was a horrendous experience at times."
The men . . . ?
"Were sh---y. Patronizing. I just stuck in there. I said I'm not going to be pushed aside. No, I'd say, 'We don't look right. We've got to look better. This is wrong. This is wrong.' Making myself highly unpopular. But it was a decision. To take the risk and be unpopular."
In a recent interview, 82-year-old director George Cukor was asked whether Bisset had a hand in developing the project. Cukor responded, "Oh my a--."
"Did he say that really? That's very nice of him. My God."
She is agitated. "I wasn't the easiest person to work with." Bisset says she was involved with the project for nine months before Cuckor was named the director. "If that's true, that he did say that, then that hurts my feelings."
She and Candice Bergen got along famously, unfortunately for the tabloids. "God knows they would have loved it if Candy and I had hated each other. It's just the opposite."
Dumb Question No. 3: Who's better looking, Bisset or Bergen?
"She's like me. In details she's flawed, too. But she's bright and funny and gorgeous. But she can be normal and pinched and nervous and tight. I think Candy was absolutely perfect at a certain stage, but I think her face has evolved. She's like me. We both have good days and bad days. About one in three is a good one."
Edward eases the silver limo into National Airport. Bisset has four minutes to make the 5 o'clock shuttle to New York. Favorite actress? "Jeanne Moreau." The worst thing that's happened to her in her life? "Making this film." What she fears most? "Violence." What's it like being rich and famous? "As far as work, I suppose it's better than being poor and unknown." Nick Nolte's phone number?
She's bounding out of the limo, running across the traffic circle. Nick Nolte's phone . . .