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Respect earns Ricki Lake success on TV

December 06, 1993|By Diane Werts | Diane Werts,Newsday Los Angeles Times Syndicate

In the next two years, she was cast in a raft of feature films -- "Last Exit to Brooklyn," "Cookie," Waters' "Cry-Baby" -- and got -- her own TV movie, "Babycakes" (a remake of Percy Adlon's German film "Sugarbaby"). She even took a regular TV role, as Holly Pelagrino on ABC's Vietnam drama "China Beach." Ricki Lake was a hit despite her weight. Because of her weight.

But by the time she played Holly "The Donut Dolly," however, she had pushed her weight up to 250 (on a 5-foot-4 frame). When the TV role ended in 1990, "Suddenly, I hit bottom, and it all sunk in. I had reached a point in my career where it wasn't working anymore. The fat thing was over. 'You know Ricki, she's not right, she's too fat.' "

Over the next two and a half years, she lost 115 pounds -- although she doesn't speak much about how, "because I did not lose my weight in the healthiest of ways." However, she's more than happy now to boast that the dress she wore for the previous night's taping was "a size 8! I was like freaking out! I was soooo psyched."

Now that she's in charge of her life, it is returning to her the kind of bountiful satisfactions food alone could never provide. "Ricki Lake," syndicated to 151 markets, has been rising in the ratings each week since its September premiere.

And she's hardly given up acting: Before starting the show this summer, she juggled two feature films on opposite coasts -- the Baltimore shoot of Waters' latest, "Serial Mom," with Kathleen Turner playing her mother ("a Doris Day-Donna Reed type," she says, "who's also a serial killer"; it should be released in February); and the Los Angeles shoot of the Tim Burton-produced fantasy "Cabinboy," starring "Get a Life" eccentric Chris Elliott (look for it next year).

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