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Dialogue: Helen Alfredsson

Golf Digest

From the land of reliable automobiles (Volvo, Saab) and unflappable athletes (Bjorn Borg, Annika Sorenstam) comes one Helen Alfredsson, the alter-Swede, a woman whose iconoclastic flair, chestnut hair and hot-blooded disposition project an image no more Scandinavian than the burrito.

Unlike many of her colleagues, Alfredsson has dabbled in the real world as an aside to professional golf. It was a trend that began in 1983, when, at age 18, she ran off to try a career as a model in Paris.

She has since raced dragsters, flown with the Blue Angels and learned to ride a Harley-Davidson, but it's her experiences at the LPGA Tour's major championships that have produced the wildest joyrides.

Less than four months after winning the 1993 Nabisco Dinah Shore, Alfredsson fumbled a golden chance to win the U.S. Women's Open, shooting a final-round 74 -- after getting a mysterious phone call at 4:30 a.m. -- to squander a two-stroke lead and lose to Lauri Merten. The following year, Alfredsson opened with a 63 and led by seven strokes midway through the third round before she inexplicably collapsed. She wound up losing to Patty Sheehan by eight.

Alfredsson's career has remained sporadic. She won the following week in Boston, but not again in the U.S. until January 1998. Her performance during that period was affected by a broken bone in her pelvis, an injury she had suffered in 1985 while riding a bicycle at U.S. International University in San Diego. It was around the same time that Alfredsson began her relationship with the school's men's soccer coach, Leo Cuellar.

“Very illegal,” she has said of the affair. “Isn't love more fun that way?”

John Hawkins, Features Editor of our newsweekly affiliate, Golf World, met with Alfredsson twice late last year. Predictably, Alfredsson, 33, tackled every subject with her usual brand of high-octane candor.

Golf Digest: Did you know you share a birthday with Seve Ballesteros?

Alfredsson: Isn't that great? I love him. I don't think he knows. The other person I know of (born April 9) is Hugh Hefner.

That's quite a trio.

I know. I'll take Seve, though. That's OK with me.

Generally speaking, do you think your candor scares some people in the LPGA?

A Swedish newspaper once described me as being like an Italian racecar driver in rush-hour traffic. I find it funny -- just because you speak your mind or have an opinion, that makes you a radical. To me, it's about standing up for what you believe.

Perhaps it's because we've been led to believe that most Swedes are stoic. Is it fair to say your culture disapproves of those who draw attention to themselves?

It's funny you should ask that. Here (in the U.S.), athletes say things like, “I'm very happy with myself. I'm very pleased. I'm happy to be here.'' That sounds like a cliche. The top athletes in Sweden -- Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander, Peter Forsberg -- would never say anything like that. They would say, “I feel very fortunate. It's a great opportunity. I hope I can do my best.” There's a big difference.

How well do you get along with the other Swedish players? There has been some talk that you aren't close.

Well, I've gotten to be pretty good friends with Annika, or as close as you can get.

Is this a recent occurrence?

Well, actually, we had an incident last summer when I was quoted as saying she could only win on easy golf courses, something like that. Which is total rubbish. I never said it. So I called the reporter up during the du Maurier and said, “How in the heck could you write something like that? I never would have said anything close to that. You find the tape, and I'll stand by my word if that's what I said, but I know I didn't say it.''

Annika didn't say anything. Then I guess her dad read it. So she comes up to me and said, “I don't appreciate your doing that.” I said, “Annika, I've already talked to the guy and hopefully you have a fax at home and you'll see that I never said that.” I think she appreciated the honesty.

You were quoted in Golf World as saying Annika is “boring.” Would you care to elaborate?

I don't think she's boring. I think she is very, very business-minded. She is very competitive in what people would consider “a Swedish way.” Very step-by-step oriented, almost robotic. You work through the first step, then the second, then the third, and build yourself like that. That's how Pia (Swedish National Coach Nilsson) teaches you to reach your goals. The trouble with that is, what happens after you reach the final step?

It also takes a certain personality. I always joke about it. I never would have made it through Pia's program. I wouldn't have made it through first grade.

Instead, you chose a more circuitous route to professional golf -- six months of modeling in Paris. Any lasting memories?

Helen's file
Birth date: April 9, 1965
Birthplace, residence: Goteborg, Sweden
Height: 5-10
College: U.S. International in San Diego(1988, International Business)
Turned professional: 1989
Joined LPGA Tour: October 1991
LPGA victories (4): 1993 (Nabisco Dinah Shore) 1994 (Ping/Welch's Ch.) 1998 (Office Depot, Welch's Circle K Ch.)
Int'l victories (12): 1990 (Weetabix Women's British Open) 1991 (Queensland Open, Hennessy Ladies' Cup, Trophee Coconut Skol.) 1992 (Hennessy Cup, IBM Open, Itoki Cl.) 1994 (Evian Masters) 1996 (Hennessy Cup) 1997 (McDonald's WPGA Ch. of Europe, Itoen Ladies) 1998 (Evian Masters)
Other victories: Swedish national champion, 1981, '82, '83, '84, '86 and '88; 1989 WPGET Rookie of the Year; 1992 LPGA Tour's Rookie of the Year
Solheim Cup: 1990 (0-3-0) 1992 (2-0-1) 1994 (2-1-0) 1996 (1-2-1) 1998 (2-3-0) Totals (7-9-2)
Yeah. Drunkenness. It was one of those rebellious things. I had been a tomboy, overweight, the ugly duckling. Then, all of a sudden, I lost a lot of weight and somebody asked me if I wanted to try it. I was getting anorexic, partying like crazy already, so it was like, “OK, why not?” I'm not a naturally skinny person, so I drank coffee and ate apples and partied a lot. For the record, I didn't do drugs.

You left school about two months prior to graduation. And your parents were OK with that?

To this day, I don't know why my parents let me go. It surprises me now that they were so lenient. I guess it was like, “OK, she's 18 now, and if that's the decision she wants to make, she can deal with it. She can accept the repercussions.”

I was talking to a friend about that the other day. I think my parents were very busy with their own lives at that point. They had new relationships. I think sometimes, when your parents get divorced (which occurred when Alfredsson was 15), the kids don't have much of a place in their new lives, at least for a while.

How severe did your eating disorder become?

Oh, pretty bad, I think. It gets into your mind, thinking you're fat and everything. If I felt like I'd eaten too much, I'd jump off the bus three or four stops early and run home. Silly things like that, even though I was already running five or six miles every day.

It may sound crazy, but I wouldn't change that part of my life at all. When I look back on my life compared to a lot of these girls, who have never really done anything, never taken any detours …

I can look back -- lying on the bathroom floor, throwing up in a nightclub -- these are not the funnest memories, but it was only six months. And it didn't hurt me too bad, because I don't think I would have been able to just do golf and golf and more golf. Now it's like I've tried everything.

This made you a better person?

I'm not proud of it. It's just something that happened. Like I said to Leo (her longtime fiance) this year -- a lot of things happen for a reason. To reach a point where you can really enjoy life, you need to find things out early. Do you know how many 55-year-old people are out there who haven't done anything but strive for success and money?

During the time you were modeling, were you playing any golf at all?

During those six months, I wasn't playing much. I remember going to play in Italy once, and being so weak from not eating. I had on three sets of rain gear, because I was so cold. I walked nine holes, went home and slept for three hours. What amazes me is that I still had the energy to run. Mentally, I couldn't function. I couldn't read a book. It's like you've got no nutrition in your brain.

What kind of modeling did you do?

I did some runway and a lot of print work. Here I am, the biggest tomboy in the history of the world, with all these girls. We were doing a shoot for a travel magazine. Of course, we did our own makeup. The other girls have every color, every shade, and here I am with one mascara, one blush.

Were any of the photos published?

Somebody has seen it, but it was only six months. Some of those magazines come out months later. Somebody saw the thing I did for L'Oreal, but I never saw any of them. I just wanted to get away.

You came to the United States and won the LPGA's Rookie of the Year award in 1992, then a major championship, the Dinah Shore, in March of ‘93. How difficult was it to deal with expectations, self-imposed or otherwise, at that point?

The funny thing is, I didn't have the game. I had a good year -- I won Dinah, finished second in the U.S. Open and third at the McDonald's -- but it was still a struggle from week to week. Looking back, I was lucky to play well at the big tournaments. I just played well at the right times. Tell us about the 63 you shot in the first round of that ‘94 Open.

It was one of those things where I kept making a lot of putts, like somebody had decided to make my life miserable. No way could I keep that up. I knew that. It was like I was afraid -- I knew I didn't have the game to keep that up. Things were too easy.

That surely had something to do with your collapse in the third round (shooting 76-77 on the weekend after opening with 63-69). What sticks in your mind from that experience?

It was so funny. After the front nine on Saturday I was still leading by a lot, but I missed a short birdie putt on the ninth hole, missed the next one, and I was like, gone. I just lost all feeling. It was one of the weirdest situations I've ever been in -- I had no clue. I mean, I thought I was going to make a birdie on 9, missed that and the next one, and it was gone.

So what happened when you went to the 10th tee?

I stood on that tee and tried to grip the club, but it was gone. It was like a living hell. It's hard to explain how you can go from shooting six under on one nine to three or four over the next. You wish you could find the formula. When things are good, there is no second-guessing, no questioning yourself. All your thoughts are absolutely crystal clear.

Did you know you'd gotten to 13 under, still the most anybody has ever been under par at a Women's Open?

I didn't know at the time. I knew I had established records the first two days. I'm sure the first day will remain the lowest for quite a while. It was like, no alignment, no golf swing, no nothing. How I got to 63 or 13 under is pretty incredible.

What's more difficult to deal with, losing down the stretch -- as you did to Lauri Merten in the 1993 Open -- or 1994, when you lost the big lead?

It was harder to get over ‘93. I felt like I had the game all week. I was striking the ball so much better. I've never cared much about technique if I can get the ball from one point to another, but in ‘94, I knew I didn't have the game. I shouldn't have even been in that situation. I know it's wrong to think like that, but you can't fool yourself. I'm not being negative. I'm just saying that in ‘93, I had the game. There were some things there that led to me not being comfortable.

Is it true that on the morning of the final round of the Women's Open in ‘93, you got a phone call at 4:30 a.m.?

Yes. And then there was a rain delay on top of that, so I was awake for many, many hours. I think about that day -- waking up so early, wondering who called, then trying to go back to sleep, tossing and turning and thinking. Then you get to the golf course and it's raining. Your morning routine is so crucial the last day. You want to stay busy, so you don't have much time to think.

Was it a crank call?

I don't know. Obviously, being in the last group with a 1 o'clock tee time, it wasn't my intention to put in a 4:30 wake-up call.

How were you the following evening, after losing the lead?

I was not in a good mood. We ended up going to a Japanese bar and drinking sake. We drank them dry.

Let's talk about the Solheim Cup. How was the camaraderie on last year's European team? Was that an enjoyable experience, even though you were beaten?

It seemed like there was less friction this time than some of the others. I think people would be very surprised how well we get along. We've all spent a lot of time together on teams while we were growing up. Plus, we're in it to win. No matter where you're from, that's always the goal.

You were in the opposing pairing when Dottie Pepper allegedly incited the crowd. Is she guilty as charged?

To be honest with you, I was very tired of hearing about Dottie before that. Not tired of Dottie, but tired of hearing about Dottie. I even said in our team room, “If I could pick one player for our team, it would be Dottie, because she's such a great competitor.” Yes, sometimes she does cross the line a little bit, but the worst thing you can do is to let it bother you. Then she gets what she wants. Dottie and I are good friends, but the best thing you can do is ignore her.

So when Laura Davies and Sorenstam go in and hit a punching bag …

That was not because of Dottie. I think we were very frustrated, period. We did not make any putts. We didn't play as well as we'd expected. It was just the frustration of the whole thing. I was not very happy that Friday. I said, “Come on, guys, we need a little bit more fire. We need to hate them for this week.” But in our situation, that's difficult, because we're good friends. You don't want to ruin the friendships by being ugly.

You mentioned that Annika is sort of a robotic player. What about Se Ri Pak? Isn't she the ultimate robot?

Se Ri is a little different. We haven't really seen too many Koreans. I think they're a bit more independent.

How amazing is it that she won two majors in her first year?

It is very good. Amazing? Obviously she is a fabulous player. To be honest with you -- not to take away anything from her -- I think if you were going to do it, it would be easier in the first few years of your career. If you're going to win a major, it might be easier early, when the pressure isn't as great. I know I felt that way. In my case, the second one has been more difficult. You know how important it is. You know how great the feeling is. And the longer you go, the more you want to do it.

How did you get involved in the game? Did your parents play?

My dad played. Both my parents were great athletes. They took us to this club near our summer home (in Sweden). It was like a country club, but there were lots of kids. I went horseback riding for a few years, then swimming, then I got one of those Patty Berg 7-irons like we all had at one stage or another. And I just enjoyed it.

Were you a natural?

Oh, yeah. My competitiveness I got from my dad.

How old were you when you realized you could play this game?

It's a funny thing. I was 11 when I started and I think I had like a 9- or 10-handicap by my second year. I was a 6-handicapper when I was 14 or 15. I didn't grow up thinking about becoming a professional. I just wanted to become better. Then we had the National Team, and the girls in that age group (14 to 16) were very competitive. There were like six of us in the core group. We had so much fun. We were competitive, yet we were very good friends. We always tried to beat each other, because that was the funnest thing. The main thing was to make the National Team, because you got to travel outside the country.

Do you remember leaving the country for the first time?

I think it was in France when I played for Sweden for the first time. I was 14. We got stuck at Charles de Gaulle Airport. We missed our flight. There was another trip. We got stuck in New York. We took a cab into Manhattan and were staying at this hotel in 1981, it cost like $100 and we had no money left. Then we ordered three large pizzas, thinking that would be enough for three people. We had no idea they were so large. You learn very quickly.

What amazes me in America is that the kids are given such little responsibility. Leo has two boys. The one that stays with us now is 18. I lived away when I was 18. I worked. The harder you have it early, the tougher you get later. I got in trouble a lot, but I learned to deal with it, and that made me a better person later on.

Did you grow up in what is commonly called a middle-class environment?

Maybe somewhere between middle and upper. But I never had any money in my pocket. My mom would give me what I needed.

You met Leo as a sophomore at U.S. International University. You were 20 then. You're 33 now. Are the two of you attempting to set some sort of record for the longest courtship?

Who was it -- Marlene Hagge? -- she had 25 years. We have another 12 to go. Seriously, Leo and I take it day to day. We've learned to enjoy each other. We've had some really tough times, but we've had some great ones, too. We've learned to maximize our time together. After all these years, I still get butterflies when I see him.

How did you meet? Wasn't there an element of scandal involved -- the men's soccer coach dating the young college student?

We kept it a secret, and nobody found out until my last year of college. He would sneak into my dorm and leave early in the morning. I was very young when I met Leo. As much as I partied, all my friends were guys, but I never had a lot of boyfriends, because I was always around them. Like I said, I was the ugly tomboy with red hair. So I just went and did my thing. Before I met Leo, I'd never had that kind of relationship. We've had some fabulous discussions. I think we know now that we can really depend on each other. When I went through some tough times and played lousy golf, it affected me more than it should have. It affects your life off the golf course -- you have a hard time being happy.

Speaking of which, you ended a lengthy winless streak last year and finished 14th on the money list, your best finish since 1994. How important was it for you to win -- not just once but twice -- in the U.S. in 1998?

It was crucial. This is where you want to do it. You can win anywhere, but you want to beat the best players. It took me a while to come down from wanting to win only majors. You get very spoiled. The first time I won was a major, and you say to yourself, “This is great. Why would I settle for anything less?” Then you realize you get only four chances a year.

After your surgery in late 1996 to repair your pelvic bone, how much of your improvement in the last two years has been physical, and how much of it is mental?

The mental part comes with playing better. You can still visualize a shot (during a slump), but after a while, when every shot stops looking like the picture you have in your brain, your thoughts get blurry. Then you reach the point where you don't see it anymore. That's when you lose your confidence. Every shot is scary.

How strong was the sense of disappointment, having gone four years without a win here?

Oh, it was agony. Awful. I asked Leo, “Where do I go to quit?” I got to that point. It's almost like you have to find things outside golf that are important to you, so the game doesn't consume you.

Did you try anything new with your swing or work with other instructors?

I tried a couple of teachers before I had my surgery. I was so far gone at that point. I didn't have a setup. I wasn't able to do the same thing from one day to the next, and nobody really wanted to deal with all that. It can be very hard to be a fairly decent player, at least a known player, then commit to a major change. Nobody wants to take on that responsibility.

You sound like a player who got by on talent alone for eight, 10, maybe even 12 years.

Particularly during my time here in the States. I don't want to sound cocky, but I feel like, when I had this surgery, I started feeling better. It was a second chance, and I'm closer now to doing what I feel like I should have been doing. I played well in Europe in the early ‘90s. I think I won three in a row one year, I won the British Open, but it's hard to conceive that the game I had back then would be good enough today.

How about that period in 1997 when you decided to suppress your emotions on the golf course? Was that a failed experiment?

I don't know. I think what happened is that I just got sick and tired of being upset. For so long, every shot had been an adventure.

Would it be a stretch to say you lost interest?

I did. I didn't enjoy it. It was a drag to get up every day. It's a drag when you feel like you can't compete at the top. It's terrible.

At what point did things begin to turn around?

I'm not very good on dates, but I remember one big turnaround at the 1996 U.S. Open at Pine Needles. I played with Beth Daniel. I hit two fairways that day, and Beth said to me, “Gosh, you're standing so close to the ball. You're reverse-pivoting like crazy.'' So I went back and tried something, and, all of a sudden, it started feeling better. Then I went to Europe and actually won. Why I won there, I have no idea, but it was almost like a confirmation I was trying something right. That summer I went to the doctor and got an X-ray [on her hip]. He said, “You really need to have this done.” So for 21Ú2 months, I played no golf. It's like you want to go out the next day and see if you can find it. Finally, I accepted that it was going to take some time. Even if it took a year, I knew I was going to get it right.

There are 225,000 people in Las Vegas this week for a convention, plus another 50,000 tourists, plus the 700,000 people who live here. Why can't the LPGA draw even modest-size galleries for one of its marquee events (the Tour Championship)?

There's still a bad perception with us. If people were more positive and saw the good things we're doing instead of jumping all over us for every wrong step we take. ... I don't think the seniors [the Senior PGA Tour] do much better when they're here. There's so much going on here -- if you're in Las Vegas on vacation, you're not going to come watch a golf tournament.

Would you like to see the LPGA schedule fewer events, placing more emphasis on quality?

All we ever talk about is how many. I would like to see us play 33 to 35 good ones (instead of 43), so we can guarantee good fields to the sponsors every week. Every tournament wants the top players. If they want solid competition, that's how to do it.

Taking a look at the bigger picture, are you concerned that the LPGA hasn't assumed a greater presence on the sports landscape?

It's kind of sad, because golf has really grown. You see better shots out here than you've ever seen. I think we proved a lot at the last Solheim Cup, playing a golf course (Muirfield Village) people know is difficult. Even the people who live there were surprised we could hit the same kinds of shots as the men. I think women have to work a little harder to fit in. We have to get a few more things right. I don't think we need to be feminists. I just think we need to keep moving forward and not get bitter or sour.

Progressive thinking?

Oh, yeah. Stay positive. For instance, we can't afford to say, “Hey, I'm not doing any interviews today.” The men can take that approach and get away with it. There's such a big difference between what they can get away with and what we get away with. People think we should be happy just to be playing for money, and I am grateful, because I get to do what I love, but we do entertain. We're good for a lot of things.

Do you think men are more competitive than women?

Maybe, because they are taught to be, at an early age. It's OK for them. It's much harder for women. It's almost like your femininity is being taken away. People see you as some bitch trying to make it in life. It's hard. On the other hand, if women are going to make it in a man's world, you have to deal with it. It's a different mentality. The language is a little tougher. Having been around guys all my life, I know what to expect.

Obviously, the seniors are your primary competition when it comes to TV and sponsorship. A couple of years ago, you made some derogatory comments about them. How do you feel about them now?

I met a few of them and I love them to pieces. Arnie, Chi Chi ... I love to watch them, but you turn on ESPN and the commentator says, “Wow, he's got a really tough shot. The pin is eight steps from the front edge and he has to fly it over a bunker.'' The thing is, it's a par 4 and he's got a 60-yard shot! No wonder everybody hits it stiff! The perception is that the guy hit an unbelievable shot. The announcer says, “Oh, these guys are so good!'' Hey, players of that caliber should hit it stiff.

If you could be the LPGA commissioner for a day, what would be your first order of business?

I would attempt to get the media's respect on an honest level. Go in and talk to them as people. I don't think you guys always get that. It comes down to doing the right thing, not the politically correct one. I think it would be pretty boring to have a job where you look up the answers in a politically correct manual.

What's your opinion of LPGA Commissioner Jim Ritts? (Editor's note: Ritts announced his resignation Feb. 5, shortly after this interview was completed.)

(Pause). Well, it seems like he's quite enthusiastic, and he works hard.

That's it?

I have to be careful. It's our tour.

Why the caution?

I can sit here and tell you, “Oh, he's fabulous.'' And I probably should. I think he really tries. He means well in the way he goes about it, but personally, I don't buy some of it. It seems like he's always in a hurry. He always has to go do this and that.

Are you reluctant to criticize the commissioner because of potential repercussions? That certainly hasn't stopped many of your male counterparts from voicing their displeasure.

I think the men are in a better position to be critical. It's almost part of the ego trip for them, like they're testing how much power they have, or they want to see how much they can get away with. I don't think the women have egos like that. Nobody out here thinks they're more important than the rest. I don't think some of our feelings should be made public. When you choose somebody to lead, you should support them. If you have a problem, I think it's better to solve it within the family.

Fair enough. Let's focus instead on some hot-button topics. How would you feel about the LPGA becoming part of the PGA Tour?

I think it would be great. Fabulous. The bottom line is that we're all trying to reach the entire golfing public, whatever the demographics are. I think it would help us reach those who continue to stigmatize us. The PGA Tour might not want us, but if they did, it would be like the NBA and WNBA. Everybody under one umbrella.

Even given that the average WNBA salary is about $30,000?

We have it very good, but in this country, nobody is ever satisfied with anything. It's always more, more, more. The men make so much more than us, and we work as hard as them. We have the same expenses. We'll always be second-class citizens, but if we look around, we should see how fortunate we are. We can either be upset because the guys make so much more than us, or we can accept it and move forward. I love to play golf. I love to go out and play good tournaments and enjoy my life.

Last year you wrote a column for Golf World on the so-called lesbian issue. Should it be an issue?

I think the worst thing we can do is try to fool people. We end up looking more stupid if we underestimate the public's intelligence. Obviously the media is the connection between us and the public. We provide you with the information, and you, as the middleman, decide what people read. Obviously you can write what you want as long as you do it responsibly, but it comes down to us dealing in the truth and giving you straight answers. If somebody asks you a question, don't talk around it, because it becomes very obvious you're trying to avoid it.

Basically, don't lie. I'm tired of us living these lies, but what people don't understand is, it's very, very tough for a lot of these girls. Some of them haven't even told their parents, so coming out on something that is very negatively perceived, especially by the older generation, is even tougher. But to deny that it exists, I think, is ridiculous. It's everywhere. It's a part of life.

How much, if any, of what Ben Wright said had merit?

I could say something really nasty, but I shouldn't.

No need to get bashful now.

I was going to say that the truth comes from kids and drunks. It has been suggested that alcohol is a truth serum.

Exactly. Well, I think some things (Wright said) were blown out of proportion, and everybody made such a big deal out of it. Basically, it was one man's opinion. I'm sure there are a lot of people who (agree with Wright's comments). Have we proven any differently? Do we know if what he said is true or untrue? I just wish people would get to know us for who we are. And see how many great people there are out here.

Do you think the LPGA should still be trying to sell sex appeal, like it did with Jan Stephenson and Laura Baugh? Anything wrong with that?

No. That's part of it. That's what we have. The PGA Tour couldn't do it. They have things we don't have, and we have things they don't have. All this stuff about sexual harassment -- you can't tell somebody in the office they look pretty -- that's such (bleep). All of a sudden, everybody is a robot. Nobody expresses themselves, because anything you say can haunt you down the road. People complain about these X-rated magazines. If somebody wants to pose nude or do some sexy stuff, that is their right.

Would you pose if asked?

If it was done classy, I might consider it, but I don't think anybody wants to see me naked.

There are some who insist that you make a conscientious effort not to look glamorous when you play. Is there any truth to that?

No. I just like to be comfortable. This is what I do for a living. I dress up when I go out, put on the makeup, and nobody recognizes me when I do that.

Does it surprise you that Nancy Lopez continues to compete, with all the success she's had and the family she's raising?

I admire Nancy so much. You first meet her and it's like, “It's Nancy Lopez!'' She's so humble -- I think we all could learn something from her. And I think she's still competitive. She still has the incredible focus and concentration. I can just imagine how she must have been in her prime. She's another one of those people who didn't get it on a silver platter when she was growing up.

Any thoughts of chucking it all and becoming a homebody?

Yes. I don't cook, I don't clean, I don't know how to use the vacuum cleaner, but part of me ... If I was home more, I would enjoy that. I think a side of me wants to do more for Leo. I also don't think that should be taken away just because you're competitive. What is hardest is finding a guy who accepts the backseat, because his ego is going to be trampled.

Final question: If you could choose one dinner guest for your last meal on earth, who would it be?

I've always liked Katharine Hepburn. She seems like my kind of person. Very opinionated. She does her own thing. She's very strong. I like that.

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