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A hands-on interview with “Dirty Dancing” star Jennifer Grey

A portrait of Jennifer Grey

A portrait of Jennifer Grey

“Hold it!” Jennifer Grey said two seconds after we met. “Your strap’s hanging out.”

You know those little clear, plastic straps inside dresses to help them hang properly on the hanger? They can be tough to keep in place.

“Here, stick them under your bra straps,” Grey said, reaching over to rearrange. “I never want to see that happen to you again.”

Having made it to second base with the “Dirty Dancing” star five seconds into our first date, we got down to business.

“The movie was made with so much heart,” said Grey, also a past “Dancing With the Stars” winner who’s worked on numerous film and television projects over the years. “It’s about a young girl discovering herself.”

Then it was time to go. Grey was in town on a tour sponsored by Skinny Cow, which makes low-fat, low-calorie candy and ice cream and which hosted a sold-out screening of “Dirty Dancing” Thursday night at the AMC Parkway Point 15. Having spent the morning visiting radio talk shows, Grey spent the afternoon being ferried all over CNN for a live appearance on “CNN Newsroom,”  then taped segments for HLN and CNN iReport. We tagged along.

“Will you take a picture of me sitting at the CNN table?” Grey asked her assistant on the way to talk to Brooke Baldwin. “I can Instagram it and send it to my daughter.”

Nobody puts Baby in the corner. Grey can't count how many times she's seen "Dirty Dancing."

Nobody puts Baby in the corner.

During each stop and in between, Grey talked with fresh enthusiasm about the movie, now celebrating its 25th anniversary.

“I appreciate the interest,” she said. “I appreciate people’s curiosity. It’s pretty cool. What’s really cool is these people from Skinny Cow came up with this crazy scheme for the ultimate girls’ night out. We need to dance. We need to go to a chick flick. We need to eat ice cream and treats.”

And then, more talk of the top shelf.

Straps under wraps! Thanks Jen

Straps under wraps! Thanks Jen

In response to an iReport question asking for secret “Dancing With the Stars” scoop, Grey said, “When you wear your costume on show night, you wear your mic under your breast. I found it a little uneven. We would have to wear pasties so if we had a wardrobe malfunction it wouldn’t show your nipple.”

Her voice dropping to a dramatic whisper, she added, “But I didn’t wear mine.”

Other non-anatomical tidbits we picked up along the way:

- Grey considered writing an autobiography but that’s on hold for the moment.

- As macho and tough as her co-star Patrick Swayze seemed to be, she always sensed in him “a beautiful vulnerability that makes him someone we all miss.”

- Although she comes from a show biz family, she’s glad her parents made her stay in school, then pursue acting.

Also, she loves to cook, hang out with her husband and daughter, and organize.

“I have this organizer friend, and she has shown me how to put my bras so they’re lined up and you can look and them and go, oh, look at my bras,” Grey said, steering back into familiar territory and then cracking herself up. “I made myself blush.”

This is CNN

This is CNN

All celebrity publicists talk about how nice and down-to-earth their clients are. In the case of Grey’s people, they are right. With the schedule of interviews winding down and Grey headed to the Skinny Cow-sponsored screening, she stopped to take a photo of herself overlooking the CNN Center atrium as her small entourage and official CNN escort proceeded toward the escalator.

CNN security frowns on visitors straying from their CNN escorts, and a guy in uniform swiftly appeared to ask to see Grey’s ID. It seemed like a good time to ask Grey what it’s like to have been famous for a coming-of-age movie that still resonates 25 years later.

“I never think of myself like that,” she said. “If you ask me to describe myself, ‘famous’ would not be it. I’m proud of the work that I do. Not proud – grateful. Not taking it for granted.”

- Jennifer Brett/The Buzz/jbrett@ajc.com

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July 20th, 2012
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