Cybill Disclosures

cybill shepherd in 1998
Cybill Shepherd can laugh at herself these days, reports CBS News Sunday Morning Correspondent Rita Braver as part of the program's The Middle Ages series.

After years of struggling with her own personal relationships (including two failed marriages), her new talk show, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, is giving her a chance to capitalize on her vast experience:

"I've always loved to talk about sex," says Shepherd. "It's an innate part of my persona and my personality."

She seemed born to be wild. Growing up in Memphis, Tenn., she rebelled against her parents' traditional '50s lifestyle.

"I didn't want to stay at home with the kids," she explains. "I wanted to be doing what my dad did. I wanted to be out in the world." Shepherd adds: "I didn't want to be Jane. I wanted to be Tarzan. I wanted to swing through the trees."

Her beauty was her ticket out. At 18, she won the national title of Model of the Year, and her career took off. She became one of the most successful models in the world. And a Glamour magazine cover led to her first big Hollywood break.

The hot young director Peter Bogdonavich saw it and cast Shepherd as smoldering Jacy Farrow in The Last Picture Show. It was an instant hit. But she says she did not particularly like the character of Jacy.

"When I first read it, I was very irritated by it, because she wrecks havoc on her small town," explains the actress. "She seems to take men and discard them after ruining their lives, and move on to another men."

In fact, Shepherd and Bogdanovich wreaked their own havoc. He left his wife for her and soon cast Shepherd in another film, At Long Last Love, a musical with Burt Reynolds.

The movie bombed, and Hollywood was thrilled. Shepherd says she and Bogdanovich were deservedly loathed.

"We were just so pompous," recalls Shepherd. "You could see it reflected in my talk show appearances."

But still, she went onto other classic roles, as Robert De Niro's obsession in Taxi Driver and as Charles Grodin's obsession in The Heartbreak Kid.

Her real life was more exciting than the movies, especially when a fellow Memphis native came calling: Elvis Presley.

"He really looked good, and he smelled good," says Shepherd. "It really didn't have anything to do with him being Elvis Presley. My response to him was as a man. He could have been Joe Smith. It wouldn't have mattered. Incredibly attractive, charismatic, sexy."

Is Elvis one of her regrets?

"My regret about Elvis is not the regret of being his lover, but the regret of not being able to be his friend, because he wasn't around long enough," she says.

Shepherd details her relationship with Elvis (and lots more) in her recent kiss-and-tell book Cybill Disobedience. There are lots of happy stories, too. She has three children, and she has loved prforming her cabaret act. Yet, when she sings a song like "But Not for Me," the words ring all too true. Although she has had no shortage of lovers, none of the relationships lasted.

I think...I always (was) afraid to be without a man," she says. "I always went from one man to the other. I always had someone waiting in the wings....I lied always about sex, to everyone, mainly so I could have more sex with more different people."

Her professional life was also stormy. For years, she had trouble getting work. Then, in 1984, she made it big on the small screen. The sparks flew between her and a newcomer named Bruce Willis on Moonlighting.

A few years later, she had another hit TV show, Cybill, in which she and Christine Baranski made viewers laugh at the indignities of middle age. But there were always tales of trouble on Shepherd's set.

Shepherd maintains her reputation is not deserved. So why all the loose talk?

"'Cause of real bias against strong women," she says. "It's the old story. I think it was Bette Davis who said if you're a woman, and you stand up for yourself, you're a bitch. If you're a man, and you stand up for yourself, you're admired. And I really did stand up for myself, and that got me a bad reputation."

It was so bad that it took a while for her to get a new television show, she admits.

There was a time the career of a woman in Hollywood was over after age 50. But Shepherd is not one to quietly fade into the background.

"That's what I love in Germaine Greer's book, The Change, when she says you know, they talk about us becoming invisible. Then OK, let's just get real noisy and nasty...and you just see how invisible I'll be," she declares.

"Besides," adds Shepherd, "I don't believe we're invisible. People are just pretending we're invisible 'cause we're so much more powerful."