Bob Cannon
March 21, 2005 AT 05:00 AM EST

When a sketch called for someone more fetching than a Python in drag, the guys usually turned to classically trained former Playboy Bunny Carol Cleveland. Though she didn’t write any material, the seventh Python earned fame playing Holy Grail‘s twin temptresses Zoot and Dingo and a negligee-clad housewife luring milkmen to their deaths. ”My memory of it is nonstop lunacy,” says Cleveland, now 63.

Born in London and raised in Texas and L.A., Cleveland returned to England at 18 to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where she hung out with Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, and her ”first love,” Deadwood‘s Ian McShane. While paying dues on shows like The Avengers and The Saint, she was cast as a wife seduced by her marriage counselor in the second Flying Circus episode. ”There were a number of women who just came in as glamour girls,” recalls Michael Palin, ”but Carol was a very good actress, and she could also play very silly. She got what we were doing.”

Cleveland, who performs an autobiographical one-woman show, Pom-Poms Up!, featuring a comic number about her hysterectomy, still marvels at Python’s legacy. ”When I first did the series I just thought, ‘Well, it’s just a new funny show,’ and that was it,” recalls Cleveland, who appears in April in a Uniontown, Pa., stage production of Five Blue Haired Ladies Sitting on a Green Park Bench. ”It doesn’t say in one’s contract that you’re signing on to do a cult classic.”

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