France's Cyrielle Claire, Who Gives the Tube Its Newest Squeeze in CBS' Hot Paint

updated 03/21/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/21/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

The security guard at Paris' Comédie-Française has a prediction about the renowned theater's newest leading lady. "Cyrielle Claire," he says as the elevator climbs to her dressing room, "will definitely follow in the footsteps of Catherine Deneuve." The guy could free-lance as a critic, because Claire, 32, definitely has the horses for the task—talent, intelligence and the kind of on-camera beauty you usually need a diffusion filter to achieve. The American TV audience will be introduced to all three this Sunday (March 20), when CBS airs its highly touted film comedy Hot Paint. Cast as the kinky protégée of a Warholesque art dealer, Claire helps a pair of Brooklyn-born ne'er-do-wells (Gregory Harrison and John Larroquette) sell a stolen Renoir—or, as Night Court's Larroquette calls it, "one primo Frog painting." Claire plays the kind of woman of whom a gentleman asks, "Got any tattoos?" by way of salutation. "Not really," she demurely replies. "Just a battleship on my left breast."

Her career has been smooth sailing. Born in Paris, Cyrielle earned a master's in economics from the Sorbonne before deciding that Molière was considerably more appealing than matters macro and micro. Acting since she was 20, Claire has gained a critical following, though not a popular one. "Her talent is underestimated in France," says her friend, sculptor Igor Ustinov (Peter's son), "because she doesn't cater to the masses." Of course, she did star in a movie, Dragon Blood, but generally she's dedicated to her craft.

Not all of Claire's world is the stage. She shares her apartment in the 16th arrondissement with her slightly deaf Shih Tzu, Nini, and her boyfriend of two years. "I want to marry my lover and have two children during the next five years," says Claire, with precision. "Unfortunately, the only thing I can cook is a boiled egg, so I might have to budget my time to improve my domestic talents."

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