HOLLYWOOD -- George Burns' new book, 'How To Live To Be 100 Or More,' is on the best-seller lists and doing more than getting laughs.
In addition to the chortles elicited by George's observations on aging, he provides solid advice on how to attain the century mark.
Burns himself falls somewhat short. Thirteen years to be exact. He won't reach 100 until 1996.
More importantly, George's pointers on longevity include how to attain a healthy venerability. It no fun reaching antiquity as a senile, doddering old party.
Burns is spry, glowing with health, mentally razor sharp. His memory is astounding. He has total recall of hundreds of lyrics of long-forgotten songs. He remembers a thousand humorous anecdotes.
There is, moreover, a tranquility about Burns that defies the stresses of show business that have driven many another star to alcoholism and drugs.
His first prescription for longevity is to be happy in your work.
'I absolutely love show business,' he said. 'Since I was seven years old I wanted to entertain people. I look forward to it every day of my life.
'I have a good attitude about enjoying life. Even when I wasn't doing well, I still loved trying to succeed.
'You'll be happier and live longer if you find a job you love; that way you avoid stress.
'Never take stress to bed with you. Work on it in the morning. I don't worry. I pay my secretary, Jack Langdon, to worry.
'There's no way I can stand in one place for three hours and smoke a cigar. Impossible. But put me in front of an audience and I can do it every night.'
George weighs about 130 pounds and stands 5-foot-7. He's rarely been overweight, convinced fat people die young.
'I'm not a big eater,' he said. 'I only eat one good meal a day. For breakfast I have fruit and coffee. At lunch usually just a cup of soup, like right now. And I eat lightly but a well-balanced dinner.'
For more than 20 years George has arisen early. He does 45 minutes of floor exercises and stretches -- situps and the like -- and tops it off with a brisk 15-minute walk around the neighborhood.
The exercise gives him muscle tone and keeps his waistline as slim as a chorus girl's, some of whom, incidentally, also contributed to longevity.
George has two or three drinks a day, sometimes more in an evening, but can't remember ever being drunk. He's never smoked cigarettes but is rarely without an expensive cigar -- which he doesn't inhale.
Every afternoon, usually about 3:30, George gets into his pajamas and goes to bed for an hour and a half and drops off like a baby.
'Just as important as loving what you do is keeping busy,' George said.
'I wasn't too active until Irving (Fein) took over as my manager. My agents thought I was too old. Irving thought otherwise and keeps me busy.'
In less than a decade George has starred in four movies, toured the country in concert, written three books, cut a couple of records and regularly stars in TV specials.
'I feel as good as I did when I was 40,' he said. 'I can say that after undergoing open heart surgery. I held the record as the oldest heart by-pass patient when I was 79.'
He claims records for oldest star of a TV special, oldest to headline Las Vegas, oldest star to record a singing album and oldest star of a feature film, 'Going in Style' at age 85.
'I'm popularizing old age,' George said, grinning. 'Now people can hardly wait to get old.'
'To stay young you have to keep moving and doing. At 87 I can't afford to die. It would break me. I go out to dinner, a few drinks and a show two or three times a week.
'I just closed four days in Las Vegas and I'm leaving for a concert in Washington. I'm back here for a personal appearance and then to Indiana for four concerts. After that I'm booked at Lake Tahoe. Then I make another movie, 'Oh, God III.'
'I don't believe a lot of this medical stuff. They say everything you eat and drink causes cancer. Don't pay too much attention to that. I had a physical and my doctor feels fine.
'The other day I gave a copy of my book to Estelle Winwood. She's 100 and I told her taking her out was like dating five 20-year-olds.
'Will I reach 100? Sure. I'm booked into the London Paladium in January of 1996.