Published January/Feburary 2011

My First Car: Yeardley Smith

The actress reminisces about her favorite vehicles

BYJim Prueter
Since 1987, Yeardley Smith has been best known as the voice of Lisa Simpson on the hit television series The Simpsons. Yeardley was recognized for her work with a Primetime Emmy Award. She has appeared in numerous films including City Slickers, As Good as It Gets, and The Simpsons Movie.
Her television career spans three decades, with appearances on Dharma & Greg, The Big Bang Theory, Mad Men, and dozens of others. We caught up with Yeardley to talk about cars — and shoes.
Highroads: Did you take driver’s education in high school? Is that how you learned to drive?
Yeardley: They didn’t have driver’s ed in high school back in my day, so my father taught me how to drive. I passed my driving test on the first try but actually wasn’t very interested in driving at the time. It wasn’t my M.O., like the boys who felt, “Oh my gosh, I just have to drive.” But I did have to drive because I had to get to school. My brother insisted that I learn on a stick shift, because he claimed it was the only way to get any pickup.
Highroads: So did your dad buy you a car at that time?
Yeardley: Heavens no. I used the family car, a blue Saab, because it was so safe. I had a little car pool and took a couple of other students with me.
Highroads: When did you get your first car?
Yeardley: The first car I bought — I think I was twenty-one — was a brand-new red Honda CR-X. I paid about $8000 for it. I remember that my brother stepped in and said, “Oh but Yeardley, you shouldn’t get air conditioning because that wears out the motor.” I lived in the valley in California where it gets to be about 110 degrees. (Laughing) So I was just sweating my %@& off in this tiny little hot car.
Highroads: So when did you finally decide not to take any more car advice from your brother?
Yeardley: (Again laughing) Pretty much right after that. I did end up keeping that car for six years, which is a long time in California.
Highroads: Do you remember any interesting stories about your Honda CR-X?
Yeardley: Not really, I lead a fairly boring life (laughing). But I do remember that I had that car when the L.A. riots started. I was on the Fox Studios lot and it was a hot, hot, hot day. And, of course, I had no air conditioning, so I had to drive with my windows down. Because of the riots, there was a mass exodus from the city with everyone trying to get home, leaving work in the middle of the day. Here I was, driving with my windows rolled down, feeling somewhat unprotected. As though rolling the windows up would actually protect me from some sort of mass violence.
Highroads: What was your next car after the Honda?
Yeardley: I eventually just had to have air conditioning, and I had my eye on a Mazda Miata, which was my next car. It was a fun little convertible but everyone said to me, “Yeardley, you’re driving around in a Coca-Cola can and it’s not safe. So I sold it and moved to an Acura. I just didn’t love that car and only had it for a couple of years. Then, I bought an Audi A4, which I loved, and kept it for four or five years.
Highroads: So what are you driving now?
Yeardley: A Toyota Prius, of course. Because I play Lisa Simpson, and they would kick me off the show if I didn’t drive a hybrid (laughing).
Highroads: What color is it? Because I think I have only seen them in about three different colors.
Yeardley: Yeah, it’s kind of that putrid powder blue. I was on a waiting list that seemed like forever. I thought I had chosen a different blue. When this one came in, I didn’t want to wait any longer so I took it. But I’ve never enjoyed the color much — and I love blue.
Highroads: So it seems you are very practical with your cars.
Yeardley: I am. I’ve had my Prius for about five years; it’s one of the first generation Priuses. It’s not very luxurious, pretty basic and it will be time to buy another car in the next few years. But I just don’t have that much interest in it. I don’t usually go, “Ahhhh. I’d love to get that car.” All my male friends tell me, “Yeardley I think you should drive the Audi R8.” I’m like, “Ok, hand over $140,000 or whatever it costs and I would be happy to drive that car.”
Highroads: Yeardley, you’re not turning any heads when you’re driving a five-year-old Prius. Not like you would with an R-8.
Yeardley: Actually, I get recognized a couple times a day  — but not when driving the Prius.
Highroads: If you keep that Prius long enough, it might end up being a collector car. After all, it is the one of the first hybrid vehicles.
Yeardley: I might keep it as a backup car if I get a new one. I actually have HOV stickers on my Prius, and they stopped giving those out about four years ago.
Highroads: Well, those alone are worth the price of the car.
Yeardley: (Laughing) I know. I am very practical.
Highroads: So is it safe to say that you really don’t have a dream car?
Yeardley: I don’t. Cars don’t really do it for me, but shoes do. In fact, I’m launching a shoe line called Marchez Vous YS in the fall of 2011. The name means “you walked” in French, and then my initials.
Highroads: I’m guessing these will be dress shoes?
Yeardley: They are, yes. But, I like to say they can go from day to night, and have to meet five benchmarks. They have to be super comfortable — because women’s shoes are generally so incredibly uncomfortable. They have to be sexy, timeless, witty and unexpected.
Highroads: What do you mean by unexpected?
Yeardley: Unexpected means you’re making burlap sexy, taking fabrics nobody would expect to see on a shoe and making them look phenomenal. I think shoes are to women what sports are to men. I love to watch men watch sports because it means so much to them. I think for women, clothing, and shoes especially, are like that. We have a real passion for them.
JIM PRUETER, an automotive writer based in Phoenix, has provided reviews and advice about cars for more than 20 years.
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