Valerie Bertinelli's fiance stands on an end table, nailing a Browns jersey with her name on it to the wall. The couple is hanging out in her dressing room, steps away from the soundstage where Hot in Cleveland is shot. Even at 50, Bertinelli still has the baby face made famous while she played Barbara Cooper on One Day at a Time from 1975 to 1984. Plenty else has changed since then, though. Bertinelli endured a rocky 20-year marriage to Eddie Van Halen, lost her way for a while and gained 50 pounds in the process. Now, she's a trim but curvy spokeswoman for Jenny Craig and back on TV as Melanie on Hot in Cleveland. She's happy with herself again and — perhaps our city deserves some credit here — happily in love, too.
Cleveland connection: Tom Vitale grew up in Cleveland. He and Bertinelli, who are still finalizing a wedding date, visit a couple of times a year to see his parents in Cuyahoga Falls.
That's amore: One of Bertinelli's favorite places in town is the Italian Center on Tallmadge Avenue in Akron, where spaghetti dinners are served every Thursday night. "They made me an honorary member," she says.
Sights on Symon: She's dying to eat at one of chef Michael Symon's Cleveland restaurants and maybe even have her Hot in Cleveland character do it too. "Love him," she says. "I want him to be on the show."
Browns bet: A lifelong New Orleans Saints fan, Bertinelli now cheers for the Browns. She toured the stadium last year and is trying to arrange her schedule so that she can come to a game. More importantly, she believes in the team. "If the Saints can win, the Browns can too," she says. "The Browns are going to win the Super Bowl in the next five years."
Armchair quarterbacking the Jets game: "They should have won that game. Had [wide receiver Chansi Stuckey] gone out of bounds, they could have kicked a field goal and won in overtime," she says all in one breath. "But who am I to quarterback?"
Bikini body: After losing 40 pounds on Jenny Craig, Bertinelli showed off her new body on the cover of People magazine. She estimates she tried on 50 to 75 suits before settling on a green two-piece by Body Glove. "I was trying on bikinis for a whole week."
Her biggest fans: 35- to 55-year-old men who grew up thinking of Barbara Cooper as the perfect girl. Vitale was one of them. "I used to kiss the TV," he jokes.
She's a fan of: Her son, Wolfie, who now plays bass in Van Halen.
On Eddie: "I'm really happy for him. He's dreamt of [playing with his son]. I have pictures of him playing guitar on my belly."
What she wishes she knew 20 years ago: "Don't sweat the small stuff. Let more stuff roll off your back. Let more things go."
More amore: Bertinelli and Vitale took their dream trip this fall to the Cinque Terre in Italy, where they hiked from village to village on a trail overlooking the Mediterranean.
No knives: "I haven't had anything done, but I'd never say never. Oh, you know what, I will say never. I want to age gracefully."