Smart Alec

Smart Alec
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“In a range of films from Golden Boy to The Bridge on the River Kwai and Sabrina, from Sunset Boulevard to Stalag 17 and The Wild Bunch, William Holden could do it all.” So, says Alec Baldwin in his new book, Nevertheless: A Memoir, out now and published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins. I think he could actually be talking about himself.

Alec started working in 1980 on a soap called The Doctors, but as a General Hospital fan, I did not become aware of him until the mid 80s, when he appeared as “Joshua Rush,” the manipulative TV evangelist on Knots Landing; and quite frankly, he (or should I say the character) didn’t do it for me.

Not until the 1986 TV mini-series Dress Gray, did I get what I will now admit to as a crush. Baldwin played a West Point-type cadet and, well, who could say no to a good-looking guy in uniform?

What I always admired about the oldest Baldwin brother, was that even though he was suave and handsome, he was not your stereotypical leading man, which perhaps explains the longevity of his career. As well as portraying the hero (Ghosts of Mississippi), Alec has often been cast as the bad guy (Miami Blues, Malice), or at best, the not so good guy (She’s Having a Baby, Working Girl); it wasn’t beneath him to take small roles in good movies (Glengarry Glen Ross, Married to the Mob); and he wasn’t afraid it would blow his “serious actor” image to do comedy (30 Rock and SNL, which he’s hosted 17 times). Then there are the TV commercials and the job as game show host that he’s taken to fund his philanthropies.

I always enjoyed watching him so much on screen that I turned a blind eye to his tabloid circus of a personal life: the acrimonious divorce from Kim Basinger, the infamous phone call to his then-teen daughter Ireland, his political outspokenness that was often the polar opposite of mine, and never-ending, often embarrassing, bouts with the paparazzi; all which I chalked up to none of my business.

As the years went on, even more than seeing him perform, I enjoyed listening to his gravelly voice during interviews. I’ve always found him poised, intelligent, and self-depreciatingly funny, with a “regular guy” appeal.

Which explains why I enjoyed his memoir, which is written with his signature candor.

Even though we are contemporaries, his last three decades, full of high highs and low lows, have been much more colorful than mine. The work is described as such:

“In Nevertheless, Baldwin transcends his public persona, making public facets of his life he has long kept private. He introduces us to the Long Island child burdened by his family’s financial strains and parents’ unhappy marriage; the Washington, DC college student gearing up for a career in politics; the self-named “Love Taxi” who helped friends solve their romantic problems, while neglecting his own; the young soap actor learning from giants of the theatre; the addict drawn to drugs and alcohol who struggles with sobriety; the husband and father who acknowledges his failings and battles to overcome them; and the consummate professional for whom the work is everything. Throughout Nevertheless, one constant emerges: fearlessness.”

I have never thought of myself as fearless, but feeling a bit more so thanks to his inspiration, especially when it comes to embarking on a second or even third act. Like many of us who are no longer as young, thin, or wrinkle-free as we once were, Alec conveys that re-invention is the name of the game. This is accomplished by grabbing whatever opportunities come your way, even when they don’t exactly fit your career/life vision, e.g., doing a television series, for which he ended up an Emmy winner, and the Trump impression that is now iconic.

Alec Baldwin is proof that the rewards go to those who keep showing up, or as his character in the new animated film The Boss Baby says: “Cookies are for closers.”




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