Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Dark Comic Genius of Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin has always been a favorite of mine, ever since I first saw him in “Married to the Mob” oh so many decades ago. And despite his many embarrassing scandals in the press, I still consider him to be a great comic talent. His deadpan expressions and masterful delivery are one of the best things about NBC’s often hilarious, “30 Rock.”

On the show, Alec is basically playing the same arrogant and twisted character he played on “Will and Grace,” and several other sitcoms. But here he has elevated the persona to iconic status, forever insuring his place among television’s great comedic characters. Unfortunately, his problematic personal life threatens to undo all this. (I still cringe at the embarrassing phone message he left for his pig-faced daughter. Or rather, the daughter he called a selfish little pig, which is not exactly a term of endearment.)

Ironically, I’ve actually witnessed this darker side of Mr. Baldwin, when I happened to see him several years ago as he was coming out of the Equinox Gym on the Upper West Side. Dressed in a very unflattering grey sweat suit, and sporting a white towel around his neck, he looked like a pasty-faced donut maker rather than a Hollywood Leading Man. As he brushed past me talking on his cell phone, I couldn’t help but overhear his rather loud conversation. That’s because he wasn’t actually talking. He was sort of yelling. Screaming, actually. At someone I assumed must be his manager or agent, because the conversation sounded something like this:

“Don’t they know who they’re dealing with? Do they seriously think I would work for that? If they want Alec Baldwin, they’re going to have to come up with more money. I don’t do charity work.”

Ironically, the next time I crossed paths with Mr. Baldwin was at a rather swanky charity event we were both attending. Actually, he was the one attending it, and I was there to work. I was hired to play Batman for the event, which is not my specialty or anything; I just happened to be good friends with an event planner and he used to throw me these side gigs every now and then. Put on a costume, parade around a party for a couple hours, and go home with three hundred dollars. Humiliating, yes. Lucrative, sort of. Rewarding, no.

At one point during the evening, Alec breezed past me on his way to the V.I.P. area, and I saw him look at me for a moment. Was he about to say something clever or witty? Or perhaps engage me in a little friendly repartee? Dream on. I think he may have smirked at my costume, but that’s about it.

Later, I saw him sitting at the top of the stairs behind me, perhaps frowning down at my very existence. (See top photo, me in Batman suit with Alec sitting at top of stairs. Bottom photo, horribly pixilated close-up of Alec sitting at top of stairs. Is that a camera he’s holding? Is he actually taking a picture of the back of my costume? Yikes!)

Despite all this, I am still enamored of the man and his talent. His comic skills have been highlighted over and over again on “Saturday Night Live” and other TV shows, in films and theater, as well as his current brilliance on “30 Rock.” And though his personal life may be in constant turmoil, his life in front of the camera is nothing but winning.

But that’s just me. What do you think of Alec Baldwin?


Tee said...

This was an entertaining read.

I don't have strong feelings about him either way. There's something charismatic about him. The phone call to his daughter was disappointing - but how many of us have had phone conversations we would never have wanted the public to hear? ... And I have kids. Parents lose their temper (the name calling was wrong, of course, though.)

I wonder what did with his photo of you as Batman. LOL.

Henson Ray said...

Thanks for stopping by. I imagine Alec has my picture on a dartboard somewhere. Or maybe he was taking the picture as a present for his "selfish little pig." Take care!