Saturday, May 17, 2014

Quote of the Day (Paul Rudnick, on Preschool Alec Baldwin)

“As Alec’s teacher, I can report that Alec pays careful attention to his personal cleanliness and grooming, especially regarding his hair, which he has repeatedly asked me to touch. For October’s show-and-tell, Alec brought in what he referred to as his ‘steely blue eyes.’ He stood in front of the entire class in silence for three minutes, and then asked, in his already surprisingly deep and raspy voice, ‘Am I turning you on?’ All the other children, including the boys, raised their hands. After another long pause, Alec smiled and said, ‘I thought so.’”—“Miss Kelli Schoopheimer,” Massapequa Elementary School teacher, as channeled in Paul Rudnick, “Shouts and Murmurs: Alec Baldwin’s Preschool Report Card,” The New Yorker, March 10, 2014

The second I saw the headline of this article on my Kindle, I began to laugh. As I read the rest of the piece, I had to stifle my guffawing in a doctor’s office. I wanted to use almost any passage from it in my “Quote of the Day,” but the piece appeared two months ago. When would I have the opportunity to write about Alec Baldwin again?

Not to worry. Whenever he gets around to writing his memoir (and that day can’t be that far off), the actor could do worse than use a play on words on a past Raymond Chandler title: “Trouble Was My Business.” The man with the “deep and raspy voice” never seems to have a problem finding trouble—it always finds him.

If you read his tweets, or his periodic pronouncements that he’s absolutely, finally done with someplace (America, under George W. Bush; New York, under whoever’s mayor), you get this image of one of those reluctant gunslingers (Gregory Peck, in The Gunfighter, or John Wayne, in The Shootist) forced to deal with someone again, whether he likes it or not. But, whereas Peck and Wayne rolled their eyes at yet one more young gun out to prove his manhood, Baldwin has to deal with another form of ambush: the 21st century paparazzi.

That, or the police, as recounted in this blog post at The Gothamist. In the latest incident involving the actor, he was stopped by New York’s Finest for driving his bike against traffic on Fifth Avenue. Unable to produce ID upon request (and surely apoplectic that the officers, after all these years, had to even ask who he was), he appears to have gone into a rage, then been taken into custody for disorderly conduct.

Like millions, I’ve seen Baldwin’s superb comic turns on 30 Rock as well as his upteen guest-hosting appearances on Saturday Night Live—and, like a far more select audience, I’ve been lucky enough to see him onstage, in a 2006 Roundabout Theatre production of Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr. Sloane.

I really wish, though, that he would save that vermouth-sounding voice of his for where it can do the most good: not just his acting gigs, but his “New York Philharmonic This Week” radio show. His self-regard has passed the point of being healthy, or even of Rudnick’s inspired satire. It’s now led him repeatedly and squarely into Anger Management Territory—and no good can come of that.

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