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Will You Be My Hero?
2008-09-09 05:45
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

My grandmother died twenty years ago this past August. I remember sitting in the first row of the funeral home on the upper west side when my father approached me and said, "There's somebody here I think you'd like to meet." I walked outside where Alec Baldwin was signing the condolences book. My father had been friends with him for several years by then--I'm not exactly sure how they met--but I had only become aware of Alec that summer when he was featured in Beetlejuice and then Married to the Mob. Previously, I had been invited me to see him in a production of Joe Orton's Loot but for reasons I don't recall, I passed. But by the end of that summer, I was really interested in him because I had an ill crush on Michelle Pfieffer.

Over the next three or four years I saw Baldwin every so often, for coffee with my dad, or at one of the parties the old man threw. I got his phone number and pestered him regularly. I can only imagine that I annoyed the hell out of him but he was good to me. I remember him being extremely charismatic and very funny. He was also serious-minded, smart and driven, very sure of himself, the kind of dynamic personality that can make a huge impression on a young person, especially one who was as insecure as I was at the time. I had no confidence with women. I was good friends with many pretty girls and rejected the ones that showed any interest in me. I was one step away from Duckie, the Jon Cryer character in Pretty in Pink.

Alec gave me advice with women that I was much too timid to do anything with. He also pumped me up when I had tough times with my father. After college, I lost touch with him (he spent more time in California, eventually got married), or, more to the point, I stopped hounding him. Still, I'll always be greatful for the little time he spent with me. At the time, it made me feel important, like I mattered to somebody who had "made it," a man who was a success.

I got to thinking about Alec over the weekend when I read Ian Parker's profile on him in The New Yorker. It is a good piece but one that left me feeling sad. Maybe that has more to do with me, how I once looked up to him saw him as something not exactly human, but as someone who had the world licked, had it all figured out. He doesn't, of course. Which makes him just another man, struggling with his mistakes and his achievements. In the article, Alec comes across as not only being restless but unhappy in spite of his recent success. That's not entirely surprising. Still, I admire his ability to look at his work in a critical manner:

"Do you want to know the truth?" Baldwin said to me not long ago. "I don't think I really have a talent for movie acting. I'm not bad at it, but I don't think I really have a talent for it." He described the film actor's need to project strength and weakness simultaneously. "Nicholson's my idol this way. Pacino. There's a mix you have to have where the character is vulnerable, the character is up against it, but there's still a glimmer of resourcefulness in his eye—you look at him and the character is telegraphing to you this is not going to last very long. 'I'm down'—Randle McMurphy, Serpico, whatever it is—'but it's not going to last, I'm still going to figure my way out of this.' " In contrast, he referred to Orson Welles. "Welles was a powerful actor, but he wasn't always a great actor," Baldwin said, with, perhaps, a faint nod to his own career. "Even when Welles was lost, he was arrogant."

I think Baldwin has a great leading role in him. Whether or not the stars ever align to give him that shot is anybody's guess. But I hope it happens.

Comments
2008-09-09 08:21:37
1.   jalexei
I was just reading the same profile on a flight last week - It was certainly humanizing in an odd way. I've always marveled at the polar reactions he usually triggers in people.

Like you, I thought he sounded a bit sad, and I get the sense a lot of that flows from the divorce. As a relatively new and amazingly proud Dad, the clarity of the pain and despair he must've felt surrounding his daughter really resonated (and the article gives a bit of background on the leaked phone message brouhaha of a couple of years back - I have no idea how biased the author is, but Baldwin comes out pretty sympathetically, Basinger, umm, less so)

Yep...so, uh, how 'bout those Yanks? What? Yep, back to Hollywood. Please.

2008-09-09 08:30:03
2.   Schteeve
I love Baldwin, and I think he could be one of the better comedic actors of his generation. I also think he sells himself a bit short, while he's no Pacino or Jack, who the hell is?

The thing that holds Alec back, in my opinion, is that his charisma supercedes his characters. No matter the role, you are always very very aware that you are watching Alec Baldwin. He's sorta a charicature of a charicature. But I love watching him on the screen.

2008-09-09 08:32:03
3.   kylepetterson
I watched The Good Shepherd a couple months back (great movie btw) and the thing that kept striking me about Alec is that even though I regard him as a total goon (maybe I'm wrong, maybe not) yet, watching the movie, he didn't bother me, which struck me as odd. Whenever I've seen a movie with John Travolta throughout the movie I just sit there thinking "ugh, does he need act so travolta-y?". With Alec Baldwin I don't think that. I think that in interviews, but when he's acting, he becomes the character. He's not the best actor out there, but he's pretty damn good.
2008-09-09 08:34:30
4.   Schteeve
By the way, Baldwin's impression of Tony Bennett, and the "I like things that are great" song makes me double over laughing every time i see it.
2008-09-09 08:51:10
5.   Will
Great write up. But Alex, you will now be forever connected to Duckie in my mind. I'm picturing you in the hat and shoes right now.
2008-09-09 08:56:37
6.   Alex Belth
Didn't rock the hats but had that big hair thing going, and ties and "look at me I'm weird" wardrobe. LOL.

Always knew Baldwin was funny. Good to see him featured as a comedic actor these days.

2008-09-09 09:05:41
7.   Dimelo
6 Alex, did you see the 60 minutes piece on him this past Sunday? I listened to it on my podcast.

Like many people, he's made mistakes but he acknowledges them and I was impressed with his ability to look at himself and be critical of his actions. Doesn't necessarily make you a better person, but I like those qualities in people. To err is human, sometimes when we fuck up the best thing to do is try and learn from it.

The stuff that happened with his daughter he acknowledges was extremely wrong on his part, but it took an even worse person (IMHO) to actually release those to the press too. For me, he may have said something he wishes he took back but what his ex-wife did was pure evil.

2008-09-09 09:06:41
8.   Schteeve
7 Best SNL host ever, in my humble opinion.
2008-09-09 09:08:46
9.   OldYanksFan
"... because I had an ill crush on Michelle Pfieffer." (it's Pfeiffer)

You know, I have always been attracted to dark women... brown eyed brunettes with a natural tan. Blonds never did much for me... until I saw this movie: "Ladyhawke"

A cute movie... but Michelle.... my Lord! Crazy, piercing, broken glass blue eyes! A goddess! Ethereal!

If you haven't seen this move Alex, rent it.

2008-09-09 09:15:25
10.   Dimelo
9 "If you haven't seen this move Alex, rent it. " (it's movie)
2008-09-09 09:18:32
11.   yankster
There is something engaging about Alec that isn't there with other big leading characters. He's always flawed, which is great. It's not that I cheer for him, it's that he seems very real despite the camera. I'm not much for pacino's ACTING, but nicholson in average movies (like the first batman) is amazing to watch. Maybe if Alec were less good looking it would help his lead character-style acting. He's got a lot of years ahead of him - it's not like he's a big action star.
2008-09-09 09:33:06
12.   unmoderated
8 agreed. I f'in love alec baldwin, and I haven't been able to explain well to anyone.
2008-09-09 10:05:58
13.   The Mick 536
Second most times on SNL? I still struggle with Getaway. Not sure if its him or my holding him up to the McQueen. Glen Gary Glen Ross made me hate realtors. He was great in that movie.

The Good Sheperd deserves another look,too. But in the Departed, he created a very mysterious character who holds the secret to the entire movie. I have seen the movie three times and still cannot figure out whose team he is on.

2008-09-09 10:15:42
14.   Dimelo
His character in Glengary Glen Ross would be just what the Yanks needed back in August.

Not Girardi's approach and unrealistic statements, "all we need to do is when every game and we are right back in it".

Blah!

2008-09-09 10:17:28
15.   Just fair
9 Is it as good as Grease 2? I am in no rush to get over my crush on Michelle Pfeiffer. As for Alex Baldwin, he's a trip.
7 Canteen Boy. Forgetaboutit. And 30 Rock is hysterical.
2008-09-09 11:01:06
16.   Biscuit Pants
I met Baldwin on a movie set a few years back when I was working as an extra and he was a nice guy. Talked to everyone and was totally unpretentious. I always thought that he'd be a great choice if they ever made a true Dark Knight based on Miller's version of the aging Bruce Wayne.

Maybe, someday . . .

2008-09-09 11:34:41
17.   Raf
So what was the advice he gave you regarding women, and is that what you used to get Emma? :)
2008-09-09 11:37:48
18.   Alex Belth
Dude, the advice was outrageous. He was like, "What you need to do is put an ad in the student newspaper. Ask for girls to send pictures of themselves. College girls will do ANYTHING, trust me..." And then he went on from there. He had a whole elaborate scheme, I forget what it was. I was like, "Bro, they'll do anything if I'm freaking Alec Baldwin, diesel and confident and charismatic." I'm nervous and ascared, dude.

LOL

2008-09-09 11:53:24
19.   Rob Middletown CT
In the end, having read the profile, I think it was best you DIDN'T take the man's advice on women.
2008-09-09 12:05:57
20.   Knuckles
"Well, there's no beating my Balls. They're made from a secret Schweddy Family recipe. No one can resist my Schweddy Balls."

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