Judith Light Once Told Her Agent, "No Soaps, No Sitcoms"
Judith Light has an unequaled emotional and tonal range as an actor. She also has a shape-shifting physicality that made her entirely convincing both as the shuffling yenta Shelly Pfefferman in Transparent and as the lithe, aristocratic Hedda Gabler. But she only got to exercise those talents by saying "yes" to a lot of less intricate roles -- most famously the housewife-prostitute Karen Wolek on One Life to Live and Type-A divorcée Angela Bower on Who's the Boss . Her manager (a former Psychology professor) helped her arrive at that place of openness. After a few bad auditions, he sat her down and said, "You have an expectation that people should just be giving you stuff, and it's untenable. People feel it. You walk into a room and nobody wants to be around you." "And so," Light tells Alec, "when I walked into the audition for Who's the Boss , I was in a very different place."
Peter Bergman, King of the Soaps
Peter Bergman is the dean of soap opera actors. His portrayal of Dr. Cliff Warner on All My Children from 1979 to 1989 overlapped precisely with the era when soap operas were America's great guilty pleasure. Liz Taylor made cameos alongside Bergman, mainstream publications covered Dr. Warner's many marriages, and the soaps sometimes rivaled prime time in total viewers. Madison Avenue noticed, and Bergman entered the pitchman pantheon with his cough syrup ad in 1986, " ." Since 1989, the soaps have been less central to popular culture, but Bergman has played a much richer character than the debonair doctor: his last 30 years have been spent playing Jack Abbott on The Young and the Restless . Jack is the mercurial head of Jabot Cosmetics, trying to triumph in love and industry over his rival Victor Newman. Alec and Bergman bond over their shared past as high school athletes who found themselves attracted to the stage, and over the joys and difficulties of daytime television.
Lang Lang Plays
Dubbed “the hottest artist on the classical music planet” by The New York Times, pianist Lang Lang has reached a level of stardom rare for classical musicians. But his prominence is hard-won. Alec, who adores Lang Lang's charisma and talent, elicits from his guest stories of hardship during his childhood in northeastern China, and of his slow climb to the top, via Philadelphia. That's where fish-out-of-water Lang Lang showed up at the age of 15 and enrolled in public high school as well as conservatory. Throughout the interview, Lang Lang plays pieces from his latest album, , a collection of pieces normally reserved for young learners, reinterpreted with brilliance and respect by the great master. And we at WNYC add more of our favorites from Piano Book and beyond.
James Caan: Last of the Tough-Guy Movie Stars
At the end of the 1950s, James Caan, son of a German-Jewish butcher, had been kicked out of ROTC and was too poor to finish college on his own. He started a job for his godfather unpacking meat along the docks of the Hudson River. Less than a decade later, he was starring alongside John Wayne and Robert Mitchum in El Dorado , just a few years from Coppola's giving him a lead in The Godfather . In his unmistakable Queens patois, Caan tells Alec the wonderful, unlikely story of his rise to stardom. That story includes his many marriages, even more fistfights, and heretofore untold details from the sometimes-violent set of The Godfather . Plus what sort of roles Caan wanted but didn't get because of typecasting.
How to Run a Small-Town Paper When Your Town Is East Hampton
Since 2004, 1300 towns across America have , served as the paper's editor. It's a job for which Rattray gave up a very different life and career in New York City. That was a good choice: thanks in part to his stewardship, the Star thrives . It covers East Hampton's seasonal transformation into the center of an elite New York social universe, but other than that, the venerable weekly operates much as it always has. Rattray makes sure Town Board meetings get covered and that the Fishing Report is up to date -- as did his parents, and his grandfather before them. Alec has been spending time in East Hampton for almost 40 years, so he and Rattray have much to discuss about the paper, and the changes they've witnessed in town. They also discuss the Star 's long-term project to research and confront the Hamptons' slaveholding past -- a past in which Rattray's own ancestors played a part.