"I’m late for everything now because of my children," Alec Baldwin said by way of apology for his lateness to a phone call earlier this week. Indeed, Baldwin spends so much time with kids these days that he's even taught his daughter his infamous Donald Trump impersonation—a role which he just might win an Emmy for this Sunday night. It's also one he'll be reprising for the next season of Saturday Night Live premiering later this month, meaning that, to his delight, he'll be in New York much more often this fall, just in time for Leonard Bernstein at 100, a two-year celebration complete with 1,000 events on six continents that kicks off next weekend in D.C.
More importantly to Baldwin, though, starting on October 23, the New York Philharmonic will honor the composer, conductor, educator, and activist behind Peter Pan and West Side Story by performing his most famous works—something Baldwin will get to enjoy with a proper view of the stage for once, given that he's been the group's radio broadcast host for eight seasons now, ever since its executive director spotted him in a box, asked if he was really a fan, and told him to come see him for a job.
"I say the same thing all the time, and I really mean this sincerely: Over the arc of my life, when I go to the movies, the movies very often disappoint me. But when I go to the Philharmonic, I’m never disappointed, never, ever. I’d go at least once or twice a week if I could, but it's tough" because—yep, you guessed it—"I have little children." Baldwin talks more Bernstein, growing up pre-Sesame Street, losing an Emmy to RuPaul, not smoking pot, and what else he's been up to lately in his culture diet, here.
Did you ever get to meet Leonard Bernstein when he was alive?
No, I did not. But as a child, when the range of television programming was infinitely narrower than it is now, his Young People's Concerts on CBS were a huge programming presence—we were coming into the age of Sesame Street and the Electric Company, but at the onset, they were probably one of the most important children’s television programs on air. My parents were already trying to steer me toward them, but I think there are young people who have a latent curiosity just about anything in life. Ravi Shankar playing the sitar with his orchestra—I was game for that when I was 10 years old, just a curious person willing to look at just about anything. But other than Bernstein’s stardom, the great star was what he chose to play and the way that they very, very thoughtfully introduced that classical repertoire to kids.
What’s the first thing you usually read in the morning?
I probably go on my phone where I read my Twitter feed, which has Reuters, Newsweek, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the L.A. Times. I kind of zip through a news digest I have, of which my favorites are probably Newsweek and the Washington Post. That's where I start, because you're asking me this question at a very particular time, so in the age of these terrible storms and a lot of calamity, when I'm lying in bed, I first reach for my phone. Then, after I have breakfast, I probably sit and read a print copy of the New York Times from cover to cover.
Do you listen to the radio, too?
I only listen to the radio—it's on constantly. I listen to it incessantly. Actually even before I read the Times, when I’m brushing my teeth and shaving and getting myself, I'm listening to WNYC, every morning. I am a complete, hope-to-die fan of Brian Lehrer. The Brian Lehrer Show is my favorite thing, and On the Media.
What books are on your bedside table right now?
I just finished doing a movie [The Public] with Emilio Estevez, and he wrote a book with his father, Martin Sheen, called Along the Way, which is about their pilgrimage walking through Spain. But the book I’m actually reading now and am into is Chris Whipple's book, The Gatekeepers, about all the chiefs of staff of the White House from every era. It's very good.
I'm assuming your own book on the White House is finished by now?
Kurt [Andersen] wrote most of it, but yes, we are done. It's coming out on Election Day.
What TV shows have been keeping you up at night?
[Laughs.] Well, I don’t watch a lot of TV, I’m always behind. But I was with some friends at a Labor Day party and all of them were, I must say, smoking pot, drinking wine, and watching Game of Thrones. I think you have to really—maybe Game of Thrones is a real pothead show, I don't know, I don’t smoke pot, but they seemed to love it. They just couldn't get enough of it. But I just started The Handmaid’s Tale.
You're heading to the Emmy Awards this Sunday, but did you make it to the ones last weekend, too?
No, we weren’t able to attend, but I got nominated for an award, because I do this game show called Match Game for ABC. I never dreamed I would be nominated for Best Game Show Host, but I was. We lost to RuPaul, but that’s okay.
Are you a RuPaul fan?
I certainly admire what he’s done. He was a pioneer. Before we got into discussions of people’s sexuality and LGBTQ situations across the spectrum, he was out there not just advocating, but living it. He’s so colorful, and very charming. So good for him.
I know you said you're often let down when you go, but what’s the last movie you saw in theaters?
The documentary Icarus, where Bryan Fogel, a cyclist, starts doping in order to explore the world of doping, and winds up contacting the man who was the trainer who claims he doped all 1,000 Russian athletes at the Olympics. You've gotta see this movie.
So a rare not disappointing one, then!
No, no, when I go see documentaries—that’s a program in the East Hampton that I produce of summer documentaries. But I watch most movies now online. Because of my kids, I don't have time to get out that much.
What’s the last thing you saw at the theater?
Give me a second—I'm on the Board of Guild Hall and I'm forgetting the name of the play. I want to tell you about this guy, this kid I really liked—okay, so it was this summer, so not the last thing, but there was this play called Extinction by Gabe McKinley, and what I loved about it is Eric Svendsen; he was very good. It's kind of a four-hander: It's two guys and two young women, and the other guy was [Steven] Spielberg’s son, Sawyer Spielberg, who was really, really fabulous. All of them were very good—they did a very small, almost black box production with 75 seats. We do a thing at Guild Hall where we close the theater and we put risers on the stage and make the seats wrap around so the actors are doing a kind of micro-production in a pit right in front of us. You could reach out and touch them—it's like when I went to the Donmar Warehouse and saw [Derek] Jacobi do [King] Lear in London. He was right on top of me; I found feel his breath in some moments. It was phenomenal.
What’s the last piece of art you bought, or ogled?
I just bought a work from my dear friend John Alexander, a great naturalist painter with some absurdism that's kind of crazy to define. It’s a painting of a marsh—a beautiful green, Monet-esque type of tableau with these very watery and subtle little pink petals. I bought it for my daughter, because she's obsessed with the color pink.
What’s the last museum exhibition that you loved?
There's two shows I want to go to with my wife: We want to go to the Parrish in Southhampton, before their summer exhibition closes, and I want to go the New York Botanical Garden and see the [Dale] Chihuly exhibition. My wife has a fine arts major, so she likes museums.
What are your favorite social media accounts to follow?
My daughter Carmen is my favorite social media—she's four years old, and she is social media. She tells you everything you need to know, all day long. She's constantly telling me what to do and think and say.
Last thing: What's the last thing you do before you go to bed?
Uhhhhhh... I don’t want to say. That’s private.
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