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Name:  RobertKn

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   I began acting right out of my Mother's womb. I was the third and youngest child to my Irish-American Mom who was as I remember it, a wonderful storyteller and yarn-spinner with a wide open smile and an uninhibited sense of humor about life.
My Father was a European gentleman with an elegant Polish accent: gentle,wise,stern and protective. Generally you did what you were told to do and when you were told to do it. I may not have been so good at this.  I doubt my older brother Joe or my sister Jacque will disagree with that observation. Anyway, the means I used to grab the attention I needed was to clown around and be at times, disobedient.     
  I did not act at all formally until well into college. The idea simply did not occur to me. I went to the University of California at Berkeley and left home from Iowa for the adventure. I chose Berkeley quite literally because one day while in a bookstore in Iowa there was a large poster of Big Sur California with a closeup in the foreground of a beautiful blonde girl naked and descending into the Pacific and looking over her shoulder at the camera. I knew that was the place to be.     
 Berkeley was wild. I roomed in the dorms with a hippie from Pasadena who I nicknamed 'Freeway Fred' . We are still good friends today. I was into politics,studying business cycle theory and chasing girls with very limited success. I was quite shy so I taught myself "Angie" on the guitar a piece that Paul Simon plays so well and tried to wow them with it, but mostly to no avail. At that time I considered being a muscian by trade but found it far too isolating in its discipline. But my first professional acting experience came because I was hired on as a guitar player to play preludes to plays in college auditoriums in a bus and truck Shakespeare Company called the New Shakespeare Co. of San Francisco. I would come out dressed in tights and a doublet with long shoulder length hair and a fake earring and play something by John Dowling to warm up the house. Then I would go on as an extra and spear carrier and small part player, usually in the production of "Hamlet" that we were touring across the country. 
     My big break came one evening when I was given ,shortly before curtain, a role as Hamlet's messenger who comes on in the 5th Act. Just a couple of lines. "A letter my lord", bow and pause...other actor says "from whom I say?",...I answer-"from Hamlet,my Lord." Simple enough. Only one problem. I forgot to bring the letter with me to deliver it. So there I was in silence hanging myself out to dry onstage in my first ever pro performance. After what seemed an eternity the other actor bailed me out, "go then I out this document and bring it back,post haste to me! Go!" WEll that got me off stage and it added a couple of new lines to "Hamlet" which beleive me is long enough to begin with.      Needless to say I did not last long in that company and was fired within about 2 months for general incompetence.
But it hurt quite a bit at the time and was a source of some shame. Actors however can learn to work off of shame and fear and use it in their scenes. You essentially use everything in life to feed you onstage, this is the great thing about the profession of acting. Nothing should be censored and one gets to express the 'shadow side' the side that normal,civilized individuals hide from one another in real life. So it was back to the drawing board. Just as I had faked my resume and given an audition of 3 soliloques by Hamlet copied from a Richard Burton recording{of whom I do a good imitation}for the traveling company I knew now that I needed to improvise and get the ball rolling again. 
     So I padded another resume filled with roles I had never done and headed back to Berkeley for a round of calls for the Festival there. It was a great outdoor amphitheatre, they knew I was green but gave me a chance anyway and I ended up doing some fantastic roles like Romeo and Troilus and Lucentio and the like. We had dogs wandering on the stage during performance from the neighborhood, naked actresses changing backstage since there were no dressing rooms and on weekends I slept in the prop truck to guard all the swords and costumes from theft. It was a very happy time had by all. The crowds were full to capacity, people would climb into the oak trees around the theatre to watch and the youngest and best looking girls would sit in their summer dresses in the front couple of rows and wonder at all the craziness. I loved that time.
A funny thing began to be noticeable the more Shakespeare I performed as time went on. I cultivated a kind of photographic long term memory and to this day can probably recite all the lines in plays like "Hamlet" from beginning to end. Unfortunately my short term memory has never been so special and this made working on a Soap quite a challenge. I had  a near-death experience as a boy which I beleive left some of that particular function compromised. Other actors and directors would kid me about my memory but I was always very sensitive about this and figured out ways to work around it as I detail in some of the commentary on scenes.   Where was I? Oh yes, the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival.  I loved acting outside in a park setting surrounded by trees,flowers and warm audiences. It encourages a performer to be fully expressive and to risk more than in confined studio settings. Though I was busy studying the Method I had also been pushed along by a Brechtian influence. A crazed teacher from Berlin who demanded that every performance have political meaning and focus and that it be heard and felt from the very back rows. To this day I like actors who risk and who transform and who are unafraid to step out on a limb and light themselves on fire.  
The next year I ended up working in San Diego at a large Festival down there. I hated it. The politics of the casting and all the sitting around. They really didn't use me and of course I felt I was much better than the leading actors. But then one of those quit in a huff and I got to take over his part in "Taming of the Shrew" for which I am grateful. For the other role he abandoned the company flew in a little known actor from the East Coast named Kelsey Grammer who was unemployed and struggling and had not yet gotten his Union card. Kelsey later went on to great fame on "Frasier" as everyone knows and is a fabulous low-ball comedian. The irony was that he took over the role of Laetres in "Hamlet" and I was doing "Lucentio". It should have been the other way around. He was a much better comedic actor than myself and I was a much more firey and disturbed tragic presence, even at a young age.Laertes was tailor made for me but such is life. Years later, Patrick Stewart who played Captain Picard on Star Trek cast me to play Hamlet in a production he was set to direct on the Paramount Studio lot in Los Angeles. We had become friends from doing readings around town together and recording Shakespeare soliloquies for college archives. But then Patrick got cast as Ahab in "Moby Dick" for HBO and we had to shelve the project. But nonetheless I learned and know all the lines to that role and that play. Too bad since Ben Kingsley would have played Polonius and the great David Warner would have played Claudius. These are great actors.   Well to get on with it, an agent was in the audience one night and asked me if I wanted to go to New York city and sign with him. I was making $80 a week as a scholarship actor and thought I was the next Laurence Olivier so what did I know? By the next fall I was in New York and scared out of my mind. I stayed for a while with friends and I stayed in a dorm room the size of a closet at the Upper West Side YMCA. The other agents in the office didn't know me and didn't think I had the goods to make it but almost right away I scored a job in a big regional theatre working for a Broadway director and loved it. I also made the mistake of falling in love with my leading lady who was a tempestuos and competitive woman but a tough one at that. She showed me around New York and explained the ins and outs of survival in the big city. She had great talent but no communications skills and went from being an impoverished actress to a T.V. star and then back to nothing in the span of about 10 years.
To survive as an actor one must not only be talented and courageous; one must also have an excellent sense of business acumen and a sensitivity to other people and their needs  Cultivating the art of listening is essential.   I remember it was in the early 80s and I was still very wet behind the ears when a famous director called my agent from the West Coast with a 3 picture deal to screen test for a big movie. All this based on a tape I had made for him of me improvising. He thought I looked like a young Ryan O'Neal whom he had starred in his biggest hit "Love Story" years before. So there I was on a jet to Los Angeles for the first time and real close to the 'bigtime'. Well it was not to be. I remember auditioning all day long at Paramount Studios. The guy was a horrible director and didn't know the actors' language and I was probably too hyped up and energetic for the close-ups they were testing. They closed the studio down that entire day for the test and there was alot riding on it but - no banana. That was really heartbreaking since I was convinced I was all set to become the next Brando! What a joke. Humility is something that comes hard to young actors.  
So it was back to New York City for me. Luckily I scored a good part on stage in a great play by David Hare that premiered down in Washington D.C.. It was called "Plenty" and when the movie version of it was done a short time after with Meryl Streep i wanted to reprise the role of the cockney baby-maker but I couldn't even get an audition. Sting had locked in the part.
I spent alot of time in NYC wandering the streets,feeling poor and unemployed, but loving the atmosphere for its wild variety and cast of strange characters. Pacino would often shop for vegetables in the Korean markets around midtown and I would hang out and trail him around town just to get a taste of his magic. Because I was living hand to mouth more or less,in order to see any big shows in town I worked a system out where I would wait outside a show for intermission and inevitably, when audience people came out to have a smoke during the interval, I would sneak in and grab a front row seat. This way I saw, for example ,Al Pacino in "American Buffalo" down in the Village eight times. Only always the second act but it was  free and I didn't care, it gave me a great opportunity to watch terrific actors up close and study how they worked. Young actors can learn alot more than they would like to admit from simply observing how older masters handle themselves onstage. Later on I must have seen Jon Malcovich perform 6 or 7 times in the same play because I was trying to figure out what it was he was doing.
   Anyway please excuse me, all of you kind readers, if I am talking too much about myself. It is my intention on this site to give but a glimpse of the 'actor's world' and that requires some detail. I hope you do not mind. Where was I? Oh yes i had found myself living with an actress in a 5th floor walk-up down in the ever tough and crumbling confines of the Lower East Side. We had a view of the Empire State Building, a bathroom the size of a very small closet and a kitchen whos floor listed to one side because the boarding was so warped by time. But we were grateful and I was working as a general understudy for the Royal Shakespeare Company in a show on Broadway. I hated that gigue but it paid the bills. I recommend that young actors never, ever understudy as it is a drain on one's self-esteem and a general waste. 

   By the following year my girl had gotten a huge part in Hollywood on a primetime television show. She was anxious to introduce me to her manager who then introduced me to two bigshot producers who had lost one of their leading actors in a new series for Paramount called 'The Renegades'. Oftentimes to my amazement this is how it works in tinsel town. These guys only called me in because I bore a faint  physical resemblance to the actor I was to replace. Within an afternoon I had gone from impoverishment and anonymity to signing a deal that paid me more in one week than I had made in the previous 2 years. I starred across from a young dancer-performer named Patrick Swayze who was just coming off his first movie.The show bored me to tears and I found myself waiting in a cold trailer most days for my scenes to shoot. The amount of money wasted on a production like that simply boggles the imagination but who was I to complain out loud about the proceedings?  I got my check each week and deposited it with my Dad's account. He was confident in a business venture that involved something about dairy cattle down in Florida. Unfortunately, we were swindled by some Southern conmen, good ole boys you might call them, and all the dough I socked away was washed right down the drain.

   Los Angeles at this time in the 80s was a polyglot of culture wars. To occupy myself I was doing a play down in the theatre district called "Entertaining Mr. Sloane", a classic piece about a young male hustler on the streets of London. Every actor worth his salt should do the role and learn from it. This eventually led to a fun role in a very special play called "Tamara", a play that was to become the talk of the town and the longest running show in L.A. for nearly 10 years. None of us thought the show would run more than 2 weeks maximum and the reason was simple. The play had really 10 different plays subsumed inside of it. The audience entered a large,palacial building and each audience member could then chose which character to follow around during the course of the play. It was highly energetic the audience ended up loving it since they could switch around and follow different characters during the course of the evening. The actors loved it because it amounted to a nonstop audition for agents,producers and celebrities in the business who would come for standing room only attendance and end up racing around this huge old Gothic building with 20 odd assorted art -deco rooms following crazed actors in a play ingeniously set during the time of Facist 30's Italy. Jack Nicholson,Warren Beatty,Pierce Brosnan and many others would come on multiple nights to catch the show and oftentimes these guys and other audience members would be elbow to elbow with our characters. We performed not on a stage but in the Palace itself so the audience was all around us. My most difficult audience in one year that i did that show nightly was the evening my Dad showed up and had to die and give a death speech 2 feet away from him at the very end of the play. Now that required lots of concentration to just stay in character. I am odd that way. Unlike other actors I simply do not like it when people who know me well come to see me perform. It can make me terribly uncomfortable. The actors' job is at least partly to expose the vulnerabilities of the character he is playing and this is much easier to do for strangers than for friends and relatives. On evenings like that, I would adjust by popping my contact lenses out and   and wandering around the stage or sets nearly blind but nonetheless oblivious to the audience.  I am quite myopic and this technique helped me greatly get over my nervousness and confront large crowds of people without disturbing my concentration.
   Well to make a long story even longer.... one night while performing in "Tamara" playing the role of a Communist Party assassin and operator, the new producers of "Santa Barbara" showed up to follow the excitement. They were looking for stage actors for their new soap opera and wanted experienced performers who could do offbeat material and make it come to life,- they did not want your traditional daytime type actors, what I call the plant and fire actors who can remember volumes and volumes of lines but who are a tad wooden in their style and dull in their execution.
Well Bridget the producer contacted my agent but I was having none of it since I had never watched soap opera before and didn't want to be pegged by the genre. So we went back and forth since for some strange reason they wanted to put me on the show in one form or another. Finally when the price was right and I wasn't working any more, I consented to do a screen test which I flubbed. But about 2 weeks later they came back again and basically said,"look, we know the kid is a live wire and unpredictable but we want him in our cast no matter and we are willing to let him play whatever he wants to play and we will go along with that". So one more test and I was in and ready to work the following week.
   What no one told me and what I could not have forseen was just how difficult the technical demands of soap opera are. Lines,lines,lines and more lines. And then... more lines. Very little time for rehearsal before cameras roll in the afternoon. Lots of nervous tension on the set simply because everyone is pulling for you just to get thru the scene without forgetting the material and having to stop. Onstage one rehearses 6 weeks for a play. On "Santa Barbara" you rehearsed on the same day that you performed and good luck with that. It was somehow akin to hang gliding or jumping out of an airplane for the first time. Literally.

   In my first ever recorded scene, something about my meeting Cruz down at the police station, I was so frightened before cameras rolled that I peed in my pants and had to do the entire scene in wet drawers. Now that was a first and I do not exaggerate.Thank God that A. Martinez was as patient,kind and commanding a presence as would could hope for. He took me under his wing, always encouraging me to experiment and to play fully and we had a great time working together. Some of the other actors were somewhat more ambivalent towards me and would often look at me during the middle of a scene on camera as if to say,"are you really,really going to do it that way?"  I loved that because surprise is one of the best elements of interesting acting and if you have that on your side you truly can fly, I don't care what anyone says.
To this day I would say that core group on the show was one of the friendliest and most supportive of any actors' group I had ever performed with. We tried to feed off of each others' energy and to pull one another along. I can remember Robyn Wright furtively watching me from off to the side during rehearsals. She was a neophyte but very naturally talented and like many neophytes, she wanted more training and kept asking me who it was I studied with and whether or not she should go to New York to try and be a serious actress. But I would just stand there and stare at her and not hear really a word she was saying since she was so damn beautiful it just took my breath away. Its not fair that some people are that physically well formed and created. It's just not. Thank the gods that she had a great sense of Tom-boyish humor and was very down to earth and accessible. 
I left "Santa Barbara" after my contract ended its 2 and 1/2 year term. The producers,bless their souls, wanted to extend but I was restless and a new head writer as I recall had been hired but her work for my character was not to my liking.  Generally I would offer many kudos to the writers on this show. They tried always to push the edge of the Soap Opera envelope and they most definitely succeeded. 
So one day I was just no longer on the show. I don't think they wrote an exit for me because they were peeved that I had turned down their contract extension but c'est la vie as the Greeks say. Then started a difficult period for me. I remerged on the L.A. audition circuit and began going up on films and t.v. No one seemed to remember me and it was not unlike starting all over again. This phenomenon happens frequently to stars of Soaps. You feel great coming off the show, you have sharpened all of your acting skills and are so much more experienced but ironically, no one remembers you since you have been gone for years from auditioning and 'making the rounds'. Worse still is that some casting agents don't want to even touch you precisely because you have become well known on a daytime show.
So the sword of life is often double-edged. 
After a Spring and Summer of rejection I said screw it and took off to travel for a time. Then I
acquired a brown belt in Shotokan Karate, lived in a Zen monastery near Idylwild,Calif in the mountains and ultimately came back to L.A. to help form an acting troupe that did scene work and writing on a weekly basis. I felt quite disenfranchised from my profession. Fortunately at this time the best equity waiver theatre in town, the Odyssey Theatre ,started to hire me to play a bizarre series of roles thru the 90s. It was a tough place to perform in but nonetheless rewarding. No real money and the audiences were critical but the material was first rate and demanding, - some of it classical and some of it first run premieres. One night onstage in an off -color show about English street toughs I walked downstage to deliver the final monologue of the play directly to the audience. The monologue was the character's ode to the female part or genitalia and in many ways it was intended as a kind of comic love song to women. Many people were often grossed out by this monologue on any given night.And there sitting in one of the middle rows I spied Robyn Wright with her boyfriend Sean Penn off to the side.
I think I remember that she was really enjoying herself. What a nice surprise. 
With the blink of an eye the 90s seemed to disappear and with them I found I needed to take an acting sabbatical. I had done many roles now for nearly 25 years and was ultimately grateful for the opportunity but I did not feel inspired to act any longer. I was living with a jazz singer and studying singing myself as a wonderful outlet for quite a number of years. Then I started to follow and study the financial indexes and use logarithms to trade Markets in which I made successfully quite a sum of money but then lost much of it in the great technology crash of 2000-02'. The models I had constructed collapsed horribly during that Bear market, perhaps one of the most emotional periods of my life. I moved to beautiful Topanga Canyon in the hills above L.A. and planted a 1/2 acre farm chock full of all manner of vegetables and then proceeded to fall in love with an adorable woman who had two wild and funny young kids. We lived together there for 3 relatively peaceful years during which I recuperated,studied 3 hours of Ashtanga yoga daily and reconnected with my heart.
Sadly that chapter too ended but with no regrets and only the fondest of memories.
Now there are new projects involving politics,finance and perhaps even acting in the future. I lift weights daily in the gymn with great people, mix with all my yoga and theatre friends and generally enjoy immensely the opportunities which this vast thing called life present. I have even of late found myself hanging out around a very old Church in Santa Monica. It is a special place for prayer and contemplation and often I will just go in the middle of the afternoon to reflect on the gifts given me and to feel the Source.
I wish you all the most of joy and peace and happiness in this time of some travail. And I hope to hear from each of you soon.
May God bless you and keep you in spirit and in love, yours, Robert
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