‘Three days after graduating from Plainedge High School, I went to California to try my luck at becoming a movie star.’
“I moved to Massapequa from Flushing when I was 7 with my mom, dad and two sisters. It was a record heat day when we got there — so hot that my parents dropped us off with a friend who actually had an air conditioner! My father painted the house on Wyoming Avenue on that first day, and it was an incredible start to my childhood there.
“I loved growing up in Massapequa. We had neighbors who were like aunts and uncles. My parents gave me such freedom and a great education. Everything I ever needed to learn in the adult world I learned at the kitchen table. I was a Newsday courier, I worked at Bethpage golf course as a caddy, and at Bethpage stables as a hike walker and trail guy. In the summer, I’d bicycle to Sagamore Hill, one of my favorite places, up 107 into Oyster Bay. Three days after graduating from Plainedge High School, I went to California to try my luck at becoming a movie star. My father said if in two weeks nothing happened, I was coming home. I agreed, and within two weeks I got a KFC commercial, and my career began!
“Now I’m back on Long Island at Bay Street Theater [in Sag Harbor] with ‘Tales from the Guttenberg Bible,’ a funny, meaningful play about Hollywood ambition and family. I started writing it eight years ago and finished it a few years ago while at my dad’s bedside. He hadn’t been well and passed away in July. The most challenging part of writing was being able to do it fast enough, because the stories from my childhood and career just flew in. I’ve been very fortunate.
“Growing up in a Jewish household, our values were intact: the importance of education, and caring about family, neighbors and colleagues. Show up on time. Stay late. Finish your work. Have a good attitude. Be resilient. When you get knocked down, getting off the mat is a sign of a true champion. Working on ‘Bible,’ I remembered my parents sitting me down at the kitchen table and telling me, I’ve just got to keep showing up. As I wrote I was able to wrestle with these lessons and laugh and cry over them. It has made me a better person to relive it all. I love seeing old family and friends at Bay Street, and it means a lot that at every show there will be somebody I know in the audience.”
Interviewed by Iris Wiener