Stephen Baldwin: Get Out of Town
Everyone in show biz talks about moving away from L.A., but Stephen Baldwin, who describes himself as a "wienie actor from Hollywood," has actually gone the distance--all the way to Tucson. Our intrepid reporter takes a walk in the desert at Baldwin's favorite hideaway while the actor tells tales of rattlesnakes--the Tinseltown type as well as the variety found in Arizona.
Stephen Baldwin will not show me his tattoo. More precisely, he will not show me his first tattoo. The six that followed are fairly conventional Hollywood markings--among others, a tiger, his daughter's name and the triangular Alcoholics Anonymous symbol. Hidden in the folds of skin between his legs, right next to his crotch, however, resides the skin-art that piques my curiosity: a private nickname that he has for his Brazilian wife of four years. Probing a star's bush is not exactly my beat, but now that I've heard about it, I feel compelled to give it my best shot. "It would be in the name of journalistic research," I claim, playing to his vanity by insisting that his fans have a right to know.
"How about a peek?"
Baldwin smiles, amused by the attempt, but shakes his head in the negative. Apparently, this policy of hiding his genitals from reporters is part of the new Stephen Baldwin: over the past few years, he has consigned himself to one woman, eighty-sixed his drug and alcohol intake, and settled down far enough away from either coast to remain out of trouble. The guy even drives within the speed limit. At the moment, we're chugging down a winding, two-lane mountain road above Tucson, and Baldwin gingerly maneuvers his fire-engine-red Ford Bronco as if it's got nitroglycerin in the glove box.
Racing up behind us, a lane-hugging convertible seems poised to kiss Baldwin's bumper. The actor inches to the right and, in a mellow tone, says softly, "Come on, Speedy Gonzales, hurry up and pass me." As the driver complies, Baldwin pushes an Alice in Chains cassette into the car's deck, cranks up the volume to an ear-shattering level and bangs on the steering wheel in time to the first 45-seconds of some unrecognizable screechfest. After carefully negotiating a series of turns, Baldwin kills the sound and points out of the auto. "This is the spot where I flipped my last car," he explains. "Since then I've learned to take it nice and slowly." There is a tinge of remorse in his voice, the sort of wistful tone you hear from recovered heroin addicts who wax nostalgic about failed affairs with the needle. "But I guess I'll always have a little bit of a need for speed," he adds. "Sometimes I think I'd like to drive a Viper--and I could if I really wanted to--though this Bronco is what makes me happy right now."
This youngest member of Long Island's famous acting dynasty is the first to admit that five or six years ago, he could have been the tragic figure who spent his final living moments convulsing on the sidewalk in front of some Sunset Strip haunt. But for Baldwin--married, with child, occupying a rustic-looking home here in the desert outside of Tucson--that was a lifetime ago. Evidence of the actor's reformed ways hang from Baldwin's rearview mirror: when the truck hits a bump his AA chips (which signify periods of sobriety) make a clacking sound. "There was a point when I wanted to live fast, make a zillion dollars, and do a James Dean off of Mulholland," he acknowledges, driving into a gorgeous sunset. "But that's boring. It's, like, so what?"
Fresh from the set of Fall Time, in which he stars opposite Mickey Rourke as a bank robber who gets kidnapped but winds up brutally torturing his captors, Baldwin wears his hair in a close-to-the-skull buzz cut that brings out the hard-angled curves of his face, giving him the physical demeanor of some '50s hayseed wise guy. Though he drives deliberately, he speaks with a staccato, pedal-to-the-metal delivery that belies his decidedly suburban status in real life--right now, we're en route to Home Depot, where he hopes to find a certain kind of wooden gate in order to baby-proof his home for his infant daughter, Alaia. He takes pains to point out that this mission was ordered by his wife, Kennya, whom he continually refers to as "The Boss."
While angling his Bronco into a parking space, Baldwin reveals a side of his personality that differentiates him from most of Hollywood's formerly substance-abusing crybabies. Unlike the Sheens, Sutherlands and Coreys (Feldman and Haim), Stephen Baldwin is realistic enough to view the movie industry as a dubious place for those struggling to stay on the straight and narrow. "A very serious danger was that my career did not suffer when I was out of control," he says. "The machine that is the movie business can care less if Stephen Baldwin drops dead of drug abuse and alcohol. In fact, this business abso¬lutely encourages that kind of behavior. It's an industry that always has and probably always will survive on the weaknesses of others and the ability to manipulate them in order to make money. Essentially, its essence is greed. But that's okay, for I have come to understand how the machine sees me: to it I am a possible means of making money. In turn, I now see the machine as my own vehicle for making money. Ultimately, when I treat the machine like the machine treats me, it all comes out in the wash. There's mutual respect."
To illustrate Hollywood's role in the codependent daisy chain, Baldwin recalls a recent night he had spent at a Planet Hollywood opening. "I was looking at Arnold and all these movie stars and feeling completely star struck," he says as we wander through Tucson's Home Depot. "But then I saw a guy, a huge star, who was completely out of it--so out of it that four people had to practically carry him from the place and into his limousine while all of these fans were standing there, screaming for this multimillionaire actor.
"I wasted a lot of my time thinking that was the way I had to live. Now all I want to do is play with my kid. I can't do that if I'm drunk or worrying about how much money Threesome made."