Stephen Baldwin: Get Out of Town

The next day, Baldwin and I are scheduled to meet at his "secret spot," a place called Rancho Quieto (pronounced key-eh-toe) located up in the hills above Tucson. Baldwin calls Quieto--a bed and breakfast place that's as peaceful and picturesque as a monastery--his second home, explaining that it's where he goes to write poetry and depressurize. The grounds are dominated by a large adobe-like guesthouse, surrounded by acres of cactus-filled desert. I find Baldwin emerging from a rock-bordered swimming pool, replete with waterfall. Toweling off, he suggests I stop asking questions long enough to listen. As if on cue, a whooshing wind swoops in from the desert. "What I love about this place," Baldwin says, "is that it's like being on heroin, man. But it's not heroin. That's what makes it so great."

Baldwin explains that his wife first brought him to Rancho Quieto for a surprise night away from their nearby home. "She blindfolded me, then drove me out here," he says. "It was very cool." Baldwin goes inside to get dressed, then returns to stare out at the endless desert. "You should see the javelina, the wild pigs with fangs," he tells me. "They are amazing. They come out at night. That's when you can watch packs of these big, fat, black, snaggle-toothed pigs. They look like they'd rip your legs off but they're the sweetest things in the world."

As Baldwin talks about the desert, he steps past the Jacuzzi and walks onto the sandy perimeter. Reluctantly, I follow, figuring that I need to be close by for my tape recorder to pick up everything he says. We pass his Suzuki motorcycle that is propped in front of the house, and make our way out onto unchartered desert terrain. I think I see some sun-bleached animal bones. This is when Baldwin stops and looks down, checking out my Florsheim oxfords and his own canvas slip-on shoes. "Too bad we don't have the right shoes," he says. "We really shouldn't go so far into the desert."

I breathe a sigh of relief, but then Baldwin does precisely what he says we shouldn't do. I follow him farther out onto the sand. "That whole thing about past lives and the desert is interesting," he ruminates, squirming through a tight lane of elongated thorns. "Isn't it true that this used to be the bottom of the ocean? I figure that maybe I was once a crustacean down there. Because I lived one life like that, I now get to be a wienie actor from Hollywood who can relax out here every now and again."

Baldwin keeps walking, mentioning in a supremely nonchalant manner that the little holes in the ground all around us have probably been made by rattlesnakes. "If you see one," he says, "don't freak. It won't come after you unless you scare it. And whatever you do, don't try to run. If you're within six feet of a rattlesnake and happen to move suddenly, startling it, the snake could easily get ahold of you."

"Okay," I say. "Let's just suppose that a snake does bite me. Does that mean I could die?"

"Probably not," says Baldwin, "but it depends on how much venom the snake gets in you. I hope you realize, though, that if a rattlesnake were to bite me right now, you would be down on your knees in two seconds, sucking out the venom."

"Hey," I ask, "are you busting my chops?"

"Yeah," he declares without breaking stride. "I'm just busting you."

We return to the guesthouse and stand alongside Baldwin's motorcycle.

"How many other interviews have you done in the desert?" I ask.

"None," he replies, fiddling with his wraparound shades. "Nor have I ever had to lie to an interviewer about rattlesnakes so that he would not stand, frozen with fear, in the desert."

Resembling an extra from some Road Warrior sequel, Baldwin slides on his helmet, revs his motorcycle and says that he's got to head back to Tucson. He's heard about a store where they might have precisely the childproof gates for which he has been searching. "Great," I tell him. "Maybe you'll get lucky."

"Why not?" he asks, before heading down the dirt road. "I've been lucky so far. I live in Tucson, I've made some really good money acting in movies, I have a great wife and kid. I could be in Long Island right now--smoking joints, drinking beer, working for the town of Oyster Bay. I've definitely been lucky."


Michael Kaplan interviewed Sandra Bullock for the August Movieline.

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