Steve Guttenberg: The Luckiest Man in Hollywood
"Isn't Massapequa where Alec Baldwin and his brothers are from?"
"Yeah, the Baldwin boys, Jerry Seinfeld, Ron Kovic, the war hero who wrote Born on the Fourth of July, Brian Setzer from the Stray Cats, Jessica Hahn and Joey Buttafuoco. They're all from Massapequa. I grew up on the other side of the tracks, really, from most of them. They lived on the side with the water, and we didn't."
"You mean they were richer?"
"Aren't we going to talk about my new films?" he asks.
"We will, I promise. But this stuff is much more interesting."
"OK. Yes, money was tight. My father didn't take a vacation for 14 years because he would just work the overtime. Every summer I dreaded the week after school ended, because I knew that everybody on my block was gonna leave, and everybody was gonna come to me to take care of their animals. And I remember everybody had those trailers that you hook to your car and then you go to the woods and pop them up. Everybody seemed to be leaving on the same day. And while they were packing the frozen food into the cooler they'd say, 'The hamster eats on Thursday, and if the dog doesn't come out from under the bed. just throw the food under there and clean the shit out later.' We didn't have a pool, and on the other side of town, people lived on the water and had boats. I was always very sensitive to money. If there were ever any arguments in my house, it was about money. We never had enough."
"I'm just guessing," I say, "but you probably have enough money now, right?"'
"Well, I think I do, but a friend of mine said to me. 'You know, you can take the kid out of Massapequa, but you can't take Massapequa out of the kid.' And you know, I'm not a fancy dresser, I don't have a drug habit, I don't like to wildly spend money. Although in a fit of craziness about five years ago, I did go out and buy a Mercedes."
"Was that during the time you were married to the model?" I ask, nodding toward the magazine stories about him that are spread on the floor.
"Yes, but it wasn't a reflection on her. I had a bad back at the time, so I thought this would be the best thing."
"Sure, 45 grand instead of going to the chiropractor."
He laughs. "I was driving a Honda Civic, and my back was hurting. One day I just said, 'Fuck it, fuck everybody.' I went to Beverly Hills Mercedes and pointed to a car and said, 'I want that one, right now.' Now it's five years old, it has 30,000 miles on it. I give it out to friends when they need a car. I don't care about it. I'm comfortable, I think I've done really well, but I don't think I'll ever forget that for my mother and father, things were tough, I mean, we weren't starving, we had food, but we didn't go out to restaurants. McDonald's was like a big deal for us. That shaped me. My friend George said, 'God giveth and God taketh away," I mean, how can Wayne Newton go bankrupt? How about the guy who owned the Daily News, Robert Maxwell? How could he go bankrupt? And what about Stan Laurel, Abbott and Costello? They all thought they were OK, too. My friends laugh at me, because if they do good. I always take them aside and beg them to put their money away, to save, to take care of the future. I think that money is going to make them safe. And it doesn't. But that's my illusion."
"Well, you may not be secure about money, but I hope you realize how famous you really are. Every single person I told about this interview knew exactly who you were. All my movie friends adored Diner, every little kid remembered you from Police Academy, every senior citizen revered Cocoon. I've never interviewed anyone who crosses so many boundaries. What kind of fan mail do you get?"
"I get a lot of fan mail. I guess it's pretty much run-of-the-mill: 'I love your movies, I want an autograph, you've always been my favorite actor.' I assume other actors get the same kind of mail. And then I get the come-fuck-me nude pictures."
"You do?" I say.
"Yeah, it's great." he replies with a sheepish grin.
"You get that a lot?"
"Yeah, I mean no. Well, I've gotten them often enough. You have to be real careful with those. When I was younger I'd kind of go after those, and they were always a disaster."
"Nah, I don't think I could."
"Steve," I say, "of course you could tell me."
Amazingly, he does. "OK. I have a fan mail service, and they weed through them and forward on the more bizarre ones--the threatening ones or the weird ones. So this girl sent me a high heel shoe, and the next week she sent me a pair of stockings. Then, like clockwork, a garter, then the bra, then some pictures of her in this outfit, then a nude picture of her without the outfit. And she was gorgeous! I was in one of my cheap periods, and I had a lot of friends who were going through my fan mail, and they started saying, "Oh, you've got to get together with this one." So she sent her number and I called her and she flew out here .."
"You flew her out?" I ask.
"No, no. she flew out on her own dime, and I met up with her. And she was real cute and real fun and real great, and we went dancing. We had a great time. I was like 23, 24. And then she wanted to take me to her hotel, which was in Marina Del Rey. And I said, 'Sure,' And we go back to the place and she wants me to tie her up. So I did. Jesus, Martha. I hope my girlfriend doesn't read this."
"It happened 14 years ago," I point out.
"But I have a lot of respect for her and I don't want this to make her feel bad."
"Duly noted," I say. "So what happened next?"
Guttenberg laughs. '"OK, so I tie her up, spread-eagle, the whole number, and we got pretty whacked. We were pretty drunk and stoned and all. But I didn't have any condoms, they were in my ear. I go down there. I get the condoms, I turn around, and there's these buildings that look identical, and I have no fucking idea which apartment she's in! To make a long story shorter, it took me and the security guard eight hours to find her. All this time she's been tied to the bed and she is furious."
"So, you don't get to nail her?"
"No," he says, turning red. "she was ready to kill me."