Grodin regales senior center crowd with tales from long career
Updated 8:10 am, Sunday, September 6, 2015
“Dr. Bigelow” paid a visit Thursday to the town’s Bigelow Center for Senior Activities last week.
Actor, author and comedian Charles Grodin, who has played the character on the FX television network comedy-drama “Louie” with Louie CK, brought his trademark droll humor to the center, where he shared with an audience of approximately 225 people stories about his long and varied career in the performing and literary arts.
Grodin, 80, a long-time Wilton resident, has 34 film credits, according to the IMDb website, ranging from dramas like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Catch-22” to comedies like “Beethoven,” “Midnight Run” and “Heaven Can Wait.”
“I loved him in all his films. I never saw his talk shows,” said Sandra Ann Nolfo, a volunteer at the senior center.
One man said he could watch the movie, “Seems Like Old Times,” a thousand times. One woman said she went to see “Midnight Run” for Robert DeNiro’s performance, but left a Grodin fan. “We must have seen it 20 times and we’ll see it again tonight,” one man told him.
Grodin is a veritable Renaissance man with a wide range of accomplishments in the arts. In 1977, he hosted “Saturday Night Live” — and sang with that episode’s musical guest Paul Simon, and also has a long list of Broadway credits, countless appearances on talk shows and briefly hosted his own talk show. He has directed, produced, served as political commentator on “60 Minutes II” and written at least a half-dozen books, with another in the works.
Grodin continues to act, with his latest television role on the “Louie” show as Dr. Bigelow, but the senior center audience was more interested in his early movies and plays, and his relationships with other legendary actors and TV hosts, among them Robert DeNiro, Doris Roberts, Paul Newman, Johnny Carson and Jack Paar.
“DeNiro’s a joy. He’s great … This answer is going to surprise you. I was a friend of Jack Paar. I was delighted to be in his company.” Of Greenwich resident and former talk show host Regis Philbin, he said “They don’t get any better than that.” And of Carol Burnett he said “What ,you see is what you get.”
Grodin reserved his most flattering comments for the late Paul Newman, who had been a longtime resident of Westport. Asked if he knew Newman, Grodin closed his eyes and paused before saying, “You could not not love him. He was a lovable guy. He was a sweetheart. He was a darling man. It was a privilege to know him.”
He enjoyed working with DeNiro and Al Pacino, and he had a crush on Elizabeth Taylor, saying he dreamed of becoming an actor to get her attention and marry her. He did get her attention and she laughed at one of his jokes. But, he added, “That was the extent of our relationship.”
Like Newman, Grodin has also established a charitable foundation. One hundred percent of donations go to his Lend A Hand non-profit organization go to help free women wrongly incarcerated. He’s had success stories and aims for more. He asked the audience to “Take a harder look at who’s in prison and who isn’t ... I want to go up to Bedford (Hills Prison in New York) to see who’s there that shouldn’t be there.”
About a dozen people surrounded Grodin after his presentation for photos, autographs and conversation. One man asked Grodin to read his treatment for a television script.
“I have a lot of children who love him, five children. I do, too. He’s funny, he’s comical, he’s smart and he seems to be honest. He tells it like it is,” said Lee Schaefer of Fairfield, who had her picture taken with Grodin.
Grodin said he has no plans to retire. “I find the hardest thing to do is nothing.” While he remains busy these days, Grodin said of the work offers he receives, “I don’t ask how much. I ask ‘Where?’ ”