Movie Dad Paul Dooley Brings His Life to the Stage

Paul_DooleyThe greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young, said Henry Ford. Mounting a one-man show certainly requires a young mind — which is why, even though he’s had 88 birthdays, actor Paul Dooley remains on the sunny side of the youth divide.

Dooley, whose accomplishments range from playing some 30 movie dads (for onscreen offspring the likes of Julia Roberts, Toni Collette, Mia Farrow and Molly Ringwald) to creating the beloved Children’s Television Workshop series “The Electric Company,” will be seen in his play, “Upright and Personal,” in the L.A. Fringe Festival June 9-25.

Why a one-man show?

Dooley says people have been telling him to write his memoirs for years, “but I thought, ‘If I write a book and there’s funny things in it, I won’t be there to hear the laughs.’ I’d rather put it on stage where I can get laughs.”

It’s hard to imagine how Dooley managed to winnow down his 60-year career into a 90-minute show. The Robert Altman film staple got his break playing a poker buddy/understudy for Art Carney in “The Odd Couple” on Broadway, later taking over the Felix Unger role — which alone offers a night’s story fodder. He once made a commercial with one of his idols, Buster Keaton. He was in the Second City comedy troupe with Alan Arkin and Alan Alda. He has also taken some downright weird show business side trips.

For instance: “I made a comedy album with Muhammad Ali,” he recalls. “When Ali was an upcoming star and his name was Cassius Clay, someone made a comedy album with him. It had several actors on it with him.”

Ali displayed a natural comedic ability, Dooley notes. “You know how charismatic he was. He was a very funny guy, for a boxer. He used to do poetry and he used to say things like ‘He’s going to go down in the 8th round.’ He always used to entertain the press. William Morris saw how much interest he was getting and signed him to an all-purpose contract — so whether he made a TV show or a movie, they would represent him.”

The comedy record was called “I Am the Greatest.” Dooley says he used to have an LP copy, but it’s long gone. Recently, however, one of the album’s writers made CDs, he says.

“Upright and Personal” contains some 50 photo and video cues as Dooley wends his way through his experiences as a comic, a cartoonist, a Hollywood writer and actor. “Once I get my sea legs and find out what’s working and what’s not, I’ll tighten it up and make it even better,” he says. Thinking young.

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Managing Dancing and Motherhood — Edyta Could Write the Book on It

DANCING WITH THE STARS - EDYTA SLIWINSKA - The stars grace the ballroom floor for the first time on live national television with their professional partners during the two-hour season premiere of

DANCING WITH THE STARS – EDYTA SLIWINSKA – ABC Television Network. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)

“Dancing With the Stars” pro and ballroom dance great Edyta Sliwinska is thinking of adding book authorship to her professional repertoire. She’s been managing to keep up her career — not to mention her great physical shape — while being a fully engaged mother to her and husband Alec Mazo’s 2-year-old son, Michael.

“I know I’m not a writer, but I think the way I tried to be a mom and go back and forth to work — I’d like to share these experiences with other moms out there,” says the Warsaw-born beauty.

“I feel like so many women are guilty about going back to work, and it is tough. Maternity leave is so short. Some people have to go back to work. I feel there is a way to go back to work and raise your child yourself.”

Her work has included the rigors of a five-month cross-country tour of Edyta’s and Alec’s dance show tour with infant Michael along. “That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, taking baby on a national tour. I went through a lot. I’ve competed since I was 10 years old and I’ve trained for ‘Dancing With the Stars’ and I’ve toured with ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ but touring with a baby was something else!” she says, and laughs.

One important key to making it all work for Edyta:

“My child was breast-fed till maybe like three weeks ago,” she reports. “Breast-feeding is the easiest thing that mom can do. It’s very convenient, and it’s the best way to keep your child feeling connected, feeling secure and happy.”

She realizes that might raise some eyebrows. In fact, she admits, “Honestly, I thought, ‘I’m not going to go longer than a year,’ and I was probably so judgmental of women who breast-feed for so long, before I had a baby. Now my answer is, ‘You’ve got to do whatever works for you.’ For me, with all the changes in my life, it made sense. We moved around so much. We traveled for different projects. It was that one thing consistent for my baby to make him feel happy and keep us connected.”

As far as the physical demands, Edyta finds, “Yes, breast-feeding takes a lot out of you. It does require a lot of energy. So it actually helps you stay in shape.”

By the end of her breast-feeding time, she says, “It was more for comfort than for feeding. I really, really don’t know how I did it. I was trying to quit last year and there wasn’t a good opportunity that I would be at home and we wouldn’t have something going on.”

It turned out that her and her latest “Dancing With the Stars” celebrity partner, Geraldo Rivera’s early elimination from the show this season gave her enough of a peaceful time at home with her son to make that transition.

Now, she says of that disappoinment, “Perhaps I would like to give it one more try with ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ because it wasn’t that much of a challenge for me this season.”

She’s quick to add that she loved working with Rivera. “The tough part is he is 72 years old and he doesn’t really have any experience (in dancing) so it was hard to learn anything. So that was tough. It took a lot of patience. But he’s a great person and I had a lot of fun getting to know this person who is so amazing at what he does, coming to my world, learning to do what I do best.”

Still, she didn’t get much chance to show off the choreography and dance talents that made her a favorite mainstay on the first 10 seasons of “DWTS.” Coming back after a five-year break, she is still enjoying dancing on the show as part of the group choreography, but she’d like to do more.

Then, there are her and Alec’s live shows. Edyta says they might like to take one to Europe. Of course, they might also do more instructional videos — as in her and Alec’s DVD “Dancing like the Pros” and fitness DVD “Fitness with the Pros.”

As for Michael, thanks to his early months on tour, he’s used to “hanging out with dancers and hanging out in my dressing room as I was doing my makeup and getting ready,” says Edyta. She stresses that she only hires nanny help when she’s in the midst of performing engagements. And her husband’s parents “are wonderful” about babysitting here and there.

“He actually started walking while we were on tour. I can’t say that his first steps were onstage, but that’s where he practiced a lot.” She laughs.

So, is he showing signs of following in Mom’s and Dad’s dancing footsteps?

“Unfortunately, yes!” Edyta responds cheerfully. “We both wish he would be something like a doctor or lawyer, and then his life would be more stable and secure, but he is very much into performing, and he’ll probably end up doing that.”

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Patty Duke

RIP Patty Duke

Patty Duke

Patty Duke

The death of Baby Boomer icon Patty Duke last week at age 69 has left many of us with a sense of personal loss. The last time we spoke, in 2013, she had just completed a guesting on “Glee” in which she and Meredith Baxter played a lesbian couple. She loved the experience for several reasons – as a supporter of the gay community, as one who enjoyed acting alongside a fellow former sitcom fave, and as a chance to remind show business powers of her considerable chops.

She and her husband of 30 years, Mike Pearce, lived in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where she found happiness and a degree of peace — and frustration in getting Hollywood to hire her. The Oscar-winning actress deserved more attention than she received in recent years.

“I’d like to make a few more sheckels, so that when I do retire I can do so with a little bit of comfort and style,” she said. And she did expect to retire someday. “I can’t be Betty White, but I’m so thrilled for her. She is such an inspiration to me.”

Duke, of course, was herself an inspiration to many.  Besides acting and personal appearances, she continued to do a fair amount of speaking engagements related to mental health issues. Her story of coming back from the depths of bipolar illness serves as a beacon of hope to others coping with such problems.

“I hope it does,” she said. “What I want to be to them is a glimmer of who they can be if they choose to get balanced.”

Some three decades after her diagnosis, Duke told us, “Every day is not perfect for me. I get sad sometimes, but there’s a reason for it. It’s not that other kind of depression that lurks, waiting to bring you down. I feel ecstasy, but not the kind like when I bought several Mercedes in one day when I didn’t have any money.” She laughed. “But I paid the consequences for it. I paid and moved on.”

In the 1960’s Duke was the beloved, Oscar-winning (“The Miracle Worker”) child actress who became the jaunty teen star of her own hugely popular TV show — who then grew up and melted down before the public’s eyes.  After her image-altering role in the 1967 cult fave “Valley of the Dolls,” her bizarre behavior, wild partying and high-profile romances sold forests’ worth of tabloids.  When she won an Emmy for her work in “My Sweet Charlie” in 1970, her behavior onstage convinced many she was on drugs and/or alcohol, and mockery ensued.  “We have taken Patty Duke’s acceptance speech down to the code room to be deciphered,” one major paper told the world.  “We will report what she said as soon as we figure it out.”

Eventually, she gained control of the bipolar illness at the root of her troubles, and with therapy found some healing for the agonized childhood she wrote about in her best-selling “Call Me Anna” memoir.  She was also able to resume her distinguished career, including serving as Screen Actors Guild president.

A few years ago, commenting on the press hounding of Demi Lovato, as the former Disney Channel sweetheart coped with a breakdown, Duke urged media restraint.  “”Be quiet and let the girl figure it out,” she said.  “These are people, these young girls.  Some of them can build a shield against the negative media, but most of them can’t — and it hurts.”

In a world full of hurters, Patty Duke — aka Anna Pearce — was truly a helper, a legacy that — along with her catalog of stellar performances — will not be soon forgotten.

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