Thursday, February 3, 2011

People who ought not to be interesting but are

Most famous people aren't as interesting as you expect them to be -- I suppose that's inevitable -- but quite a few of the nearly famous are more interesting than they ought to be. Now, thanks to Nick Paumgarten (via Chait) we can add the actor who plays "The World's Most Interesting Man" to the list:
Goldsmith is not this man. Still, he has more in common with him than you do. A montage of highlights from the real life of Jonathan Goldsmith might include (had there been cameras present) footage of him rescuing a stranded climber on Mt. Whitney, saving a drowning girl in Malibu, sailing the high seas with his friend Fernando Lamas (the inspiration for his Interesting persona and, according to Goldsmith, “the greatest swordsman who ever lived in Hollywood”), and starting a successful network marketing business (“I was a hustler, a very good hustler”), which, for a while, anyway, enabled him to flee Hollywood for an estate in the Sierras. Among the outtakes might be glimpses of his stint as a waterless-car-wash entrepreneur. “I love the old philosophers,” he said. “I have a large library. I am not a die-hard sports fan. I love to cut wood.”


Goldsmith had on a black polo sweater, a black sports coat, bluejeans, and black tasselled loafers. He had a black-diamond earring that Barbara had given him. They drank Chianti, and Goldsmith told the story of his life and career. The Most Interesting Man in the World, it turns out, is a Jewish guy from the Bronx. His mother was a Conover model, his father a track coach at James Monroe High School. Postcollegiate dissolution (and a session with the famed psychoanalyst Fredric Wertham) led him into an acting class at the Living Theatre and, eventually, into competition with the likes of Dustin Hoffman and Robert Duvall. (Goldsmith recalls a contentious exchange with Hoffman: “I jumped up and said, ‘Dustin, the reason you don’t like me is because I’m gonna make it and you’re not.’ ”) Goldsmith eventually made it—out to Los Angeles, anyway—and embarked on a career as a “that guy,” very often the that guy who gets killed, on television shows such as “Bonanza,” “Mannix,” “Gunsmoke,” “Hawaii Five-O,” “The Rockford Files,” “Barnaby Jones,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “CHiPs,” “Dynasty,” “T. J. Hooker,” “Knots Landing,” “Magnum, P.I.,” “MacGyver,” and “Dallas,” to name a few. He had an equally peripatetic career off the lot, the particulars of which he’s saving for a book. He divulged one old surefire tactic: knowing that Warren Beatty kept a penthouse suite at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Goldsmith used to wait in the lobby for the young women who’d been summoned there, and he’d intercept them, saying, “Warren sent me down. I’m terribly sorry, but he had to cancel the meeting.”
But even taking into account his ability to snag one-night-stands from Warren Beatty (that, my friends, shows an inventive mind), Goldsmith still isn't as unexpectedly interesting as James Lipton.

That's right, that James Lipton, the guy who does the fawning interviews of vapid celebrities. Probably the last person in the world you'd pick to be trapped in an elevator with, but Lipton is one of those rare people who gets more interesting when he talks about himself. His biography starts with playing the Lone Ranger's nephew (which would make him the Green Hornet's father, by the way), ends with him named dean emeritus of the Actor's Studio Drama School and includes a interlude as a French pimp (though Lipton disputes the use of the term since he worked for the prostitutes rather than the other way around). You can hear Lipton's charming account here.

But you should still skip Inside the Actor's Studio.

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