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The last time I interviewed animal lover, animal rights activist and author Beth Stern, she was promoting her book Oh My Dog and working with North Shore Animal League America, the world’s largest no-kill pet rescue and adoption center, as their national spokesperson.
Eight years later, Beth is still working tirelessly with the team at North Shore Animal League America to raise awareness and find homes for adorable animals.
“Life is good. I am really happy,” says Beth, who stopped to talk with the Press while on a media tour for Kitten Bowl VI.
Beth was eager to talk about her passion for fostering cats and kittens at the home she shares with husband/radio personality, Howard Stern — who is just as smitten — and the unconditional love she has for her pets, which she describes as a “love affair like no other.”
What can you say about how our pets benefit us emotionally, physically, spiritually? Howard and I don’t have human children together. He has three daughters from a previous marriage who are very much a part of my life. Our children are our animals and our family. I feel like I gave birth to all of my cats — that is how much I love them. We are in tune with each other. My cats know when I am sad. They know when I am crying, just like dogs. I think with any animal that becomes part of a family, you feel very connected to them.
I know how much you love dogs too. Is it all cats all the time now at the Stern residence? I am equally a dog person. I love all animals and I work with the wildlife rescue. Right now, Howard and I have four resident cats. They are my world. We have Yoda, the Persian cat who is the star of my children’s books. We have Walter, a domestic short-haired white cat. Walter is Howard’s favorite and his best friend. We adopted him as an adult. He was returned to North Shore Animal League America a few times. We don’t know why because he is the perfect cat. We have Bella. She is a calico. She is our blind cat. She was most likely abused. She is also a mama cat. She gave birth to four kittens. She is the love of my life. She is so in tune with me, and is the happiest little kitty. And, we have Pebble. She had one eye removed from an infection. She is eight months now. She is so bad. The worst little kitten in the world [she laughs]. She jumps on my poor senior older cats. I love her madly. She is definitely making things interesting in our household.
What are some of the routines at home? They are part of every single day. Howard and I wake up in the morning with our cats. It is such a bonding time. When we go to sleep at night, they are around us. When Howard is having a stressful day the cats come downstairs, and they all run over to him and all of a sudden smiles are there, and we are talking to them. It is such a beautiful part of our life.
Is it true that the cats are obsessed with Howard’s hair? Yes, [she laughs]. Our blind cat crawls in his hair. It’s the funniest thing. She’s nestling in his hair, and he’s reading the newspaper.
The last time we spoke you had mentioned how much Howard enjoys playing chess. Is Walter his new chess partner? It’s funny, Howard doesn’t play chess as much as he used to. He now paints watercolors. A lot of the time the cats are his inspiration.
Beth, with love also comes loss — the human or furry kind —that we all experience at some time in our lives. The hardest part of having an animal is when you lose one. I lose a part of me too. I have gone through so much pain over the past year and a half. I lost three of my resident cats. The depression and what anyone goes through is not anything I wish on anybody, but the love they brought into our lives is worth it.
I’m intrigued and want to hear more about this “foster room.” I call it the “foster room” because we have rooms in our home designated for the fosters that come into our house. We have an apartment in Manhattan with a foster room. Our house in Palm Beach has a foster room and our house in the Hamptons. I think [the cats] are pretty lucky when they get through my door.
What was the largest number of fosters you had at one time? Last summer during kitten season we had 25 fosters. We had a pregnant mama, a nursing mama, a litter of kittens, and a couple of teenagers.
Your children’s books are so sweet. Can you tell me the inspiration behind them? I have been fostering kittens for the past six years. We adopted this Persian cat named Yoda knowing that he had a heart condition and had only three months to live. He started hanging out outside the foster room. I let him in one day, and he started taking care of the kittens. That was the moment his life changed and it was the most incredible thing I ever witnessed. I watched Yoda getting healthier. I took him back to the vet and they could not even detect anything wrong with his heart. I thought, “Oh, my god, love and purpose has truly healed him.” That may sound ridiculous, but I witnessed it. It’s been five years now. He’s doing amazing. I thought, “I have to share this with children,” so that was the story of Yoda: The Story of a Cat and his Kittens.
Sharing Yoda’s story and meeting all these little people when visiting schools must be so fun. I’ve been reading to schools, and I love it. The kids love the stories. More magic was happening in the foster room, so I decided I needed to continue Yoda’s story. I had a kitten named Buddy, both his eyes were removed. Yoda was in the foster room with Buddy. They became a little tag team taking care of the fosters together, so that was my inspiration for Yoda Gets a Buddy. Kids come up to me asking about Yoda and Buddy. I love it, and all the proceeds go to NSAL America.
You just came off the promotion of the Cat Bowl and Kitten Bowl for the Super Bowl. How was that? I can’t believe I get to do this every year. It is such an honor to be the host. The past six years, we have been showcasing adoptable adult cats and kittens. We had our first Cat Bowl, which aired the night before the Super Bowl. We were able to showcase adult cats and special needs cats. That is what I love to focus on, the ones that are sitting in shelters for so long people walk right by them not realizing how incredible they are. We do the adoption at the end of the show, and we found the family of one of my fosters that was featured in the Cat Bowl. It was very emotional. We also have these cat and kitten Super Bowl parties where all of our partner shelters hold specials. Right now — not including this year — more than 25,000 cats and kittens have been adopted as a result of the Kitten Bowl.
You must be thrilled that Bianca’s Furry Friends Adoption Shelter, an adoption and wellness center, will be opening this summer in memory of your beloved bulldog, Bianca. Everything I do is for Bianca. She is my inspiration. I was so excited when Joanne Yohannan and I came up with this idea. It started as a vision to save more lives of dogs and cats. It is happening, and it just gives me chills. The 14,000-square-foot space is going to be designated a cage-free cat habitat adoption center and feline wellness center. We are freeing up the entire bottom floor for more adult and puppy mill rescues. I feel the mission of North Shore Animal League America is going to expand because we can save more lives.
What is next for you? I think I am going to keep doing what I am doing because life is pretty great. I love saving lives, so I don’t see any end in sight with my foster work and my participation and dedication with North Shore Animal League America.
How do you like living on Long Island? It is the best. It’s my favorite place to be. We have a place in the city. We end up spending most of our time out here. I love this time of year when it is off-season and I have all this beauty surrounding me. It is quiet and magical and then the summer is incredible too. Howard and I are happiest when we are at our home in Southampton. We spend most of our time on Long Island and travel back and forth to the city when Howard works. Most of my cats are in my home here.
How can a potential adoptee get in touch with you? There is an email address on my Instagram.
NORTH SHORE ANIMAL LEAGUE AMERICA EXPANDS, PROVIDING EVEN BETTER CARE FOR PETS
This year marks the 75th anniversary of North Shore Animal League America, the world’s largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization, and there is plenty to celebrate.
Since 1944, more than 1 million animals’ lives have been saved, and that number is growing, with nearly 18,000 pets placed successfully into loving homes each year, according to the nonprofit. Joanne Yohannan, senior vice president of operations at North Shore Animal League America, who has been involved with animal welfare for decades, remembers a time when hundreds of thousands of animals in New York City alone and millions across the country were being euthanized every year as a means of population control. But since 2011, the number of dogs and cats euthanized in shelters nationwide annually has declined from approximately 2.6 million to 1.5 million, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
“Today we have advanced,” Yohannan says. “Last year, fewer than 6,000 animals were euthanized in New York City and between two and three million across the country. We’ve really come a long way but still have work to do.”
One of the ways that the nonprofit will continue its mission to save pets’ lives is with Bianca’s Furry Friends Feline Adoption Center, a state-of-the-art facility that will include exam rooms, a feline behavior department, grooming facilities, kitten adoption facility, 24-hour-care nursery, respiratory ward, surgical suite and a recovery room that will enable North Shore Animal League America to provide the highest quality of care.
The center, spearheaded by Howard and Beth Stern and named in honor of their beloved bulldog Bianca, who passed away in 2012, is set to open over the summer.
In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Kosher Gospel, aka Joshua Nelson, gospel singer, and Hebrew teacher, gave a soul stomping performance at the Mid Island Y JCC on Monday as the crowd clapped and sang along as photos of the legendary civil rights activist streamed across a video screen.
“Next year we are going to work on a little rhythm,” joked Rick Lewis, CEO of the Mid Island Y JCC, who thanked everyone for their support “You were a little off today.”
Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman joined in the fun. “Raise your hand today if you are a mensch,” as his voice grew louder. “Let’s do good stuff today.”
And so they did.
Four hundred volunteers and staff members wearing matching blue shirts with the words “Official Mensch” gathered to pack up 1,200 packed bags full of food, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products that were being sent out to 4,000 Long Islanders in need. The recipients are FQHC the S.H.O.P at the Gural JCC; the Huntington Interface Homeless Initiative; the Gerald Ryan Outreach Center; Birthday Wishes and the Hatzilu Rescue Organization.
The donation bags even contained a vegetarian chili recipe with all the ingredients.
“We are helping people with food insecurity and food poverty,” said Gail Warrack, Director of Volunteer Services at Mid Island Y JCC, whose donations came in from UJA Federation of NY, Henry Schein Cares Foundation and members of the community. “Rather then random products in a bag we wanted to give them specific items to help them make a warm meal for the family.”
Rabbi Jenn Weinstein of Congregation Simchat Ha Lev of Syosset who came with some members of her synagogue was in awe by all the kindness.
“It’s incredible to watch these kids have hands-on experience of making a difference in the community,” the rabbi said.
Warrack adds: “It’s amazing. We started four years ago with 200 hundred volunteers, and today it’s doubled. We are growing.”
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FITNESS AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
Aaptiv, Inc. is an audio-based app that brings the workout to you. A leading provider of digital wellness content offers members thousands of different workouts from running, strength training and yoga to indoor cycling and meditation, all taught by certified trainers. An annual membership is $99.99 that includes a seven-day free trial or pay monthly at $14.99 at Aaptiv.com.
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Baby, it’s cold outside. Well, not quite as cold as it will be getting — but, the outdoor playdates or hangouts for the kids are slowly moving into the house with the start of cooler temperatures and unpredictable weather.
For parents, that means finding a space in the home, free from adult intervention for the older kids, that will be a safe, comfortable and fun environment for your toddler, tween or teen.
With hopes to inspire and keep your kids moving and off the video games, the cell phone, and the television remote control, we found two creative, kid-friendly and technology-free spaces that will keep your child active and occupied for hours.
A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE
This family in Roslyn wanted a playroom that was safe for their growing family. The old playroom located in the attic was messy and disorganized with toys strewn about and not safe for a toddler and infant to roam.
This all changed when they learned about The Toy Tamer, aka Evelyn Cucchiara. In only one day, Cucchiara and her husband Joe transformed the 1,200-square-foot attic into an orderly space.
Cucchiara, a mother of three, drew upon her years of experience owning a family daycare and a children’s art studio. She says the concept behind Toy Tamer is having the right tools to help frustrated parents get back control by creating a customized plan that teaches behavior modification that works.
Her system is called the SANE Organizing Process.
“S” stands for sort and get rid of anything that children have outgrown or broken.
“A” stands for arranging the right shelving and the right size bins.
“N” stands for name, which is a picture label placed on every shelving cubby.
“E” stands for getting everyone involved, which means that when the bell rings, it’s cleanup time.
Her concept, she explains, is not color coordinated, but works off of a child’s innate sense of immediate gratification.
“While a clean playroom is wonderful, that’s just the icing on the cake,” says Cucchiara. “The real benefit is that your kids learn executive functioning skills that let them take over the playroom cleanup, so that as they get older they can organize and run their own lives. It’s vital that kids learn how to be organized at a young age so that these skills travel with them throughout life.
“Cleaning up for them now only results in dependent young adults in the future,” she continues.
Now, if Cucchiara could only help adults.
THE SPORTS COURT
The homeowners of this Tudor in Rockville Centre wanted an area where their three boys — ages 9, 11 and 14 — could play basketball and spend time with their friends.
Keith Mazzei of Keith Mazzei Interiors came in and created a sports court. The owner of the home, an alumnus of Ohio State, wanted to pay homage and replicate the court of the Buckeyes, the Ohio State men’s basketball team, from the red-and-white colors right down to the logo and college emblems. The court, explains Mazzei, was a full addition to the home and part of a home renovation project that took a year and three months to complete.
“The project was a 90 percent renovation,” he says. “Most of the old structure had to come down, but we were able to keep some of the old-world charm.”
Once the court was complete, Mazzei scored big, winning over the parents and the kids with his design sense and creative spark.
“I speak to and visit the homeowners quite often, and they’re always saying how the sports court is one of the most used rooms in the home.,” says Mazzie. “The boys are always in there playing basketball, roller hockey, baseball. It’s a multipurpose room. They’re in there spending quality time with their siblings, cousins, and friends.”
He adds, “In the computer and technical age that we live in now it’s nice to see that these kids are being active and enjoying the space and not being couch potatoes like most kids of their generation. I wish every home had a sports court for the active kid that wants to do more.”
In 2008, the fitness entrepreneur started Long Island-based GYMGUYZ, a mobile personal training company, in his parents’ dining room and today it is one of the leading fitness brands nationwide.
“It started with a vision and a laptop,” he says. “In 15 to 20 years we will be number one. The largest fitness brand in the world. You mark my words on that. We are crushing left and right.”
In August, Inc. magazine released its list of the 5,000 fastest-growing privately owned companies in the United States and GYMGUYZ was ranked No. 292. In 2014, when the company began franchising, its revenue increased by more than $3.2 million, according to the August Inc. 500. Today, the Plainview-based company has 200 locations in 32 states, has expanded to Canada and soon will be in the United Kingdom.
Listening York’s unwavering enthusiasm about his brand is like hearing a boxer talk about how he just beat out his opponent in a match. Unlike a traditional gym, GYMGUYZ brings the workout to you.
“We are all over the place,” York says. “We go to your home, your office, the pool, the park, a place of worship, assisted living facilities, even restaurants and pizzerias. We work with large corporations and small businesses. If you want us to work you out in your closet we can make that happen too.”
The GYMGUYZ van is fully loaded and equipped with all the gear needed for an hour-long workout that is based on the three “Cs”: Convenience, Customization, and Creativity, he explains. Individual sessions cost $65 to $95 an hour; group rates are $45 to $120 per hour.
York points out that although most of his clients are female and range in age from 36 to 60, that demographic is ever changing.
“We work with all different individuals regardless of age and ability,” he says. “Our youngest client is 6 years old, and our oldest client is 103.”
David Dubner, an investment banker from Roslyn, travels a lot for work and enjoys the convenience and flexibility of GYMGUYZ.
“I don’t have a predictable schedule; it changes daily,” says Dubner. “They cater a workout to my strength and weaknesses, and for me, I feel like it is a safer way to strength train and they introduce cardio in everything I do, which I enjoy.”
Rebecca Soleimani, a stay-at-home mother from Great Neck, works out with GYMGUYZ three days a week along with her mother and sister, who live nearby.
“We get a group package rate,” says Soleimani, who attributes part of her 35-pound weight loss to the workouts. “It is fun. Plus, I don’t have to worry about someone babysitting my kids.”
For more information on GYMGUYZ and for franchising opportunities visit gymguyz.com.
The holidays are upon us, but before unpacking every Christmas and Hanukkah decoration or shopping for new ones, designers are giving the gift of insight into what is trending this season.
“There is a big shift away from the silvers and the greens, stainless steel and the brushed nickel,” says Keith Mazzei of Keith Mazzei Interiors in Syosset. “Now it’s all about gold.”
Owls and starbursts are big for decorative accents this year, designers say. And freshly cut Christmas trees will always be a holiday staple, but more people are enjoying the artificial pre-lit tree varieties that mimic the natural evergreen needles for their low-maintenance appeal.
“Pre-lit are fabulous and they are very popular now,” says Rosemarie diSalvo of Garden City-based diSalvo Interiors. “People don’t want to wrestle with those lights that are on the real tree.”
She recalls her own tree-decorating drama pushing her over the edge.
“It took me days to string lights on the tree,” she says. “Once the holidays were over, I just threw out the tree with the lights still on them but kept the ornaments.”
Pre-lit trees come in a number of different sizes and styles, with energy-efficient LED bulbs.
When it comes to ornaments, anything goes, from handblown and hand-painted, to photographed to engraved, classic Norman Rockwell, Lenox, and Hallmark, variety to all those oldies but goodies.
“Nothing goes out of style with Christmas tree ornaments,” diSalvo says. “People collect ornaments. People gift ornaments. I still have my parents’ ornaments made from papier-mâché and those boxing-glove ornaments. I love them. I think people save their ornaments because it brings back so many memories.”
Decorating the chandeliers, fireplace mantel, windows, and staircase with artificial garlands and artificial poinsettias are a better choice than the real thing.
“When fresh garland dries it looks horrible and when pine dries out it doesn’t have a nice odor,” diSalvo says. “Poinsettias are very festive but require a lot of care. Unless you have a green thumb, they may not last through the season.”
As to Hanukkah decor, DiSavlo has seen Christmas trees becoming more prevalent with some of her clients who celebrate Hanukkah.
“Within the last five years, having a tree in the house has gotten more mainstream,” she says. “Families are more blended so there is an openness to enjoy all these holidays. They may decorate them differently but like the seasonable ambiance of having a tree in their home.”
The menorah that represents the celebration of the Festival of Lights is placed not only in the window but as a beautiful centerpiece, for all to enjoy.
In fact, decorating is no longer limited to the living room or dining room. People are placing decorations all over the house, such as elves in bathrooms or assorted colored dreidels hanging from the light fixtures.
“People tend to take out everything from their childhood because Christmas and Hanukkah are about memories and the holiday,” says diSalvo. “Personally, I don’t like clutter, but if things are overcluttered this time of year it is perfectly acceptable.”
Mike and Joanne McEnroy are getting ready for their move from Country Pointe Nesconset to Country Pointe Meadows in Yaphank.
Unlike others who spend months house hunting, the McEnroys’ search was simple. They went with the same builder of their previous home, the Beechwood Organization, one of the largest homebuilders and developers of lifestyle communities and privately owned residences on Long Island.
“It’s a quality home,” says McEnroy, who was excited and wanted in when he learned that the 400-home condominium lifestyle community for adults aged 55-plus was available. “We were looking for a more active community for 50- and 60-plus, and we liked the resort-style atmosphere.”
Their new home is identical in size to the one they had previously. A corner unit, it has two bedrooms, second-floor den and loft area, living room with fireplace, dining room, kitchen, two-car garage, and landscaping with a pond and waterfall.
Part of the development is the community offering plenty to do. It has a state-of-the-art 11,000-square-foot clubhouse to enjoy and other amenities that feature a ballroom, card room, sports lounge with bar, fitness room, treatment room, concierge and activities director, two outdoor heated swimming pools, and tennis and bocce ball courts.
Steven Dubb, a principal with the Beechwood Organization, says buyers are coming from Nassau, Suffolk, Brooklyn, and Queens, and that the development is on the pulse of what a homebuyer is looking for today.
“They want more volume in their home,” he says. “They want to be able to entertain in the kitchen and be able to talk to their guests in the living room at the same time. Our homes have open floor plans that flow easily. It allows the empty nester to have friends and family over and make the first level of the home a communal space.”
Country Pointe Meadows is the homeownership dimension of The Boulevard, a 322-acre smart growth mixed-used development on the grounds of the former Parr Meadows racetrack, that will include retail stores, a park and dog park, a hotel, a baseball field, and track, rental apartments and an assisted living facility.
The Boulevard concept appealed to the McEnroys, who spend part of the winter months in Florida and enjoy easy access to the shops and restaurants nearby.
“We have that down in Florida, so we really like that,” he says.
According to Dubb, buyers can choose from 1,470 to more than 2,100 square feet of living space in single-floor villas or two-story townhomes, with with prices from $489,000 up to $700,000.
“It’s a tremendous value,” says Dubb. “You can get a lot of house for that dollar amount and quality. And, the amenities are second to none.”
He is certain that the low real estate taxes are a big draw for a buyer.
“For a $500,000 home, the taxes are $5,000 to $6,000 a year,” he points out. “For Long Island residents who want to stay on Long Island but are tired of paying ridiculously high real estate taxes, this is the answer for them.”
Word is catching on. Since the units opened for sale last year, more than 15 percent have been sold.
Hold onto your cocktail, darling … it’s all about ’50s glam this holiday season.
Think sophisticated styles like the vintage tuxedo jacket, lace peplum, leather leggings, bejeweled bags and statement rings. And for footwear, the chunky-heel bootie in velvet and the return of the ’50s point low-stiletto heel.
“Last season we saw full-on, head-to-toe bling, this season is more carefully edited with one item standing out,” says Mitchell Kass, founder of Trend Council, a Long Island-based company that provides trend analysis and design inspiration for designers and buyers. Holiday 2018 is all about luxury and separates that make a statement, says Kass.
“Bohemian looks are not as popular this season,” she says. “Sequin was so overplayed last year that is out and the bodycon/bondage dress is out too.”
For readers who want to get a similar look, Kass offers some practical advice before you shop: “Local boutiques and online retailers will carry these items, but be aware that some shops have a very long lead time on delivery and sizing will be different for each online store.”
With a career spanning nearly seven decades on stage, screen and television, Robert Wagner’s handsome good looks and charm are as remarkable as they ever were.
“I always wanted to be in the business as an actor,” says Wagner during an interview with the Press from his home in Aspen that he shares with his wife, actress Jill St. John. “I was very lucky and very fortunate.”
He has starred in more than 80 productions, including his famous TV role as dashing Jonathan Hart in the 1979 detective series Hart to Hart, and his memorable turn as Number 2, the villainous henchman to Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers feature films. Wagner’s climb to stardom started in the 1950s.
His first film was The Happy Years. After signing with 20th Century Fox and garnering rave reviews for his supporting role in the World War II movie Halls of Montezuma (1951) and the post-war patriotic film With A Song in My Heart (1952), Wagner got noticed.
He later shared the screen with Hollywood greats such as Fred Astaire in the TV series It Takes a Thief, Audrey Hepburn in Long Among Thieves, and Elizabeth Taylor in There Must Be a Pony (both made-for-TV movies),and David Niven in the Pink Panther feature films.
Now 88, Wagner has continued his love affair with show business. Last month, the Gold Coast International Film Festival awarded him the Burton Moss Hollywood Golden Era Award. The award is named for the agent who represented some of Hollywood’s finest and pays tribute to film legends who may not have been honored appropriately during their lifetime.
The award itself is a sculpture, an original work of art created by renowned sculptor Edwina Sandys, granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill. The first award was given last year in honor of the late Hollywood star Rita Hayworth, whose daughter accepted the award on her mother’s behalf in a private ceremony.
In 2008, Wagner penned an intimate memoir, Pieces of My Heart: A Life, that highlights his career and and the drama and the romances he shared. He talks about his good fortune and the mentors he had.
“When I was a kid I was crazy about Clark Gable, whom he described as ‘the motion picture idol of that time,’” he recalls. “ I worked at this golf course and caddied for him. I told him I was interested in going into the film biz and being an actor. He helped me. Spencer Tracy was wonderful to me. He put his arm around me and said that I could be somebody.”
Wagner also talks about his late wife Natalie Wood and the mystery surrounding her 1981 death off California’s Santa Catalina Island. He writes about the emotional experience he had writing this book and how he almost didn’t complete it.
“There’s been many things written about Natalie and me,” he says. “I just wanted to put it down as honestly and as truthfully as I remember it. We were married twice; we had a tremendous love affair. As most people know, she died and our life went on.
“That is part of the book,” he continues. “It went on with much help because of my children and my present wife and from my friends, who all gathered around me and helped me get back on my feet.”
At the Gold Coast Arts Center last month, Regina Gil, founder and executive director of the Gold Coast Arts Center and its Gold Coast International Film Festival, presented the award to Wagner.
“American culture owes a debt of gratitude to the pioneers of the film and television industry for creating out of whole cloth a form of entertainment that is accessible to the ordinary individual, and that has had the potential to educate and transform the thinking of millions of people,” Gil said. “The producers, directors, actors, and technicians who dreamed worked, invented, reinvented, and developed what we know today as Hollywood were the greats of this industry, upon whose shoulders today’s stars stand. Robert Wagner has a long view of this pond, having served in film and television as a leading man and talented actor.”
Congratulations on getting the Burton Moss Hollywood Golden Era Award. Isn’t that a wonderful honor? A lot of wonderful charities are going to benefit.
You are from Detroit, Michigan and grew up in Bel Air. Do you have any connection here on Long Island? I have spent time here on Long Island over the years and always loved it.
Any favorite places you like to visit when you are on Long Island? The Gold Coast is a wonderful place. The history is amazing, and all the people of Hollywood who have lived here or been here is quite extraordinary.
Would you say that the dashing Jonathan Hart was one of your favorite roles to play? One that you most identified with? I loved doing Hart to Hart and playing Jonathon Hart. I loved the character. Stefanie [Powers] was great. The chemistry was great. Lionel Stander was great. I identified with the role because you put a lot of yourself in it when you are playing a part for so long. It was a hit and wonderful to be involved in something like that. The audience picked up on it worldwide, and it played it in 87 countries.
What are some of the projects you are working on now? I have been in NCIS. I enjoy it. I love that character. There is quite a bit of me in that character, too. I will be doing one of those beginning the first of the year. I have a couple of movies that they are talking to me about doing.
When you played the son in the movie Broken Lance with Spencer Tracy early in your career, how was that experience for you? That picture changed my life. I met Edward Dmytryk who was a wonderful director, and of course, Spencer Tracy was very generous to me. They went on to make a picture called The Mountain in Europe. I went to Europe with Spence and Eddie Dymtryk; it was the first time I was there. He gave me co-star billing above the title, which changed my whole career.
It must have been an exciting time to be part of the Hollywood landscape back in the day. How would you compare it to today’s landscape? In those days when I started, if somebody said I am interested in that, the response would be, “Let’s go for it. Let’s try it.” I think today corporate influence has taken over many aspects of our industry. It is very hard to keep the personal involvement in a project because it has to be discussed by so many people who all have different ideas. Many people have opinions before something is made. Some are good, some are not so good.
What advice can you give to those starting out in the profession? You have to have a lot of self-confidence today in everything that you do. You have to believe in your ideas and your idealism, and I think you have to maintain that. I think it is something very important.
Can you tell us about some of your mentors during those early years? I was a tremendous fan of Clark Gable and Cary Grant. As a kid I just looked up at the silver screen and said, “Boy, I’d like to do that.” I was just fortunate. I started going out as a kid doing scenes for people and auditioning and doing anything to try to get in the business. Finally, I met this wonderful dramatic teacher at 20th Century Fox. She said I think he’s got something. There I was in the movies and I loved it. At 75 bucks a week, taking home 55. And I loved it. I was in the movies. Everybody was really great to me.
If there was someone who could play you in a movie, whom might that be? Michael Weatherly, who played me in a movie. I love Michael, and I don’t think anybody can do it better.