Alec Baldwin? May I Call You Alec?
I wasn't going to blog about Alec Baldwin and his in-flight fiasco from Tuesday night but I felt compelled to finally say something. Why? Well, a few years back I had the occasion to speak with Mr. Baldwin. Not a pleasure, or even a mild thrill. I'll be diplomatic and stick with "occasion."
Although I have always enjoyed his film and TV work, he's coming off lately as an ill-tempered bully. I had an exclusive preview to the wrath that TMZ eats up - and at the time there was no paparazzi around him - just members of the local media in Ocean County.
We have to take our news time machine back to February of 2008. Baldwin was coming to speak at the Ocean County Library regarding the Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant and the potential health effects of radiation in Lacey Township. Baldwin is against nuclear power and wants the facility shut down. One of the local activist groups working on the same goal invited him as the keynote. For nearly a decade, the actor has devoted time to the issue of radiation health risks. He helped close nuclear reactors at the Brookhaven National Laboratory and has made several visits to Jersey about Ocean County's plant.
OFF TO A BAD START
My experience with Mr. Baldwin began on a Sunday morning when he was set to be a guest call-in for Bob Levy's Topic A radio program on shore stations WOBM-FM and WOBM-AM. I was anchoring the news during the show when he mistakenly called the newsroom phone. I answered. He said "Yeah, who the hell is this?" I politely replied "uh, who is this?" He replied "It's Alec Baldwin." At this point, I knew he was calling in but not my phone. I said "Mr. Baldwin, the number you need..." and I gave him the rest of it. He then slammed the phone down without saying a word. I knew we were off to a great start.
Being the dutiful reporter, my marching orders were to get down to the library that Wednesday night and get a few questions answered. That's where the fun began.
A CELEBRITY IN TOMS RIVER
Most of the 300 people who attended the session were there just to see a Hollywood celeb. They had no idea why he was there and didn't care. Even though he never mentioned anything other than nuclear power stuff, the standing ovation was overwhelming. They cheered after everything the man said. At times, I don't think they were listening. I was just listening closely to move in with some questions at the end - hoping to get him before he took off.
Afterward, in a closed room, Baldwin had the benefit of quality police protection from riffraff such as pesky reporters. But it must have occurred to the gendarmes that we were all working the sane detail - tending to an overblown personality who would probably never see any of us again, and wouldn't recognize us if he did.
PLACES TO GO, PEOPLE TO SEE
While approaching Baldwin, he pretended not to notice me. I am a rather hard presence to miss, especially my stature and microphone in hand. It was at this point other reporters were now trying to get a comment too. He said "no comment." My direct reply to him was "Mr. Baldwin, you don't even know what I plan to ask. Could I just have twenty seconds of your time?" He stared me down and kept walking. I called out to him that we spoke on Sunday morning. He said he didn't remember that. I said, "Well, I gave you the call in number and you hung up." He chuckled and said "oh yeah?" At this point, he is working towards putting his coat on getting ready to make a beeline for the door.
Being a large guy, I used my body to block his path. His concerned entourage advanced on me and realized I wasn't leaving until I got what I came for. I said "with all due respect I would like to know why you're here and why your against the plant." I then shouted out could we just have a statement? We're in the local media!" Finally - reluctantly - and angrily, he deigned to tell our tens of thousands of listeners what he had no trouble telling 300 people in the room five minutes earlier. His tone went from angry and stern to pleasant and back to angry again.
As I was about to follow up with one more question, he extended his arm and literally shoved me out of the way before being escorted to his limo. Oh well. No harm done. A celebrity I always liked in the movies just pushed me. Cool! The fun Yuppie in Beetlejuice. The jerk from Working Girl who two times Melanie Griffith. Oh and of course the head honcho on 30 Rock.
Back to present day, Baldwin refused to turn off his Words with Friends game on his iPad on an American Airlines Flight. After being removed, reporters were just as persistent at the airport wanting his side of the story. I caught that footage of him pushing two New York reporters - both whom are women. Not cool, Alec. He also gave them that same stare I became familiar with that night so many years ago.
I hope that iPad game was worth all the negative press.