Cat on the Bay

This NYC Round Table Interview was generously/creatively submitted
by good friend/talented writer, Tony Jenkins of Atlanta--

Woody Allen
The difference between a star and a legend.
Intro/Interview/Written by Tony Jenkins

WoodyIf you have the right look, the right friends, or an inviting mouth, chances are you can be a star in Hollywood.

Woody Allen is not particularly attractive, most people want to be friends with him, and I would rather not think of his mouth doing anything but delivering his nervous ramblings. But Woody Allen is not a star, he is a legend. And to be a legend, you have to have talent. You don’t last 35 years in Hollywood by being a hack. Since 1978, Allen has been nominated for 15 Academy Awards for his acting, writing and directing, winning for both screenplay and director in 1978 for Annie Hall, and in 1987 when he took home the Best Screenplay Oscar for Hannah and her Sisters.

While his film, Small Time Crooks, may not be one of his greatest works, there are no signs that the 65-year-old Allen will ever stop. He adopted a child with his wife Soon-Yi, is still in good shape, and more importantly, has inked a long-term deal with DreamWorks SKG, the studio founded by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, to distribute his upcoming films. The legend continues to grow.

The issue in Small Time Crooks is that money doesn't buy you happiness, is that something you've found to be true?

It buys you a lot. There's one or two barriers it can't get past. But everything else, it's very good. Obviously, you can have all the money in the world, and as my father said, if you don't have your health, you've got nothing. And there's one or two other things that it can't buy, but 80 percent of what you need, you can get with money.

Can you remember the first big thing you bought yourself when you finally got a good chunk of money?

The only thing I ever got – I don't have a country home, or a boat, anything of significance – the only thing I ever wanted was a car and driver, which I got years ago. Because for many years growing up in Manhattan I would find myself in the streets at two o'clock in the morning coming home from an evening out or something, freezing and unable to get a lift and unable to get a taxi, so the one thing I wanted was that. It's an enormous luxury for a New Yorker. Enormous. If I had to give up everything in the world, that would be the last thing. But I've never cared about anything else.

What about the Knicks' tickets?

Yeah, but the Knicks' tickets didn't start as a luxury. What they do is suck you in and up the price slowly every year. Because when I got my Knicks' tickets they were not a lot of money. They were like $75 for a courtside seat, $65 maybe, and that was fine. Mine are now $250 apiece. What happens is they incrementally raise them. Like next year, even though the Knicks may not be better, it will be five dollars more to go. Poor Spike Lee. I believe his tickets are at least a thousand a seat, if not fifteen hundred, and more for the playoffs. So every game that he goes to, he's spending at least two thousand dollars a game if not three thousand. And there are forty-two home games.

Did you ever steal something as a kid? A lot of kids have those stories, where their parents made them put it back.

I have that story. Just once in my life I took a little paper moustache, the kind that you stick on your nose. And I mentioned to my father that I had stolen it and he grabbed me and dragged me back to the store, which was a block-and-a-half away, and made me put it back. That was the only time.

You learned your lesson?

Yeah, I never stole anything again. I only stole it because all my peers stole for fun. I didn't need it and I didn't want it.

How old were you?

I must have been ten-years-old. What it was, you bought a penny piece of gum and you got the moustache. But I just took the moustache. It was a challenge.

You once said that if you could come back as anything you would come back as Warren Beatty’s fingertips, it seems ironic now that his fingertips are in diapers, so are yours aren’t they?

I don’t do diapers. I’m very hands on as a father, you know, I read to the baby and I play with the baby, but I draw the line at diapers. I don’t mind if she throws up on me. Soon-Yi doesn’t like that - it’s a rough one for her. I don’t mind that. But diapers, probably because of my upbringing or something, I just can’t do it. Soon-Yi can do it effortlessly.

How old is the baby now?

About 14 months.

How is it to be a father at this age? Is it harder, is it better?

It’s exactly the same. It’s not as if I was a father at twenty and now I’m going to be sixty-five, also, I don’t notice a physical difference in my ability to do things. I still get up in the morning and exercise and lift weights, I don’t feel like I’m ninety. It’s effortless. I don’t have any problems from that point of view. And I feel lucky, because I wouldn’t have been able to really support a child at that age and it would have been a factor. I would have had to go on the road as a comedian. Now I don’t have to. Now I can afford to have the child without the pressures.

It’s a trend in Hollywood that all these guys that are older are having babies. Beatty, Nicholson.

There’s no reason why not. I mean, I don’t see any reason not to have a child. It has nothing to do with one’s age it has to do with ones physical ability and financial ability to raise the child. I’m more fit to have a child now than when I was twenty. Physically I’m fine. My father will be a hundred this year, my mother’s ninety-four. I’m in good health. Why shouldn’t I have a child? I can roll around on the floor with her and match her in stamina effortlessly, so why not?

One day when she starts dating, are you going to be tough on these young guys that come in?

I’m liberal that way. I remember my experiences going before fathers, and they had real moustaches. They would look at me and say, ‘young man, would you like a cigarette?’ testing me to see if I smoked at fourteen or something. But you hope that you get lucky. You raise a child and you hope that she’s not going to come back and say, ‘I did a thing in my journalism class on Charles Manson and we’ve fallen in love, I’m going to marry him.’

You went a long time between marriages. Was it good that you didn’t do it sooner again?

It’s just a question of the right person. I got married the first time when I was very young. I was nineteen, my wife was seventeen, and we both wanted to get into the world. And we did and she was a wonderful woman. Very talented. A pianist, a philosopher, and she was terrific and we had a very good marriage, but we mutually went in different directions. Then I married Louise, who I was crazy about and am to this day, we’re still very good friends. I had no real interest in getting married, particularly, and then Soon-Yi and I started going out and it seemed liked the right thing to do, and it was the right thing to do. We’ve been very, very happy. We have a child and a house and it was very pleasant.

And you moved from your apartment.

Yeah, that I feel a little bit bad about. I moved into a house. Let me put it to you this way, I was petrified of moving into a house. I felt that in a co-op I was protected by the doorman and the building, and I thought in a house anyone could get in and bludgeon me to death in my bed at night. After a month in the house I wished someone would come in and bludgeon me to death. It would be a relief. It’s so difficult to do a house.

Looking back on your career, it’s so amazing, everyone is clamoring to work with you, you have total creative control. Have you ever just sat back and thought to yourself, I am just incredibly lucky?

I say that all the time. I always say that I’ve been incredibly lucky and that people have a tendency to underplay the roll of luck in life and I feel that people underplay that because they’re so scared to lose control. I don’t feel that. I feel that I’ve been completely lucky. That if I didn’t have a talent to amuse people, I would have scuffled to have some kind of job, I don’t know what. I would have done the best I could. Instead, due to some quirk of nature, I was able to make jokes and be amusing. I’ve led a very, very privileged life and out of pure luck. I’m the first one to say it. I feel personally that, in a number of ways, I really haven’t lived up to the luck that I’ve had. I’ve tried my best to, but I wish I had achieved better things then I’ve done. But I’m totally cognizant of the fact that I’ve just been completely lucky.

What amuses you these days?

I liked Wonder Boys. I liked Magnolia. I’m not saying these are perfect films, every film has it's audience or not. But personally, those are films that I enjoyed. I thought that they were not factory-made films. They were not aimed to pander to any special market. East West is wonderful.

Edward Norton has said one of the things he admires about you is that you embrace your influences rather that try to depart from them. Do you feel that?

I do. To this day, I still have my idols in photographs on the wall. Martha Graham used to say, ‘if you’re going to steal, steal from the best,’ and I have always embraced the people that I have idolized and tried to incorporate what I’ve enjoyed in their films and in their styles in mine.

Think about how many walls your picture must be on.

I don’t know. I was in conversation with Martin Scorcese some time ago and I was pointing out that, in my opinion, I-- and I’m not saying this pejoratively-- I have influenced nobody, whereas Marty, everytime I go to a movie, I see his influence. Correctly so, because he’s a brilliant director. I’ve seen Altman’s influence; Coppola’s influence. But mine, I don’t really see. There are certain people in every field that do not influence. They can do perfectly good work, I’m not denigrating my work. Like in jazz, for example, Charlie Parker was a monstrous influence everywhere, but Thelonious Monk, who is a definite genius, has no real heritage. Practically nobody was influenced by him. I feel that I’ve influenced nobody. I would be very surprised if my picture was up on someone’s wall. It may be, but I just would be surprised.

Have you read Tony's Hunter S. Thompson interview?

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Background imaging emanated from rubber stamps created [circa 1973]
by dearest friend/artist, Annie Moon of Indian Valley--

2010 R K Puma
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