Every time I leave my apartment, I realize the chance of running into someone I know. It is a New York City phenomenon, one that is hard to believe until you experience it. “It’s a small world” goes the cliché and no where is this more true than on the island of Manhattan.
One of my favorite people to bump into is my friend Isaac. Not knowing him, bumping into Isaac would cause me to flinch, perhaps even cower, and apologize profusely. He can easily look like a man who’d punch someone in the face for jostling him on the sidewalk. Isaac’s career is based on the fact he looks intimidating, unabashedly masculine. God-given talent and experience allow him to slip into “bad boy” even “villain” roles with utter believability. Having met off stage, I know the thoughtful, charming side of him as well.
We run into each other with some frequency and the smile on my face is genuine whenever we do. How could it not be? Isaac is one of those rare people in show business: remarkably talented with the drive to match but carries no ego about it. He’s one of those rare New Yorkers: when he asks “How are you”, you believe he really cares. Featured in film and many stages (including that of the Metropolitan Opera), now featured here as part of my Other New York clichés series!
Name/prefered pseudonym: Isaac Scranton
Borough and neighborhood: Washington Heights, Manhattan
How are you a New York cliché? I try not to think of myself as such, but I suppose I am. I’m a struggling actor/director with a day-job doing the constant juggling act that is trying to make the dream come true while still being able to keep a roof over my head, food in my belly and the bills paid. I appreciate both high and low culture, I tend to avoid the American mainstream and haven’t gone to a chain restaurant for a sit-down meal in ages. I definitely see how NYC is its own city-state and definitely NOT a part of the larger conceptual “Amurca”. Short of winning the lottery and being able to move to London or Monaco, I can’t see myself really living anywhere else!
They say no one who lives in New York is actually from New York. Where are you from? Originally from Albany, so still a New Yorker in terms of the State. Been here for 10 years this June, so my native friends tell me I’ll finally be able to consider myself a “real” one and a successful transplant.
Bloomberg is banishing you from NYC. You have 24 hours before you have to pack up and leave for ever. How do you spend them? The revolutionary in me says, “Bomb Gracie Mansion”, but honestly, I’d probably spend it walking through Central Park, visiting my favorite haunts and — being a relatively reformed raver — going to one last all-out-major party.
What restaurant/bar you keep going back to, even though you’ve been meaning to try a dozen others? Benito One in Little Italy. It’s a gorgeous little authentic Italian place that I started going to in college when I was commuting down here in preparation for graduation. I knew their old owners by name and have gotten to know the new ones in the same way. It’s the type of place where the food is always good, the ambiance is great for dates or just a nice dinner out with friends/family and where, 40 years ago, it wouldn’t have been that wild a possibility to see some mafia guy gunned down by Al Pacino. I’ve been going there for over 10 years now and I’ll likely keep going there until they tear down the building.
Favorite pizza place: When I lived in Sunnyside — where I lived for 5 intense years — there was a little place called Mediterraneo that still has the best pizza I’ve ever tasted. I particularly recommend their baked ziti slices. Always fresh, always friendly and the best pizza for the relatively low price!
So you live in NYC, but what’s one super-touristy thing you secretly love? Tough choices. I have to say I have a special place in my heart for the Metropolitan Museum. My first apartment on E 92nd Street was only a few short blocks away and it was not uncommon for me to walk down there and just hang out in “Arms & Armory” all day. I’d also have to admit that I absolutely adore the Staten Island Ferry Ride on a nice summer’s day. It’s free and gives you an exquisite view of Lady Liberty and the Manhattan Skyline.
Ever had a run-in with a celebrity (A-D List)? Several. During my time with the Living Theatre, I was privileged to hang with the likes of Forrest Whitaker and Judith Malina and got to laugh at one of my cast-mates as Kevin Spacey tried to pick him up (my cast-mate, ever a man of principle, declined, since he’s not a star-fucker). While working for Powerhouse Theatre, I spent many nights as a technical assistant for the former members of The Band and their collaborator Cyndi Lauper and got to hear a lot of first-hand tales of “the old days”. In my first job, as an Art Department intern for Merchant Ivory, I also got to frequently interact with the likes of Elizabeth Banks, James Marsden, Glenn Close and George Segal. Finally, upon winning my OBIE Award for my work with the Living Theatre’s “The Brig”, I was warmly embraced by the great Angela Lansbury, our presenter.
You totally saw something weird on the subway or street today (you may not have registered it was weird because you are jaded), what did you see? With beggars, loonies, performers and preachers a regular thing on the subways, I can’t say specifically say what was the “weirdest”. I do recall a roving rave one summer that started out on the Brooklyn Bridge and ended at Coney Island. 3000 people ended up taking over the F train and turning it into a great party with singing, live music and…well…;-)
What is your favorite fictionalized New York? How does it compare with reality? NYC figures so largely in so many films and novels, from Batman to Dark City that it’s a tough call. The wonderful thing about this city is that the reality both encompasses and surpasses every fictionalized account.
Plug something! Be it something you are involved in, your significant other/roommate/cat is involved in, or just something you think is extra-special going on in NYC In addition to having a new website up and running, I’m currently performing in the audience-interactive Murder Mystery, Lombardi Case 1975, playing a crooked cop in the dangerous world of NYC’s Lower East Side in the 1970’s. My girlfriend, Alexandra Cohen Spiegler will be performing this weekend and next in Southampton in Tina Andrew’s original production, Buckingham.
Thank you Isaac, for being for being part of my Other New York clichés feature! I look forward to the next time we (inevitably) bump into each other. Maybe we can even make it happen on purpose!
Who have you ran into on the streets of NYC? What do you think of this series? Love it so much you want featured? Fabulous! Email NewYorkCliche@yahoo.com.