richard kind2
Photo by Myrna Suarez.

By Eileen Katz

Although most people recognize Richard Kind from his roles in “Mad About You” and “Spin City,” it is his voice that played a starring role in this summer’s smash hit “Inside Out” as imaginary friend Bing Bong. His other feature film credits include “A Serious Man” and “Argo” among others. He’s also a favorite on Broadway, having been featured in shows like “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “The Producers”. You can watch him currently in the Amazon series “Red Oaks”. He was born in New Jersey, lived on the Upper West Side when he was starting out as an actor, and after living in LA for a time, is now raising his three children right back here.

Why the West side, Richard?

My grandparents had lived on the East side so I had a prejudice about the east side only being for old people.

When I got out of college I inherited an apartment from a friend of mine on 72nd between Broadway and West End. I think when I moved in it was $203 a month. It was a studio, it was small but it had a window that I could look out of. Then I moved to Chicago but I sublet that apartment for years and years and years. Jon Ross, Jon Stewart, Jeff Garland, Emo Phillips all lived there. I would never charge more than the rent. The deal was when I came in to town, they would need to find someplace else to stay.

When I moved back from L.A. where I was doing Spin City, I came back to do a play. I have very wonderful relatives who own a gigantic apartment in the Prasada and they were really nice. We had just had our first baby, they loved the baby, they were great people, they had no kids of their own and they gave us rooms in their apartment. It was great. Finally we found a place on 79th that we could afford. And now we’re on 82nd St.

What makes you stay?

It’s very family-oriented, I think it’s easy, I know people here, I feel very safe here. It’s its own little town. I’m also a big fan of the subways. I can get anyway from here. And of course the parks keep us up here.

That’s one of my questions! Riverside or Central?

More Riverside than Central. We’re closer. It’s a block and half away. It’s so convenient! When I walk the dog and go to the dog park we go to Riverside. As somebody who owns a dog they should keep up those dog parks. Put another hundred thousand into keeping them up. Dogs are a part of the city and certainly the Upper West Side because families are here and families have animals!

What’s the worst part of living up here?

Dodging the baby carriages!

Let me see, well I really think it’s not so bad now, but in a few years, elementary and middle schools are going to get slammed because places are going up higher. We’re getting skyscrapers. When you have that many units what are you going to do with the kids?

What are some of your favorite places to go?

Fred’s. I love the Hi Life. I love the Dublin House. My favorite meal is the blackened salmon at Jacob’s Pickles. Barely and Grain is great. I love Tangled Vine. I think these new wine bars are fantastic. These places live to be middle to upper middle class refuges and I think that’s a lovely thing in this area because we are middle to upper middle class people.

We also go to Barnes & Nobles all the time. The whale room at the, what we call the dinosaur museum, the Museum of Natural History. We haven’t been in about a year, but I keep our membership because it’s our responsibility to keep them in order for these places to be able to exist. And by the way, I think of the Met as the Upper West Side because it’s so easy to get to.

Have you had a quintessential Upper West Side experience?

Let me think cause I’m not very smart…

Here’s the thing, when I’m in LA, I keep in touch with everybody cause I use my phone all the time. On the Upper West Side, I disappear. Because there’s no place to make a phone call, it’s always loud, I always bump in to people. People will stop me and say how much they like me in “Gotham” or “Inside Out” or whatever it is. And when I get home I’ve got the kids, so I can’t make a phone call in this town.

What do you think makes someone an Upper West Sider?

Well, as Lenny Bruce said, everybody in New York is a Jew even if you’re not Jewish. I believe that there is an energy up here…moving quickly without being hurried. Forward movement on the balls of their toes, not the heels. Even if they’re old. What makes an Upper West Sider? Probably someone who is also educated, liberal, art lovers, culture, theater lovers.

So if you were stuck on a desert island and could only have one thing from Zabar’s what would it be?

Well, I do buy their chicken pot pies all the time.

How about if you were stuck on a desert island and could only have nova from one place, which would it be? Zabar’s or Barney Greengrass?

Lox is lox!

If there was going to be a street named after you up here which one would it be and why?

Well I’ve lived on two different places on 82nd St. so maybe there. I love 81st street between Columbus and Central Park West. I actually lived on that street when I was doing a play here and my daughter was just born. Billy Baldwin literally gave us his small pied a terre down on the first floor. He gave it to us! For a month! Billy Baldwin is one of the great guys. He used to have a big, big, big, huge, gorgeous apartment in that building as well and kept the pied a terre. And he was a great Upper West Sider. I miss him in the city. I wish he would come back. He’s the greatest.

Have you ever had a job in this neighborhood at a place that used to be an iconic hot spot that people would be surprised to hear about?

I worked at The Saloon. You remember The Saloon? It’s no longer there. It’s now a Bed, Bath & Beyond and a Lululemon. I opened that place and everybody used to say “Why aren’t you on rollerskates?” (like the rest of the waitstaff had to do) and I would say “I prefer to keep the food on your plate and not your lap.” That would get a laugh and me more money. I had a lot of great experiences there. I waited on Ali McGraw and Candace Bergen there. I waited on Robert DeNiro. That was a great place.

To read all of our “Why the West Side” columns, click here.

COLUMNS | 21 comments | permalink
    1. uwsmom says:

      Love this! Makes me love being an uwser even more.

    2. Independent says:

      Dogs are a part of the city and certainly the Upper West Side because families are here and families have animals!

      Are households with children actually more likely to have a dog than households without children? I would think that if anything, the stats would show just the opposite; that the fewer (human) members there are in a household, the more likely it is to have a dog. Any stats?

    3. Margaret says:

      I’m a huge Richard Kind fan! Thank you for the interview.

    4. Marci says:

      Great article. I see Richard Kind everywhere, and usually with his kids. On the subway, City Diner, Fred’s, Hi-Life.

      And since the piece on Lee Grant ran, I’ve seen her twice at Barzini’s. Such a great series you’re doing. Keep ’em up!

    5. Karen says:

      Love him in Red Oaks. Paul Reiser in it too. It’s about a jewish country club in northern NJ in the 80s. Great show.

    6. Evan says:

      I see him at Crunch gym every week.

    7. Fred says:

      Another great installment. I wish they ran this more! Keep it up.

    8. Adam Fisher says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the neighborhood Richard. Makes me smile to read this!

    9. Neighbor says:

      How do you inherit an apartment?

      • Independent says:

        “How do you inherit an apartment?”

        Good question.

        For “$203 a month”, the apartment would have had to have been rent-regulated. That means that in order to have succession rights, Mr. Kind would have had to have lived, in a qualifying relationship, with the previous tenant for two years prior to the time that said tenant died or vacated the apartment. Perhaps Mr. Kind did that. I don’t know.

        He goes on, however, to boast that,

        I sublet that apartment for years and years and years.

        Isn’t that patently illegal?

        I wonder how Mr. Kind would feel were he to own an apartment and have someone, not even the original tenant, sublet it for “years and years and years”, while the monthly rent that he, the rightful owner, could get for it remained capped at such an absurdly low amount that was a mere fraction of its actual market value.

        • Local says:

          He said, “I would never charge more than the rent. The deal was when I came in to town, they would need to find someplace else to stay.”

    10. UWS parent says:

      I love that he’s so unpretentious and refers to himself as being part of the middle to upper middle class. Also like his reference to the future problem at elem and middle schools. He’s such a great public school parent. I’ve seen him over the years at my child’s schools and he’s been so involved and supportive.

    11. Jonas says:

      Are you seriously trying to argue for Chinese in LA versus NewYork?

    12. Katherine Weber says:

      Another good one… Love this series!

    13. Nathan says:

      I think I’ve seen him around a couple times but didn’t want to bother say anything because I wasn’t absolutely sure it was him. I didn’t know he was an UWSer at the time, and it seems even more likely as I saw him around 82nd and West End. 🙂

    14. Peter says:

      Thank you. I love this series.

    15. Big Earl says:

      Great article. Always enjoyed his work, especially Spin City. Ran into him last year on W 77th flipping burgers at my daughter’s school fundraiser.

    16. Independent says:

      What makes an Upper West Sider? Probably someone who is also educated, liberal, art lovers, culture, theater lovers.

      So someone could live on the Upper West Side for many years as a law-abiding, hard-working, productive citizen, as well as a kind and gracious neighbor. Perhaps even take an active role in local community affairs. But he does not check all– or perhaps even any— of the boxes that Mr. Kind enumerated in the sentence of his that I quoted just above. Such a resident of the UWS would not, then, be considered a “real” Upper West Sider?

      What about the ever-touted diversity that we are constantly reminded is so absolutely critical to “who we are”— as a country, a nation, a people?

      • LMN says:

        @ Independent

        It’s an opinion! He was asked a question and he answered it with his opinion. You are free to differ. Also, we all base our opinions off of our personal experiences and considering he is an actor and has lived on the UWS for years, it wouldn’t surprise me that his UWS circle includes art lovers and theater lovers.

    17. Denaliboy says:

      Great piece
      Have seen him around—sounds like a nice guy

    18. Joanne says:

      This series is a great reminder of why I love living here and appreciate the great variety of people that make this neighborhood so special. Thank you west side rag for this and thank you Richard for this interview!