Why the West Side (Pandemic Edition): Steve Guttenberg

Actor Steve Guttenburg.

By Eileen Katz

West Side Rag ran an interview series with creative locals for years that we called “Why the West Side”. In these strange times, we’re checking back in with some of those luminaries. This is the first in that series.

Steve Guttenberg is a devoted Upper West Sider who has shared his love of our neighborhood before and was kind enough to share with us how he’s been handling our current situation. Steve is one of those rare talents who can charm audiences in theaters, on Broadway and television.

He has starred in some of the most successful blockbuster movies and sequels of all time: “Police Academy”, “Three Men and a Baby” and “Cocoon” among them. And now he is adding playwright and guitarist to his list of accomplishments.

West Side Rag: How are you holding up Steve?

Steve Guttenberg: “We’re hunkered down here, my wife Emily, and I and just trying to do the best that we can. Following the rules about going outside…just for exercise, grocery store runs…no lollygagging around allowed.”

WSR: No lollygagging around for sure! Have you guys been ordering in or cooking?

SG: “We’ve been cooking a lot! When I have to go to the grocery story, I go really early in the morning so its not so busy.”

WSR: What’s your perfect quarantine meal?

SG: “Oh we LOVE spaghetti and meatballs with a salad of butter lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery some legumes and a splash of italian dressing. Then some asparagus and cauliflower sautéed. Emily also made great chicken breasts the other day, in fairness, I did the seasoning so it was a joint effort. But she’s been chasing me around the house. This situation has made her a bit frisky, if I can say so, and I’m only one man here!”

Would you shelter in place with this heartthrob?

WSR: There’s talk that 9 or 10 months from now there’s going to be a baby boom!

SG: “I would say so. Absolutely. It’s gonna get crazy.”

WSR: Have you managed any home improvement projects?

SG: “Interestingly enough I have! Fixing door knobs, cleaning out closets, I’ve become a powerhouse! But I’ve also taken this time to finish a play I’ve been working on that we’re referring to as: The First Play of the Virus”

WSR: You want to be first for sure!

SG: “Oh you’ve got to be first! I’ve been trying to be pretty creative. I’ve taken up the guitar again, been trying to learn to play better.”

WSR: You hear of people stockpiling things like cleaning products or paper goods…anything off the beaten path you’ve been collecting?

SG: “Legos”

WSR: Legos?!

SG: “I thought Legos could save your life, but I just found out this morning they can’t. But I’ve bought all the Legos I could get my hands on.”

WSR: So they may not cure the virus, but think of how much fun you’re going to have putting them together!

SG: “We got Lego everything! Lego exercise equipment, Lego plants, my wife just made Lego casserole! Gotta use as many as we can. I spent like $53,000 and I feel like an idiot with all these Legos.”

WSR: I feel right now if you’re buying things that won’t go bad it’s not really wasteful.

SG: “That’s a good point, but the time will come when I’m going to have a Dinty Moore barbeque where I’ve got 8000 cans of Dinty Moore stew and it’ll be a party this summer, hopefully, with Jolly Green Giant peas…an all you can eat!”

WSR: So I, like I think a lot of people, have been ordering nutty things on line during this…anything you’ve purchased you’d like to share, other than the Lego’s that is?

SG: “Well, it wasn’t on line, but because of the social distancing , we bought some plastic cut outs of people that we’ve put around the place to make it feel less empty. We’ve got about 83 standees of famous people all around us….Benjamin Franklin here, all 6 ft replicas so it looks like there’s people here…Albert Einstein sitting out back, Nelson Mandella’s in the living room, Trump, Pence and Pelosi, though we have to kinda keep them apart, Schumer too. My wife was saying it felt a little lonely, so I thought this might help. Kevin Bacon’s here too, who you gotta love cause of 6 degrees and all that. He’s next to Mickey Rourke. Clark Gabel’s here, Humphrey Bogarts sitting at the breakfast table, Sinatra’s in the living room. It’s pretty great!”

WSR: Wow! Sounds super crowded!

SG: “It’s a lot going on so it’s pretty great!”

WSR: What have you been watching?…if you can see your TV through that crowd…

SG: “Last night we watched “Rear Window” with Jimmy Stewart, day before we saw “Sabrina” and “Funny Face” with Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire.”

WSR: The Classics!

SG: “Well, those and then A LOT of cartoons”

WSR: Your wife sounds amazing, but is there a celebrity crush you’d want to be quarantined with?

SG: “I guess for me it would be Peter O’Toole if I could have him”

WSR: Of course! Can I ask why?

SG: “Why? Because Peter O’Toole! Lawrence of Arabia! And he also did a movie with my friend Liam Neeson and I, “High Spirits” so who doesn’t love Peter?!”

WSR: Naturally! So when we’re back to a more normal world, what’s the first thing you’re going to do?

SG: “Oy, I wish that day comes soon. Worried about so many people. It’s so hard on everyone. I haven’t been able to see my parents who are in Arizona, like so many people who can’t see their loved ones but it’s the right thing to do to be safe. But after I get to see them, the first thing I’m going to want to do is to sit in a movie theater with a big crowd of people and laugh at a great comedy or big action picture you know?”

COLUMNS | 5 comments | permalink
    1. Stuart says:

      My wife’s celebrity crush was Steve Guttenberg. I went to school with his distant cousins Rhoda and Ronnie (they were not siblings, despite their names). I had wanted to go to Barnes and Noble to get Steve’s book signed to give to my wife for her birthday, but I couldn’t get away that night. I am so glad my son grew out if his Lego fascination.

    2. Scott says:

      He’s funny. “Don’t tell her it’s me!”

    3. Carole Zabar says:

      i am a HUGE fan ever since i saw the movie Diner. To this day when faced with a menu with so many delicious choices I saw “I will have the left side of the menu

    4. Susan says:

      Wonderful interview. Lightheartedness and humanity helps.

    5. Marcia says:

      Huge fan of his films. Missed him and then I think I read some time ago he’d gone to Europe to work. Marvelously cheerful and warm interview. Thank Steve G and West Side Rag.