King of New York

09.21.11

Alec Baldwin’s Sweet Life

Alec Baldwin talks to Lloyd Grove about ‘30 Rock,’ hosting ‘SNL,’ running for mayor, and his love of Twitter.

There’s way too much going on in Alec Baldwin’s life.

The 53-year-old actor has just sold his Upper West Side apartment and is relocating to downtown Manhattan to live with his 27-year-old girlfriend; he has also been jousting with a Starbucks barista and the New York Post, toying with running for mayor of New York, starring in the sixth season of  30 Rock, and—lest we forget—setting a new world record for hosting Saturday Night Live (16 times!) by presiding over the Sept. 24 launch of the program’s 37th season.

“It’s the closest thing to live theater, which I like and just don’t have enough time to do as much as I want to,” the actor told me about his love of "SNL," whose season opener will also feature the English rock band Radiohead.  

If all that weren’t enough, Baldwin also managed to dominate the headlines from this past Sunday’s Emmy Awards—even though he wasn’t there and hadn’t planned to attend—because he withdrew from a taped comedy sketch, in which he’d played a Jack Donaghy-like industry suit, after learning that the real-life suits from Emmy broadcaster Fox Television had killed the best joke.

But first, Baldwin’s good news: his 3,000-square-foot apartment in the storied Eldorado overlooking Central Park, where he has lived for the past two decades, is no longer on the market for its $9.5 million asking price.

“I sold it!” he crowed. “Gone! Sold! The second bidder got it, and we got a very good price. I’m going to miss the Upper West Side. And it’s breaking my heart because everything I hated about the Upper West Side, as I’ve grown older, I‘ve grown to love. It’s quiet and very low density. I go down  to the Village now and it’s like a salmon spawning ground—just overrun with people. And I have to do deep-breathing exercises when I’m down there because it’s so crowded.”

Yet love has trumped low density, and Baldwin is shaking up his life to be with yoga instructor and entrepreneur Hilaria Thomas, who lives and runs two yoga studios many blocks south of the Eldorado.   

“All of a sudden I found myself where I was available to have something more real in my life,” said the actor, who met his girlfriend in a restaurant several months ago. “And now I’m going to move in with her. It’s the most serious thing, I guess, I’ve had in a long, long time.”

Baldwin’s famously contentious custody battle with ex-wife Kim Basinger over their daughter, Ireland—a fight that made him suicidal, he once said, after his ill-advised angry voicemail message for then-11-year-old Ireland was leaked to a gossip site—seems to have calmed down. Ireland is turning 16, and he flies to Los Angeles to hang out with her every few weeks, he said. “She plays volleyball every weekend. She is so busy with her activities, she has little time for either of her parents.”

‘Comedy is very binary: the writing is either funny or it’s not. And so much of what you see now is more cute than funny. So many of the films you see now are more outrageous than funny.”

Baldwin confided about Thomas: “Hilaria has worked very hard on her business. She’s a real maven about nutrition and health and fitness … She really couldn’t give a damn about the movie business or the television business. I don’t think this is a woman who has ever watched television. The way she was raised, the American television culture is nonexistent to her. I don’t think she’s ever seen 30 Rock. Ever. I love that about her.”

As with most events in his life and career, @AlecBaldwin took to Twitter to address the Emmys flap. The offending line in the sketch he dropped out of made fun of the phone-hacking scandal engulfing News Corp., Fox TV’s parent company whose chief executive is Rupert Murdoch. “Fox did kill my NewsCorp hacking joke. Which sucks bc I think it would have made them look better. A little,” Baldwin tweeted to his 360,000-odd followers, referring to the deleted scene in which he’s on the phone with a colleague, notices someone listening in and asks: “Rupert, is that you? I hear you breathing, Rupert!”   

“Comedy is very binary,” Baldwin told me before the controversy erupted. “The writing is either funny or it’s not. And so much of what you see now is more cute than funny. So many of the films you see now are more outrageous than funny.” He added: “When you do drama you bring a lot of things to bear. It’s a little more watery, if you will.”

Speaking of drama of the watery variety, Baldwin recently found himself at the center of a different hullabaloo involving his tweet about an employee at his favorite Upper West Side coffee emporium: “Starbucks on 93 and B’way. Uptight Queen barrista [sic] named JAY has an attitude problem.” The actor explained: “I like [Twitter] because it’s a way of communicating with a whole audience-slash-fans. It’s instantaneous, and it’s unfiltered by any other media, or by some producer or some editor.” 

Baldwin said his Starbucks tweet was a preemptive strike—an effort to get his version of the encounter on the record before it could be spun by the New York Post, a tabloid with which he has enjoyed a less than happy relationship. He recently tweeted that a certain Post reporter is “a sleazy, from-under-a-rock tab gnat.” Page Six had long derided him as “The Bloviator” until he and Richard Johnson, the gossip column’s veteran editor who left last October, entered into a truce several years ago.

“Whenever they decide they want to be in some kind of spat with me, it must be a very slow news day in the gossip mill,” Baldwin noted. “I do remember that when Johnson was there, I did have a peace with him. I guess the people there now must be bored.” On Sept. 11, Baldwin tweeted: “A woman … from the Post JUST CAME TO MY APT BLDG!! ON THE 9-11 ANNIVERSARY!!! To ask me about Starbucks.”

Baldwin said he has since received a letter of apology from Starbucks’ corporate headquarters in Seattle. “It’s a storm of controversy when the New York Post decided it’s a storm of controversy,” he added. “For me it was an unfortunate thing where this guy was just a jerk.” He added that he’s “a dyed-in-the-wool Starbucks fan” and will continue patronizing the 93rd Street location, if he’s in the neighborhood, “without hesitation.”    

Concerning other food issues, Baldwin revealed he has tasted Ben & Jerry’s new Schweddy Balls ice cream—named after a character he played on SNL. “They messengered a sample to me, packed in dry ice. It was one of the last ice cream desserts I ate because for three months now I’ve been on a no-sugar diet. I eat fish, but I don’t eat meat. I’m a pescatarian.”

Did Hilaria put him on the new diet?    

“No, no. My doctor put me on the no-sugar regimen. But Hilaria is a good influence,” he said. “I’m doing yoga with my friends in the summertime. Then the rest of the year I don’t because once I start doing 30 Rock I’m kind of an indentured slave most of the week. But I’m probably going again to yoga because she’s convinced me that it’s probably the best thing for my aching joints.”

This is reportedly the final season of NBC’s 30 Rock—which went into syndication this week—and Baldwin has been musing publicly about running for mayor of New York, and perhaps getting a master’s degree in public administration.

“If I did run, I’d want to go out and learn as much as I could about the way the city’s finances work. That’s essential,” he told me. “You can be someone running—not me—who is just a soaring leader of people. But if you don’t have the finances down, you’re going to have a problem.”    

Baldwin has long been attracted to public service and uses his celebrity to promote a variety of causes. “To be perfectly honest with you, so much of what I do now is like that anyway—raising money and supporting causes and positions in public policy,” he said. “I’ve been spending a lot of time doing what a congressman does, with the exception that I don’t have a federal office and budget and I don’t have the authority to spend government money.”

But could he ever channel his many colorful opinions into a disciplined message?

“I’m quite confident that I can do whatever all those other men and women have done in order to obtain political office,” Baldwin told me. “I don’t think there’s any trick to running a campaign. But can I tailor those opinions and soften them on behalf of a successful campaign? I guess the answer to that is, we’ll see.”