Tutor to the stars

D.R. Belz

January 29, 1993|By D.R. Belz

THIS morning my wife left me for a Hollywood star. She's been doing this for some time now. She said she'd be back later this afternoon. I'm wondering why I put her up to it.

The Hollywood star is involved in homicide.

"Be careful," I said when the affair started.

"He's only 13," she said. Besides, she reminded me, he didn't really commit a homicide. He's an actor in the TV miniseries "Homicide," which debuts Sunday after the Super Bowl. The Barry Levinson "Homicide." I'll be watching for the kid my wife tutored, to see if he blows any lines or anything.

My wife said he's very polished, that he's a good student and likes his regular school back in New York. She said his mother comes to the set with him in Fells Point and is very protective.

"That's good," I said.

As a writer, one of my habits is to read the daily newspaper cover 'What's this Daniel Baldwin got that I ain't got?' 'A hit TV series,' she said.

to cover, searching for interesting or bizarre stories, tidbits to spin off into plots and articles. The other people who do this are the ones who play the ponies.

It all started when I spotted an ad for a tutor. My wife is a foreign language tutor, so I clipped the ad and taped it to the refrigerator door. She called the New York telephone number and talked to a company that sets up tutoring services for children when they tour the country shooting movies and TV series, performing on stage and training for athletic competition.

My wife commutes to the "Homicide" set in Fells Point in the morning, and when the kid actor isn't on the set, he's "in school" with tutors the New York company has hired. The actors' union regulations stipulate a certain amount of time each day the kid stars must be embraced in the bosom of academe.

My wife says that as soon as her feet alight from the car, she's escorted everywhere she goes by someone with a headset. When she is tutoring the young star, this assistant to the assistant to the assistant director hovers anxiously nearby.

I try to sound as if I am a party to this new-found glamour, a co-conspirator.

"I'll bet you eat very well," I told her before the first day. "That's the thing about movie sets. They always get great caterers."

I know this because I used to write television commercials and got to sit around and yuk it up on the sets as the commercials were filmed. Food, it seemed, was something just short of a fetish for the production crews. This is probably because shooting commercial film consists of seconds of extremely tense work juxtaposed against hours of mind-numbing tedium. Eating takes the edge off.

That evening, my wife acknowledged that there had been much grazing in Fells Point. "It was amazing. I could basically get whatever I wanted to eat."

"Did you see anybody famous? Did you get to meet Barry Levinson?"

"No, but a nice, young man did come up and welcome me to the set. It turned out he was the series director."

"Did you get a chance to talk to Ned Beatty?"

"Who's Ned Beatty?" My wife spent the better part of her childhood in foreign countries, so sometimes she doesn't recognize icons of popular American culture like Ned Beatty ("Hear My Song," "Deliverance"). She can, however, regale you with interesting details about Diana of Great Britain and Caroline Monaco. She can tell you what brand of underarm deodorant they use.

Later, watching TV, we saw a program with Ned Beatty in it

"That's Ned Beatty," I said.

"Oh, yes. He speaks to me all the time. He's very nice."

"Yeah, well, he's famous," I said.

"Daniel Baldwin speaks to me, too," she said.

Now it was my turn to be ignorant of the famous.

"I don't know him," I said.

"He's Alec and William's brother. He's very friendly."

"What's this Daniel Baldwin got that I ain't got?"

"A hit TV series," she said.

From now on, I will curb the urge to clip from the newspaper unless it is for the ponies.

D. R. Belz is a Baltimore writer.

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