The Doctors

In the issue of New York Magazine released February 23, Alec Baldwin expressed his disgust for the paparazzi in New York City, saying, “I loathe and despise the media in a way I did not think possible,” and “I just can’t live in New York anymore.”

Knots Landing’s Alec Baldwin and Lisa Hartman on Digest cover, 4/23/85

Knots Landing’s Alec Baldwin and Lisa Hartman on Digest cover, 4/23/85

My first thought was, how do Jerry Seinfeld, Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Susan Sarandon, Michael J. Fox, Kelly Ripa, Kevin Bacon and Tina Fey live in Manhattan with such ease while for Alec Baldwin it is a daily struggle? The answer is that Alec has a different temperament and is unable to walk away from conflict (like paparazzi), so he therefore should have picked a less volatile area of the entertainment business.

He should have stayed in soaps.

Do you have any idea how many times I didn’t print something I knew to be true because it had been promised as an exclusive to TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly, or in one memorable instance, a cancer diagnosis was being pitched to OPRAH? Never mind all the Daytime backstage affairs, arguments, restraining orders and trips to rehab?

Think of the “biggest scandals” in soaps over the past few decades: Y&R’s Eric Braeden head-butting Peter Bergman… AMC’s Michael Nader arrested for “criminal sale of a controlled substance”… ATWT’s Nathaniel Marston arrested for beating up an ATM machine (and then later being charged with assault while on OLTL after OLTL gave him a second chance). I reported on those incidents in Soap Opera Digest, Soap Opera Weekly and/or The New York Daily News because the police were involved and they went public. In recent years, other events have exploded on Twitter or tabloid websites which were then reported in the “soap press.” But we normally don’t write anything involving a serious problem with an actor or storyline on a soap opera that hasn’t come out somewhere else first for one simple reason:

IT HURTS THE SHOW.

That’s it.

Did you look at AMC’s dreamy Dimitri Marick the same way after learning that he had been accused of driving drunk with his young daughter in the car, or been arrested in a drug den? Do you really want to know that the “happily married” soap star you idolize has had affairs with three women on his show (so far)? Would you still envy this A-list soap couple’s marriage if you knew they had actually been separated for over a year? No, no and no.

And that’s the reason Alec Baldwin should have stayed on soaps – because soap journalists respect the MEDIUM. We believe that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We don’t hire photographers to provoke Eric Braeden in his driveway or ambush Susan Lucci at the grocery store. We let actors announce on their own terms that their marriages are over. Once, I even called an actress and told her it was about to come out that she was dating her co-star so she needed to confirm that she had separated from her husband SIX MONTHS AGO. That’s just how we roll – and I like it that way.

If Alec Baldwin had stayed on soaps after his promising stint as Billy Aldrich on The Doctors (1980-82) and star turn on Knots Landing as Joshua Rush (1984-85), he could have made about $1 million a year through the 80s and 90s (with no forced travel). Yes, he would have had to take a pay cut some time during the last 10 years like most other big stars did. But that’s still more than enough money to live on when privacy is priceless to you. Did Thorsten Kaye ever have an argument with a flight attendant because he was playing “Words with Friends” while the plane was taking off? We’ll never know, because that’s not news in our world.

Yes, a career for Alec Baldwin in soaps would have deprived us of his amazing “Always Be Closing” speech in Glengarry Glen Ross and that classic Schweddy Balls skit on SNL and every golden line out of Jack Donaghy’s mouth on 30 Rock, but look on the bright side:

He could be walking his dogs and pushing his baby stroller today in peace.