I’ve been an actor most of my life. And while I like acting I love writing. I’ve been doing it for a couple of decades now and am currently working on a couple of novels. One is a political thriller, with a mystical twist, inspired by the question of what would happen if a terrorist leader had a crisis of conscience and realized jihad was wrong. What wheels would that set in motion, for those who doubted his intention and those who wanted it to be true? The other is a story about a vampire in the process of reversing the dark trajectory of his soul, and the consequences to those in his life now.
My work starts with a passion for exposing our shadow side and my fascination with the metaphysical world. These are the stories I’m compelled to tell and the books I love to write, all dealing with the complexity of human transformation – from the belief we’re all separate – through the journey to realize we’re all one.
Here’s where we get “meta.” With horror and violence pretty much everywhere, and always has been, the idea we’re all one can be a tough concept for the mind to wrap itself around. “We’re not like those people,” the mind wants to claim. But truth is, we are. We have been; many times through history. We’ve been the good and the bad. That is the connective tissue as our soul travels through time. If this is something that speaks to you, you’ll find it here. But, the mind isn’t the vehicle to grasp this, the heart and soul are. And, if you hang with me, you’ll get a greater sense of my journey, because I’ll explore the world of past lives. It’s the core of what I write, even though the stories are framed within the world of genres.
I’m not the only one who’s fascinated by reincarnation. There are doctors, psychologists, scholars, and scientists, among many others, who’ve made it their life’s work. I’m not preaching. I’m presenting a possibility. One that fascinates me in such a way that I’ve been willing to spend energy, time and years exploring it through what I write.
Okay. Now, here’s how writing came to be a serious passion for me.
Friends were dying in the early 1980s from AIDS, at the time called, a silent plague. My wife and I began answering the call for help that went out, drawn to put a spotlight on the lack of attention and funding to the crisis. This is the moment I knew I wanted to be a writer and tell stories that weren’t being told, like what would happen if the President of the United State got AIDS? This was the jumping off point for my first film script.
My next script made it to Sundance. The film was called Save Me. It’s a drama about reparative therapy – a process that professes (misguidedly) to turn gay people straight. It was critically acknowledged for the way it created complex characters on both sides of that equation. The NY Times wrote, “Save Me has a lot of heart.” The LA Times wrote: “This is a modest, thoughtful, independent production of exceptional insight and quietly devastating power.”
Now, I’ve spent my life telling stories as an actor, so story telling is in my blood. My early work in television brought me to the world of daytime soaps, of which I did many. I played an Italian prince on Search for Tomorrow. On One Life to Live, I played the pimp, Steve Piermont, and met my future wife, Judith Light, who played the “common hooker,” Karen Wolack and she won two Emmys for that astonishing work. Each of these were a unique learning experience that helped build confidence, because believe it or not, I was shy and spent much time alone. The need for solitude comes in handy facing the blank pages with which writers must deal.
I was a regular on Knot’s Landing. Did a few episodes of Cheers, playing Sam’s archrival Gary. I’ve worked alongside hundreds of talented and well-known actors and actresses. One of them became my wife.
I starred on HBO’s first-ever dramatic series, Maximum Security, with Jean Smart as the prison shrink, produced by Ron Howard. I played the cop father to Christina Applegate (age 14) on ABCs Heart of the City. She was extraordinary then and continues to be.
I was on The Sopranos, befriending Tony, then killed by him for working with the FBI. This prompted my Aunt Marie to say to me in her inimitable Bronx accent, “Robert, why do you always wind up dead on the floor?” As a writer I decide who lives and who dies. Gotta love being able to do that.
But being a writer was never in my conscious mind growing up in The Bronx. Early on I wanted to be a baseball player. In high school that interest was replaced by forensic competitions and debate. In college that interest turned to radio and theatre. Still, writing hadn’t entered the picture. I moved on from college and paid the bills working as a deejay in Dover, N.J and acted in local theatre.
I relocated to Boston to be part of the birth of the Boston Shakespeare Company, and worked overnights on a premier rock station there (WCOZ-FM.) Here’s where what I write had a platform, even though I never put a pen to paper.
I’d established a half-hour segment of my four-hour radio shift from 2-6am I called The Hour of the Wolf. Came from a Bergman film of the same name. It’s the hour before dawn when folks go mad. Perfect set up to for the macabre, which I loved. That love of the macabre would transform into my fascination with the metaphysical.
Four nights a week the music stopped and I did a one-man show reading from the works of Poe, Lovecraft, Richard Matheson, and the like. I was heavily influence by Rod Serling and the Twilight Zone; short stories of the weird and mysterious. Boston was a huge college town, and I had a huge audience at 4am, which then moved to the 10pm – 2am slot. And my listenership grew during that midnight “Wolf” hour.
I moved to New York City when I felt the time was right to give acting a full push. But acting off and off-off broadway didn’t pay much, so I was lucky enough to grab weekend gigs on WRVR-FM, a jazz station in Brooklyn and rocked on WPIX –FM in the heart of Manhattan.
Still no interest in writing, but I was mesmerized by the great playwrights – Shakespeare, Albee, Shepard, Mamet. I cribbed Mamet for the evolution of my radio drama days in Boston.
A friend of mine, who believe it or not, was a lifeguard at Plato’s Retreat, the premier sex club in Manhattan in the early eighties. Scary to think of all that freedom now, in light of the devastation that came soon after. My contact with Plato’s was via the airwaves on PIX, in case you’re wondering. We’d play scenes from Mamet over the phone, as if we were making it up on the spot. He from the lifeguard-stand in the Ansonia Hotel where Plato’s was housed, me from the PIX studios on 42nd Street.
I think this gives you a sense of who I am, and if you’re interested, follow me. It’ll be entertaining and you’ll get some metaphysical ideas thrown your way. Truth is, I bet a lot of this will resonate.
You know, I just had this thought about my life as a writer, and when it really began. It actually happened at birth. For these were the first words my father wrote about me when I was born:
“I entered this new world on September 9, 1951 all banged up and I looked a mess. Doc Bannano looked tired and weary and so did my dad. I seemed to have gone through the mill.”
He wrote in my voice. So, I guess you could say my life as a writer began the moment I breathed air. I’ll leave it here for now. As they say, to be continued…