In a normal year, Alec Baldwin — sometimes with his wife, Hilaria, and sometimes with one or two or five kids (with another on the way) — is ubiquitous in these here parts.
Whether it’s the Authors Night at East Hampton Library — of which he is the founding honorary chair — or the Hamptons International Film Festival (rebranded as HamptonsFilm), which he co-chairs, or co-hosting “Afternoon Ramble” with Brian Cosgrove on 88.3 WPPB-FM, or other organizations on the East End which he supports, it’s not just his name on an invitation, or a check in the mail, or a quick how-do-you-do at some swank soiree.
If you get Alec Baldwin, you really get Alec Baldwin. He’s all in — irrevocably, passionately, and with all of his heart.
Or, you might just see him on Main Street, eating pizza, usually with a child attached to him, or in a conversation with Kevin McAllister of Defend H2O, or at a panel discussion for the film festival.
But this is not a normal year.
Not even close.
These days, even the locals will only see him more indirectly — on “Saturday Night Live,” where he has gathered a new generation of viewers with his uproarious impersonation of President Trump, and yet another generation through his wildly popular Instagram account, @alecbaldwininsta, which boasts over 1.6 million followers and features occasional Trump impersonations, lots of family life, and his unwavering support of others, especially those who may have faded in recent years. Baldwin has a soft spot for those who have come before him, and he has done heartfelt salutes to those who have recently left us due to COVID-19, like the East End’s Patricia Bosworth and the American Place Theatre’s artistic director Wynn Handman.
There’s also his podcast, “Here’s The Thing,” produced by Sag Harbor resident Kathie Russo for NYC Studios, where Baldwin talks to luminaries from all walks of life — the arts, social activism, and politics.
There is so much more, but there is limited space here to recount all of his fame, his philanthropy, his foundations, his family.
But now, coronavirus. How has that affected the Baldwins? “I had a few jobs lined up,” Baldwin said. “All very good and exciting in their own way. And, fortunately, in New York. Then — POOF! — all gone. We are out east, homeschooling the kids and trying to keep them distracted from it all,” he said.
“Here’s The Thing” has been up and running for over 11 years. Baldwin, one can muse, is a journalist at heart, in the best sense of the word — he has a natural curiosity about people and why they do what they do, and how to draw them out. Who have been some of his favorite guests, and who would be some of his dream guests?
“I suppose Paul McCartney, out of sheer fandom,” he answered. “President Obama. The Pope. Meryl Streep. Jane Fonda. Warren Beatty. Redford. The list is quite long,” he said.
His Insta account features very intimate moments of his home life, pieces of news that he finds important, along with his “rants.” It’s a portrait of a life, with warts and all. What is the message, if there is one? “The term is actually ‘rambles,’ as I think rants has a pejorative connotation,” Baldwin replied. “My message varies but, like my podcast, appreciation is at the core. Music, movies, books. I love to share what I have enjoyed.”
As far as the pandemic, Baldwin’s said he hoped people “will understand that who the President is and what he or she is capable of can mean life and death in a new way.”
But, he’s also heartened, he said, “to see many members of this community come together on behalf of funding daycare for first responders’ children and food banks. This is an unimaginable nightmare. We all must do what we can.”
What does he want the next generation, and the generations after that, to know about the importance of supporting the arts?
“Music is what people remember,” Baldwin said. “Scenes from movies. Paintings. Literature. Not bills passed by Congress. The arts get into our blood and heart and soul like nothing else. They’re all that matter in the end.”
And if the pandemic magically disappeared tomorrow, what’s the first thing he would want to do?