St. Petersburg Times - TV Dial
May 22, 1988

 Bronson Pinchot is a Survivor
By Stephanie DuBois - Tribune media services

HOLLYWOOD - The eyes with the irrepressible twinkle that millions of Balki Bartokomous fans have come to love are hidden behind Bronson Pinchot's black-rimmed glasses.  The Perfect Strangers actor is low key and subdued as he talks from behind his desk in the sparsely furnished trailer on the Lorimar Studios lot.

As his personal assistant goes to get soft drinks, he expresses his appreciate for all that she does for him.

"I went a longer time than most people before I hired an assistant.  I was going crazy trying to do everything myself," says Pinchot.

And he says it didn't occur to him to hire a publicist until "I went to the Emmys with Mark Linn-Baker, and his publicist was like 'Now this is your seat and the backstage bathrooms are over there.'  I was sitting there thinking, 'Nobody cares about whether I fall, have a heart attack, die or even know where the bathroom is.'"

"It's a surrogate dad kind of thing," says the 28-year-old of his publicist.  "He acts as a buffer for the press and takes me around and says, 'Now you do this.'  It's great."

"I feel like I did when I was in college.  The food was there.  The room was there and I could just play.  I'm free to just kind of be the 11-year-old that I am.  I feel my personal propensity for playing has come into its own."

Though the child in Pinchot is having the time of his life now, he says all the good times in the world would still not erase the past.

"They say your subconscious has no concept of time, so the part of you that was 11 years old and miserable is still alive inside you," says Pinchot.

Unpopular in school, Pinchot describes himself as having been "a funny-looking kid.  Obese, teeth sticking out in every direction.  And if that wasn't bad enough, people mistreated me because I was precocious and smart.  It was very painful.

"Even now when I jump out of a limo and there's a billion people taking photographs, there's still a really alive kid inside me who's saying, 'Why didn't anyone like me in school?'"

The actor (who was featured in Risky Business and Beverly Hills Cop) wants people to know how miserable his childhood was, so that kids who are unpopular will take heart in the fact "this was a kid you couldn't possibly have guessed would make it."

He wants the bookworms, wallflowers and class rejects to find strength in the fact that youngsters who experience rejection from their peers "are the survivors.  They're on a springlike diving board.  They can bounce on those experiences and bounce high.

"The people who were the captains of the teams petered out.  They hit their peak at 17.  And now ten years later they're like the gentleman caller in The Glass Menagerie, wondering 'Where did it go?'  They were on a nice solid board in high school but you can't get any bounce out of that.  Some people don't peak till they're forty.  I'd rather be one of those people.  If you peak in your teens, what are you going to do at 76?"

Pinchot says even in his youth, there was "always somebody who cared.  Some teacher who knew you were the smartest kid in school."  But back then he didn't realize the importance of someone else's belief in his abilities.

"It's really interesting to let other people influence you and say 'I see you as this,'" says Pinchot, who almost passed up the opportunity to do Perfect Strangers because his own vision of himself was limited.

"Three years ago, right after I did Beverly Hills Cop, these producers came to me and said, 'We deeply feel you are right to play this character we've got in our heads who is all heart, innocence and love," explains Pinchot.  "I thought they were literally from Mars.  I was thinking, 'Where the hell do you see this?'  I'd just played this incredibly cynical, jaded, arms-length character who was wrapped up in his own sexuality and sense of style.  I didn't know if I could do it and it scared me."

Now, says Pinchot of the incorrigibly innocent character he plays on the ABC series, "I can't picture myself playing a bad guy."

Pinchot says he has come to love what Balki stands for.  "The character does spread a message of love.  Sometimes when I'm having a bad day or somebody says, 'You're a brat,' I say, 'But you know what?  Once a week I make 30-million people smile.  That's what I do for a living, Buster!  What do you do?"

He laughs -- and behind the black-rimmed glasses I finally catch a glimpse of that irrepressible twinkle.