June 15, 1987
Strangers' Straight Man
by: Sheila Rogers
NEW YORK - As he strolls
through the East Village on a cool spring day, it's easy to see that Mark
Linn-Baker is in his element. He looks fondly at Joseph Papp's Public
Theater: "That's where I did Alice in Concert with Meryl Streep,"
he says. Usually at this time of year, he'd be doing some theater or
teaching at Vassar. Instead, Baker, 32, has to go back to L.A. in a few
days to shoot the second full season of Perfect Strangers. Thus,
his mildly melancholic mood. "I don't ever know where I live,"
Baker is nonetheless proud of
his work as Larry Appleton, the timid Chicago photojournalist who plays straight
man to Bronson Pinchot's offbeat Balki, a distant Mediterranean cousin.
"The humor of the show," Baker says, "is the two characters
leading each other through life -- the blind leading the blind." The
show's made him a star, but his heart is still with the stage. The Yale
School of Drama grad has appeared in everything from Shakespeare (All's Well
That Ends Well) to Garry Trudeau (the Broadway production of Doonesbury).
His first national exposure came in the 1982 film My Favorite Year, in
which he co-starred with Peter O'Toole.
Baker shares his Manhattan
loft with dancer Jennifer Muller, his girlfriend of three years. It's a
comfortable space, but by no means is it lavish. "I go under the
assumption that the last paycheck was the last paycheck," he says
nervously. He's still trying to cope with success. "I'm having
to learn how to work and live at the same time, " he explains.
"I'm used to doing theater -- when I'm in rehearsal for theater, I don't do
anything else. When the show opens and it's running, then the rest
of my life resumes. But doing a TV job like this, it goes on."
He sighs, then smiles, "I've never had a job that's lasted this long."