The Wichita Eagle
September 21, 1986

Pinchot Looks for Balki's Roots

Written by: Betterlou Peterson, Knight-Ridder News Service

In the mountains of northwestern Greece, villagers are wondering about the sanity of Americans.

A few weeks ago, a young fellow from the United States wandered the back roads.  He wasn't seeking his ethnic roots, didn't speak the language - though he picked up enough to surprise himself - wanted to know about sheepherding and, strangest of all, bought clothes and shoes, no matter how old, right off a man's back.

The tourist was Bronson Pinchot combining research and vacation before he went back to work on the first full season of ABC's spring hit, "Perfect Strangers," on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on KAKE, Ch. 10.

Pinchot fell in love with Greece on his first visit in 1985, and if he'd listened to friends, wary of terrorist incidents and radiation from the Chernobyl accident, he would have stayed home this year.

Actually, Balki Bartokomous, the young immigrant who comes to live with his startled American cousin (Mark Linn-Baker) in "Strangers," isn't Greek.  Balki is a sheepherder from a fictitious "small Mediterranean country," Nipos (sic), in the show.

''They told me to pick a country for him," said Pinchot.  "Being in love with Greece, I suggested that.  But if we wanted to have him do crazy things, someone might get their nose out of joint, so we made up a country.  I use an accent that's a combination of four or five."

So far, Balki has delighted and not offended, says Pinchot.  "People want to claim him, not complain.  A Russian man stopped me the other day and insisted he (Balki) was Russian.  The prop man's wife insists he's Yugoslavian."

''We don't make fun," Pinchot pointed out.  "Balki is bright, innocent and naive.  He sees the U.S. with a fresh perspective and appreciates things we take for granted."

Bronson Alcott Pinchot is the son of Russian and Italian immigrants.  His father, a bookbinder, borrowed the name Pinchot from a New York building.

Bronson grew up in Pasadena, Calif., and went to Yale on a fine-arts scholarship.  Painting was replaced by acting after he auditioned for a college play.