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Tyne Daly: A ‘Gypsy’ on the Move

Tyne Daly is yawning.

The day before, she had been in Minneapolis, doing back-to-back 2 1/2-hour performances of “Gypsy.”

Today, she awoke early, packed her suitcase, breakfasted with her daughter, got a massage, did a matinee, headed for the airport and flew to Los Angeles. Now, at 9 p.m., nursing a glass of apple juice in the VIP lounge at LAX, the 43-year-old Daly is cordial and professional--but very, very tired. The conversation tumbles out unchecked: serious, unemotional, intelligent, assured. Take it or leave it.

In the 30th anniversary revival of “Gypsy” (opening tonight at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion,) she plays Rose, the overbearing stage mother of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. And yes, TV fans, she can sing: “When I was a kid, I trained to be in the musical theater. I went to the Music and Dramatic Academy. To be the ‘It’ girl on Broadway in a big, fat musical is a longstanding fantasy of mine--much more than being on the silver screen.”

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Two months into her yearlong run (which will culminate in New York), Daly may show the wear-and-tear of the tour--but has no regrets over her choice.

“I’m hooked onto playing the part,” she says bluntly. “It was the right thing to do. I wanted to make some sort of quantum leap. There’s not very much more I could do on television. It’s time to change my category a bit. And it isn’t very often that one gets a crack at the great parts.”

She credits her father, the late actor James Daly, for driving that point home to her early on.

“I remember once when he was doing a Camel cigarette commercial--before everyone knew cigarettes could kill you--and I was maybe 15 or 16, very mad to be an actor. I said to him in a sort of egotistical way that I understood why he was doing the Camel ad: so he could have the freedom to wait till the marvelous scripts came along--to be able to pick and choose, not just do dreck. He said, ‘You stupid girl. If you’re going to make this your profession, you’re going to do a certain portion of stuff that’s not very worthy.’ ”

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Accordingly, the actress does not take her own good fortune--four Emmy Awards for her six years on “Cagney & Lacey"--for granted.

“I’ve been enormously lucky,” she says. “I had a wonderful part to do on television for a long time. I’ve had good parts in movies-of-the-week and some of the episodic television as I was coming along. But if I’d had to pay the rent, I would’ve done other things, you know? I don’t know what would’ve happened in my life if I hadn’t been lucky. But that’s pointless to worry about. I do think if I hadn’t had the success I’d be acting anyway--making community theater, teaching little kids how to act.”

And she wouldn’t miss the celebrity limelight. Not one bit.

“The spotlight moves awful fast. There were maybe 2 1/2 years in there when getting through an airport was kind of weird. Whoever’s got the television show that’s happening now has that spotlight. It moves--which is great. If it didn’t, (the scrutiny) would be unrelieved.”

Her own celebrity came at a healthy time: “I already knew I was a good actor. I had some projects I could point to with pride. I’d also done some bad stuff and survived. It’s important to know you don’t die from it, that you can come back into the public favor again.”

The actress is likewise sanguine about the balancing effort work requires in her personal life. While Daly has been away, her husband of 23 years, actor-director Georg Stanford Brown, has been holding down the home front in Los Angeles with 4-year-old Alyxandra; aside from a brief visit three weeks ago, husband and wife haven’t been together in two months.

“Two months is not your entire life, you know,” Daly says briskly. “It’s feeling very long right now ‘cause I just got off an airplane and I’m very tired. In St. Louis, I got so lonely one night that I dyed my hair.”

No mommy guilts? “Sure.” Longings for normal time at home? “I don’t know about normal,” she says with a shrug. “Normal to me is you follow the work. See, I’m an actor’s kid. My dad always went away. He was gone at Christmas, gone on birthdays, gone on anniversaries--then he was back again. And back again was the interesting part, ‘cause we did things together, appreciated each other. Then he was gone. I never understood that other people had a father who got up every day, had breakfast at a certain time, left for work, returned at this hour--and they’d do it every day for 40 years!”

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The actress (who will resurface on television this fall in the lighthearted movie caper “Stuck With Each Other"--co-starring Richard Crenna and directed by husband Brown) smiles indulgently.

“I’m rather a big fan of change. I like changing venues, changing theaters, changing houses, changing personas, changing clothes. I’m not afraid of change. I think in fact it’s the only constant in our life. And I do have my version of stability. No, it’s not in my schedule or the workplace. The stability comes from relying on the people I love and know well. I have intimacies. I haven’t flitted from relationship to relationship like a lost soul.”

Indeed, when it comes to her private life, Daly is circumspect.

“It’s good to have a few secrets,” she says. “Some things are not for sale. The children, for instance. When Alyxandra was born--well, I had the prettiest baby in Hollywood, and I knew it. But I also didn’t want to sell her to the magazine covers. We didn’t do it with the other girls (Alisabeth, 21, and Kathryne, 18) either.”

Also off bounds for the media: interviews at the family home. Explained Daly: “It’s about keeping some place that’s private, because there’s an awful lot of (public) giving.”

The appreciation she gets back? “I don’t know if I need it,” Daly says of the recognition, “but I like it. As much as I’m a ham, a public showoff, I’m also a hermit. I think of acting as the need to show off coupled with the ability to disappear behind someone else. And it’s a lot easier for me to show off as someone else than it is to show off as myself. That’s why I like wigs and accents and (putty) noses and limps and false teeth. It’s revealing myself--but from a hiding place.”


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