Life According to Gray

Spalding Gray was sitting in his New York home feeling a little blue.

His first book, "Impossible Vacation," was nearing publication, a bold undertaking for someone who's used to weaving his stories into theatrical monologues--on stage. "It's the first thing I've written rather than transcribed," he said nervously. "I read slower than I write. And it was lonely; there was no audience acting as editor. Audiences have always taught me what was working, even by their silence."

While he awaits assessment of his literary prowess, the Rhode Island native also has a few physical problems to contend with. "I chipped my tooth on a bagel chip," he said darkly. "I'll never eat bagel chips again." As for that pesky retina that keeps slipping over his pupil, Gray, 48, tries to be optimistic. "The doctor says maybe it will fix itself," he sighed. "Or maybe not."

One bright note is Wednesday's airing of "Spalding Gray's Terrors of Pleasure" (at 10:30 p.m. on Channel 28), a dark, comic journey into the contemplation of responsible adulthood and (gulp) home ownership.

Gray, who's entertained audiences here and abroad with his eclectic collection of life experiences (KCET's "Bedtime Story" detailed a harrowing period in Hollywood, "Swimming to Cambodia" his time filming "The Killing Fields") is never far from the stage. Currently working on an AIDS interview project, Gray will return in December with his latest monologue--a reverie on travels to Nicaragua, Moscow and Leningrad--at Los Angeles Theatre Center.

In the meantime, he hopes to slip in a few movie roles. Last seen as a network executive trying to corrupt Albert Finney in HBO's "The Image," Gray's screen credits include "True Stories," "Clara's Heart" and "Beaches." (He was the nice doctor Bette Midler dumped.) "They always cast me as a senator," he lamented. "The problem is that I look like Robert Frost--but I feel like Woody Allen."

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