This is the second consecutive year that actor Fred Grandy has celebrated spring in Syracuse. Grandy was in town in March 2018 to kick off the new Redhouse at City Center complex on South Salina Street, as he starred with his daughter Marya in a production of On Golden Pond. Now Grandy is back with Pond director Vincent J. Cardinal for the comedy-drama I’m Not Rappaport, and they’ve corralled Grandy’s former Love Boat co-star Ted Lange to join the party.
Grandy took a sabbatical from show business following Love Boat’s 1986 cancellation to serve four terms as an Iowa congressman (1987–1995), followed by a long radio stint on a conservative-leaning talk show in Washington, D.C. Lange has made a slew of post-Love Boat guest appearances on episodes of Evening Shade, Scrubs and Drake & Josh. His eclectic list of favorite performers includes Billy Barty, Harvey Lembeck, Pat Morita, Maureen McCormick and Shari Belafonte.
The actors have done a boatload of radio and TV appearances to promote the show, and now it’s the Syracuse New Times’ turn.
Was it easy to get back into acting opposite each other for I’m Not Rappaport?
Ted Lange: I feel like it’s like Abbott and Costello reuniting, Laurel and Hardy reuniting. And yes, it has been very easy!
Fred Grandy: I essentially learned the character I play in Rappaport by studying great burlesque, vaudeville and Borscht Belt stars like Red Buttons, Milton Berle, Jack Gilford, Buddy Hackett and Shecky Greene.
Were you starstruck with all the legendary guests appearing on The Love Boat?
Ted: Not really, because as an actor you can’t afford to be starstruck, but you can be impressed. And I was impressed by a lot of stars: Diahann Carroll, Bobby Short, Andy Warhol, Milton Berle, the list goes on.
Ted, your Love Boat handlebar mustache was almost as big as your bartender bowtie. What is the care and feeding of such a giant ’stache?
Ted: To tell you the truth, I was the low man on the totem pole and they never noticed my mustache until the third season. Then they decided it needed to be clipped.
After two successive springs in Syracuse, Fred, have you acted as Ted’s guide for where to go on the town?
Fred: I’ve shown Ted most of the highlights of Armory Square: Pastabilities, Lemongrass, Stoop Kitchen, and, of course, Kitty Hoyne’s.
Ted, what was it like transitioning from acting to directing during The Love Boat’s run? And explain your playwriting muse when it came time to pen 25 works.
Ted: I was acting, directing and writing before The Love Boat, but that show made it possible for me to join the accepted guilds. I went to the American Film Institute to study writing and directing, so every year I asked if I could direct an episode of the show. The first four years they said “No.” But on the fifth year when it was time to renegotiate my contract and I requested directing be built in, they finally said “Yes.” Playwriting came into being as a result of my writing about a half-dozen screenplays and I could not get them produced. So I started writing plays and found success with that because it’s less expensive.
Fred, you did a 1977 episode of the TV talk-show lampoon Fernwood 2-Night. What was that like?
Fred: I loved Fernwood 2-Night, with Martin Mull and Fred Willard. I played a guy who was a weed dealer masquerading as an optometrist.
You also played Herman the German in Death Race 2000, a 1975 action-comedy with David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone that was not only a wonderful Roger Corman drive-in movie but also a political satire. What was it like on that set?
Fred: I enjoyed my time on that picture. Stallone would sit in the actors’ RV and talk about this movie he was writing called Rocky. “Just what we need,” he said. “Another picture about a fighter.”
Ted, you had a small part on the ABC-TV sitcom That’s My Mama (1974–1975). During that run, did you have any pleasant memories of co-star Jester Hairston (1901–2000), a character actor as well as a noted composer?
Ted: Yes, Jes is the one that taught me if you have three laughs on a page, get a fourth laugh. In other words, get another laugh than they had scripted for me. He was a great man and a great teacher.
You acted in a production of Hair. Were you naked?
Ted: Yes, absolutely I was. If asked today I would be hesitant but back then I was gung ho!
Fred, after several terms as an Iowa congressman in the 1980s and 1990s, would you still consider running for office during these hyper-partisan times when it seems more impossible to cross the aisle and seek compromises?
Fred: I don’t miss politics for a nanosecond. To me, serving in Congress was a job, not a career. It’s like going into the Army: You enlist, you deploy, you serve, and then you go home and muster out.
Did you ever get seasick during nine seasons on The Love Boat?
Ted: There was a very famous cruise when we went to Alaska and during that cruise there was a big storm. I remember we were with our wives and we all got sick. My wife did not like cruising; whenever she got seasick I kept telling her that it was just in her mind. Then we hit a tough patch in that storm on the Alaska trip and while I was getting sick my wife was telling me, “It’s just in your mind.” And that was the last cruise she ever went on.