Sandy Cohen Is Gone, Peter Gallagher Is Back

During the hour-long show, Mr. Gallagher will also regale the audience with a few stories—most of which, he offered, will revisit the earlier half of his prolific and varied acting career. For better or worse, he will probably not delve too deeply (if at all) into his aforementioned movie and television roles. (Mr. Gallagher seemed aware of the fact that a good chunk of his cabaret audience might not even know who Sandy Cohen is.) “It’s going to be like a glimpse backstage, or at least if I had a backstage area—however unpleasantly that could be misconstrued,” he laughed. “I’ll mostly be talking about other people. I’ll tell some stories about working with [Peter] O’Toole”—on the 1988 film High Spirits—“and hopefully we’ll illuminate something about something.”

Mr. Gallagher seems fascinated with a kind of mythic, sepia-tinted version of Old Hollywood—a place where leading men were themselves first and actors second. Before he quoted the iconic Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni in order to describe the “luxury-tourist” experiences had by film stars abroad, Mr. Gallagher half-jokingly explained how “every part I play has me in it. No matter how hard I may try, I just can’t seem to escape myself.”

As it happens, Peter Gallagher actually is quite adept at escaping himself, if only with his voice. Over the phone, he offered up a few trailer tales fro
m the past that revealed his remarkable gift for mimicry. From Mr. O’Toole to Jimmy Cagney, Mr. Gallagher’s spot-on impressions fly forth without hesitation. He plans to tell stories about working with the comedic actor Stubby Kaye and, of course, with Robert Altman, who directed Mr. Gallagher in The Player and Short Cuts. He will undoubtedly resurrect the likes of Jack Lemmon, who also appeared in the latter film. “I had extraordinary experiences with Jack Lemmon; he was like a father to me,” said Mr. Gallagher, who soon after acted out a hysterical run-in with the two-time Academy Award winner that involved, among other things, the Queen of England.

Preparing to leave L.A. for a few weeks reminded Mr. Gallagher of a time before The O.C., when his work would often take him away from his family in his native New York. “What’s great about out here is, it’s the closest thing to a civilian life that we’ve ever had, because when I was [on The O.C.], I was working where I lived,” he said. On top of everything else, the TV series showed him that “a steady job is a very powerful thing,” but he added that his wife and two kids ultimately accept the consequences of his career. “At the end of the day, we’ve got to admit who we are, which is: We’re gypsies, and it’s what we do—it’s what I do,” he recalled telling them.

“This is the first time in four years that my horizon is wide open, and it’s very exciting,” he continued with audible emotion, “So I thought, if I don’t put together some kind of a show soon, I’ll just be lying on my deathbed thinking, ‘Why didn’t you, jerk?!’” Mr. Gallagher mentioned the future several times during his interview with The Observer, but when asked if he had any plans after “Songs and Stories” ends in June, the actor didn’t hesitate in looking to the past: “I’ve been around the block long enough to know that the grass isn’t greener really anywhere. And if you have something that’s good and that’s working, it’s a rare, wonderful thing.”

Sandy Cohen Is Gone, Peter Gallagher Is Back