As Alec Baldwin made the rounds, table to table, at a dinner party Friday night at the University of Buffalo's Center for the Arts, the buzz in the room could be summarized like this: "Wow, he's so thin!" The "30 Rock" star shook hands, posed for photos and chatted with big-ticket guests before his staged reading of Clifford Odets' "The Big Knife." (For a review by News Features Editor Melinda Miller of that performance, see the Gusto Extra page in Sunday's Buffalo News.)
The once-portly actor is quick to talk about his transformation:
“I gave up sugar. I lost 30 pounds in four months. It’s amazing," he said in a recent TV interview. “(I do) Pilates, spin, not as much yoga as I’d like. When we’re shooting (‘30 Rock’), it’s tough… I just have to eat less. But sugar was the real killer for me.”
Shown here at a charity event last fall with his girlfriend, Hilaria Thomas, the 53-year-old Baldwin has strong ties to Buffalo's Road Less Traveled Productions. Those ties are based largely on his friendship with artistic director Scott Behrend.
The Emmy-award winning actor has appeared twice before in Buffalo to benefit the non-profit theater company -- reading from Yasmina Reza’s "Art" in 2006 and from David Mamet’s "Speed-the-Plow" in 2009 -- and serves on its advisory board.
He calls Thomas, a 27-year-old Spanish-born yoga instructor, "probably one of the greatest people I've ever met in my life." The father of a 16-year-old daughter, Ireland, with his ex-wife, actress Kim Basinger, Baldwin told British TV host Piers Morgan this week that he'd like to start a new family. "That," he said, "would be heaven."
As Baldwin chatted up donors last night, Road Less Traveled's co-founder and literary director Jon Elston was more interested in Baldwin's artistic commitment.
"He has a sincere and quite extraordinary interest in theater on all levels," said Elston, who is also the resident playwright of the theater company, which is based downtown in the Market Arcade Film & Arts Center. "He really believes in how important it is, and that's been incredibly helpful to us."