November 1, 1987; SUNDAY; ALL EDITIONS
LIFESTYLE / T V RECORD; Pg. 040
SECOND BANANA: HOW SWEET IT IS!
"I have never seen anybody throw a piano across the room during
differences between Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis," says
furry little guy who plays Herbert Viola, the
overeager private eye who became the object of Ms. Dipesto's
passions at the Blue Moon Detective Agency on "Moonlighting."
"They carry something like 98 percent of the show and are under
pressure physically and emotionally, working together 14, 16
a day," Armstrong says with awe. "Under circumstances like that,
two very different and creative people, there are occasional
But the media blow them up to brawls. But I've also seen
two of them make each other laugh so hard that they can't get
a scene. But that isn't interesting."
No fool, Armstrong isn't about to let the culmination of 10
years in the business slip through his stubby fingers by
a few negative comments. "In the great scheme of things,
is the biggest job I've ever had," says the 5-foot-6,
lot of people saw me in Revenge of the Nerds' as
utterly disgusting Booger, but it's nothing compared to the
who tune into the show every week. I'm also thrilled playing a
close to my chronological age for a change, having done a
of teen-age coming-of-age movies."
There was considerable confusion when he joined the tight-knit and
"Moonlighting" cast four episodes into the 1986-87 season,
to Armstrong. "I thought that Herbert was supposed to be in
with Ms. Dipesto Allyce Beasley and sweated out my first day on
set, because I had never kissed a women on the screen before. The
producer finally took me aside to say that Herbert hated her,
just hadn't written it into the script yet.
"Viola was introduced as an accountant working at the Blue Moon on
temporary basis, then promoted to a gumshoe without explanation,"
continues. "Though he's mainly been running around helping
Addison with odds and ends, he and Ms. Dipesto managed to solve
mystery of a haunted house together last season. They're clearly
now, and they're falling in love. The only thing I know for sure
Herbert is too eager for his own good."
Armstrong recently completed "Revenge of the Nerds II,"
Booger role. "It isn't remotely different than the original Nerds'
he says, "though it may be a little bit better, because it has a
linear plot. It's pretty much the same story, and Booger is still
I wouldn't want at my house for dinner. He's so frightened of
that he presents the most vile, slimiest facade imaginable."
The son of a Chrysler Corporation personnel executive, Armstrong
born and raised (except for four years in Geneva, Switzerland) in
along with a younger sister. He studied journalism for a year at
Michigan University in Kalamazoo, then enrolled for a two-year
in the now-defunct Academy of Dramatic Arts in Rochester, Mich.
Following graduation in 1974, Armstrong cofounded a theater group
Ann Arbor, Mich., called Roadside Attractions Incorporated (since
to Detroit and dubbed The Attic Theatre). He made his professional
debut as Puck in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Armed with two years
solid acting experience, he moved to New York City and became a
"With no acting jobs lined up, I spent the next three years as a
whiz with intimate knowledge of every antiquated machine
to the subject," he says. "My last position was for a giant Wall
brokerage house in Manhattan in 1979. I got a call from a
wanting me for a bus and truck tour in "Da" and ran down to the
office to sign the contract on my lunch hour. Then I spent
rest of my last day at the brokerage stapling pieces of paper
I still remember that day, I had a feeling of peace, like I
been struck with a blunt object."
He kicked around in various regional theater productions until his
film, "Risky Business" (1981), in which he portrayed Miles Dalby,
Cruise's wise-cracking best friend. It was followed in short order
supporting roles in "Bad Medicine," "Better Off Dead,"
and the disastorous "Clan of the Cave Bear" (1986).
" Cave Bear' was the toughest thing I've ever done, and it turned
badly, but I wouldn't have missed it for anything," says Armstrong.
"We shot most of it in Vancouver, but spent nine days living in
Yukon at a mining camp called Tungsten. It snowed there in
and the actors
wore makeup and patches of animal skin.
Playing Neanderthals, we were all running around basically nude. We
ourselves sitting and standing in rather unnatural positions."
Given the vagaries of the entertainment business, Armstrong spent
year before "Moonlighting" unemployed. "The nicest surprise about
series is that I only expected a onetime guest shot as a body for
Beasley to play off. When they brought me back the following
and it became apparent that I would be at least a recurring
I spent my first Moonlighting' check on a letter written by
Arthur Conan Doyle to a soldier in the field during World War I.. "The
is now framed and hanging in my living room with neon
pointing to it," he jokes. "I'm a Sherlock Homes freak and a
of books, mostly first or early editions by certain authors
Washington Irving and Thomas Hardy, so I spend days slobbering
used-book shops. I'm also writing a screenplay based on a short story
P. G. Wodehouse."
For the past eight years, he has enjoyed a long-distance marriage
actress Cynthia Carle (there are no children) as they divide their
between New York and Los Angeles apartments. "We're renting on a
basis because we're seldom in the same place at the same
"Cynthia did two plays back-to-back in L. A. while I did Revenge
the Nerds II' in Florida this spring. We happened to wrap on the same
and finally had a few days together. Then she headed off for a play
Washington while I looked for work in New York until Moonlighting'
back in production."
It's a hard life but they love it.