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                     November 1, 1987; SUNDAY; ALL EDITIONS

 

SECTION: LIFESTYLE / T V RECORD; Pg. 040

 

LENGTH: 1091 words

 

HEADLINE: SECOND BANANA: HOW SWEET IT IS!

 

SOURCE: Wire services

 

BYLINE: Eirik Knutzen

 

 BODY:

   "I have never seen anybody throw a piano across the room during

creative differences between Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis," says

 Curtis Armstrong,  the furry little guy who plays Herbert Viola, the

moon-faced, overeager private eye who became the object of Ms. Dipesto's

pent-up passions at the Blue Moon Detective Agency on "Moonlighting." "They carry something like 98 percent of the show and are under

enormous pressure physically and emotionally, working together 14, 16

hours a day," Armstrong says with awe. "Under circumstances like that,

with two very different and creative people, there are occasional

disagreements. But the media blow them up to brawls. But I've also seen

the two of them make each other laugh so hard that they can't get

through a scene. But that isn't interesting."

 

   No fool, Armstrong isn't about to let the culmination of 10

obscure years in the business slip through his stubby fingers by

dropping a few negative comments. "In the great scheme of things,

Moonlighting' is the biggest job I've ever had," says the 5-foot-6,

33-year-old  actor.  "A lot of people saw me in Revenge of the Nerds' as

the utterly disgusting Booger, but it's nothing compared to the

millions who tune into the show every week. I'm also thrilled playing a

character close to my chronological age for a change, having done a

bunch of teen-age coming-of-age movies."

 

   There was considerable confusion when he joined the tight-knit and

ever-loving "Moonlighting" cast four episodes into the 1986-87 season,

according to Armstrong. "I thought that Herbert was supposed to be in

love with Ms. Dipesto Allyce Beasley and sweated out my first day on

the set, because I had never kissed a women on the screen before. The

executive producer finally took me aside to say that Herbert hated her,

they just hadn't written it into the script yet.

 

   "Viola was introduced as an accountant working at the Blue Moon on

a temporary basis, then promoted to a gumshoe without explanation,"

Armstrong continues. "Though he's mainly been running around helping

David Addison with odds and ends, he and Ms. Dipesto managed to solve

the mystery of a haunted house together last season. They're clearly

friends now, and they're falling in love. The only thing I know for sure

is Herbert is too eager for his own good."

 

   Armstrong recently completed "Revenge of the Nerds II," reprising

his Booger role. "It isn't remotely different than the original Nerds'

movie," he says, "though it may be a little bit better, because it has a

more linear plot. It's pretty much the same story, and Booger is still

someone I wouldn't want at my house for dinner. He's so frightened of

everything that he presents the most vile, slimiest facade imaginable."

 

    The son of a Chrysler Corporation personnel executive, Armstrong

was born and raised (except for four years in Geneva, Switzerland) in

Detroit along with a younger sister. He studied journalism for a year at

Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, then enrolled for a two-year

program in the now-defunct Academy of Dramatic Arts in Rochester, Mich.

 

    Following graduation in 1974, Armstrong cofounded a theater group

in Ann Arbor, Mich., called Roadside Attractions Incorporated (since

moved to Detroit and dubbed The Attic Theatre). He made his professional

stage debut as Puck in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Armed with two years

of solid acting experience, he moved to New York City and became a

mailroom clerk.

 

   "With no acting jobs lined up, I spent the next three years as a

mailroom whiz with intimate knowledge of every antiquated machine

related to the subject," he says. "My last position was for a giant Wall

Street brokerage house in Manhattan in 1979. I got a call from a

producer wanting me for a bus and truck tour in "Da" and ran down to the

production office to sign the contract on my lunch hour. Then I spent

the rest of my last day at the brokerage stapling pieces of paper

together. I still remember that day, I had a feeling of peace, like I

had been struck with a blunt object."

 

   He kicked around in various regional theater productions until his

first film, "Risky Business" (1981), in which he portrayed Miles Dalby,

Tom Cruise's wise-cracking best friend. It was followed in short order

with supporting roles in "Bad Medicine," "Better Off Dead," "One Crazy

Summer," and the disastorous "Clan of the Cave Bear" (1986).

 

   " Cave Bear' was the toughest thing I've ever done, and it turned

out 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 tents in

the Yukon at a mining camp called Tungsten. It snowed there in

midsummer, and the  actors  only wore makeup and patches of animal skin.

 

   Playing Neanderthals, we were all running around basically nude. We

found ourselves sitting and standing in rather unnatural positions."

 

   Given the vagaries of the entertainment business, Armstrong spent

the year before "Moonlighting" unemployed. "The nicest surprise about

the series is that I only expected a onetime guest shot as a body for

Allyce Beasley to play off. When they brought me back the following

week and it became apparent that I would be at least a recurring

character, I spent my first Moonlighting' check on a letter written by

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to a soldier in the field during World War I.. "The

letter is now framed and hanging in my living room with neon

arrows pointing to it," he jokes. "I'm a Sherlock Homes freak and a

collector of books, mostly first or early editions by certain authors

including Washington Irving and Thomas Hardy, so I spend days slobbering

in used-book shops. I'm also writing a screenplay based on a short story

by P. G. Wodehouse."

 

   For the past eight years, he has enjoyed a long-distance marriage

with actress Cynthia Carle (there are no children) as they divide their

time between New York and Los Angeles apartments. "We're renting on a

month-to-month basis because we're seldom in the same place at the same

time," says Armstrong.

 

   "Cynthia did two plays back-to-back in L. A. while I did Revenge

of the Nerds II' in Florida this spring. We happened to wrap on the same

day and finally had a few days together. Then she headed off for a play

in Washington while I looked for work in New York until Moonlighting'

went back in production."

 

   It's a hard life but they love it.