American audiences love survivors, which means they have to love George Hamilton who next week appears at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady performing in 8 shows of "La Cage aux Folles."
It's not as if Hamilton was one of those druggies who rehabilitated himself in his later years. No Hamilton was always a solid citizen of Hollywood. It's just that no one expected him to be around and remain popular for over 50 years.
In a recent interview Hamilton says part of the reason for his durability is "Audiences trust me." He in turn respects his audience. Indeed, he said he favorite job would be to do a one-man show where he would go around the country and just speak to audiences, tell stories and answer their questions. "I'm really good at being myself," he says.
And the stories would be great. We spoke for about 30-minutes and the conversation was filled with famous names and stories. Cary Grant was a very shy man who told him to do a film every three years or the fans would forget you. He is good friends with Robert Wagner but whenever they call each other they each talk using a Cary Grant accent. Robert Mitchem used to send him a mother's day card every year. He leaves his characters onstage but Al Pacino lived his character 24 hours a day until the film was complete.
With another person it would seem a classic case of name-dropping but with Hamilton it was natural and often used to make a point. He says because of the demands of this tour he is very careful about his health and physical condition. "I don't drink, maybe an occasional glass of wine, and go to bed right after the performance." His philosophy? "Enjoy life. Work hard and diligently and grow old with a smile on my face."
The he adds, "I loved Dean Martin and liked to hang out with him. But Dean burned himself out. The same with Frank (Sinatra) and Sammy (Davis). I learned from their experiences."
Hamilton is now 72 years old and has signed onto the "La Cage aux Folles" tour for 15 months. "It's a marathon," he says. But he says such risky ventures are part of his life. "I've always believed in being in something for the long haul. I think the way to grow old is to do things at half-measure."
He insists he is enjoying every moment. But he points out the tour has only been out for three weeks. "Ask me more in six months" he says with the famous George Hamilton chuckle.
That's for later all we have to worry about is until November 1 when the tour heads to the next city. So next week stop by Proctors and spend time with a legend.