By David Edward Clark
I complimented Rhea Perlman on her work in Matilda as we sat down at the midnight showing of Zombieland at the Apollo last night. Danny was in the lobby, taking pictures and shaking hands with students. Munching on popcorn, he came and sat with us in the back of the new theater.
F+L: What is it like to be Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito?
Danny: Well that’s a very, very difficult question, because I really don’t know Danny very well. I know Rhea’s really sweet and great, but Danny, I’m not sure about. I dunno, Danny–he’s like—
Rhea: But I know Danny. I think he’s pretty cool. But I’ve never met Rhea, actually.
Danny: OK, so there you go. It’s hard to describe that.
F+L: If I could only see one of your works, what would you show me and why?
Danny: That’s a good question, but it’s a very difficult one to answer.
Rhea: Well, I’d probably say Cheers, because I think it was really a great show.
F+L: Any specific episodes?
Rhea: No, I don’t remember the episodes very well–except for the one where we had a food fight for Thanksgiving. That was really fun, but I don’t know if it was the best episode. It was just the most fun to do.
Danny: I don’t know. I couldn’t decide.
Rhea: Right now, it’d have to be It’s Always Sunny [in Philadelphia].
Danny: Well, but I mean–like, yeah. Anyway.
F+L: What role would both of you love to play but haven’t had the chance to yet?
Rhea: I’d like to play an Opera singer.
Danny: I would have to play the owner of a newspaper and somebody who wanted to populate his estate with animals of every kind.
[Editor’s note: The way they laughed throughout these answers led me to believe that this was an inside joke. Side note: Citizen Kane was the start of Fearless and Loathing.]
F+L: How would both of you play the role of Jesus?
Danny: Well, Rhea would have to dress in drag.
Rhea: You think Jesus was a man?
Danny: Wasn’t he a man?
Rhea: Well, I don’t know.
Rhea: He had really long hair. Yeah, you’re right. I would have to dress in drag.
Danny: No, I don’t know.
Rhea: I have no idea.
Danny: Well, I mean like, playing the role of Jesus as like a guy from New Jersey? (Rhea: [muttering inaudibly until] Jesus Perlman) Yano, that would be a lot of work and a lot of work researching the role, I mean, to play the part of Jesus. You gotta heal the sick. You gotta raise the dead. You gotta turn water into wine. You gotta do all kinds of shit like that.
F+L: How about Oprah?
Danny: What about her?
F+L: Yeah, how would you play her?
Rhea: Oh, I thought you meant how would she play Jesus.
F+L: You could answer that one too.
Danny: Let’s see. Well, I mean like, Oprah’s really interesting because it’s basically like entertaining sitting down. It’s like something that–I dunno, I gotta get up. It’d be a difficult part to play, because she basically sits down and talks to people, right? It’s like what you’re doing. How would you play the part of Oprah?
F+L: Talk a lot.
Danny: Exactly what you’re doing right now.
F+L: How about Harry Potter? How would you interpret that role?
Danny: That’s a fun role. That’s more fun than Oprah.
Rhea: I would like to do magic.
Rhea: And wear those great glasses. That’d be fun to wear that costume.
Danny: Okay, I’m not going to say–Go on. Go to the next question.
F+L: Jackie Kennedy.
Danny: Jackie Kennedy is good. But you know, I’d have to wear a pillbox hat. Right? I mean, Jackie Kennedy was really whacked as far as the–
Rhea: You’d be a good Jackie Kennedy, I think.
Danny: Yeah, when you say Jackie Kennedy, now all I think of is her walking through the White House in that documentary, you know, showing everybody like, [imitating Jackie Kennedy] “This is the room where we entertain.”
Rhea: Yeah, he’d kick me out for that part. Didn’t you Danny?
F+L: And now James Dean.
Rhea: I dunno, I’d be myself–so cool. [Rhea pouted.]
Danny: Yeah. I’d get myself a red jacket.
Rhea: It’s all about the clothes. Let’s face it.
Danny: Yeah, red jacket and not say anything. Yeah. And squint.
F+L: One last one: Queen Elizabeth.
Danny: Well, Rhea would be a good Queen Elizabeth.
Rhea: Well, yeah, because you’d just have to keep your arm like that and carry that purse.
Danny: You’d have to work out a lot to play Queen Elizabeth.
Rhea: Because of carrying the purse?
Danny: She’s like very buff.
Rhea: Is she?
Danny: I think so.
Rhea: Well then maybe I’d be good for that.
Danny: Yeah, you are. I wonder what Queen Elizabeth’s ass looks like.
Rhea: Well, jeez, I don’t think I’d want to know that.
Rhea: Is that something you wonder? In real life?
Danny: I just thought of it now.
Rhea: Oh god.
F+L: Okay, can I hear a little bit about your first dates?
Danny: I didn’t have a date till I was in California.
Rhea: You mean with each other?
F+L: No, I meant first date, period.
Rhea: First date.
Danny: Like in the Apollo Theater.
F+L: Was it in the Apollo Theater? (In New York)
Danny: No, but it was like the Apollo Theater.
Rhea: My first dates, I never went anywhere. I hung out for years. I never went anywhere. I never went out to dinner. I never went to a movie.
Danny: My god.
Rhea: I know, I was deprived.
Danny: Well, who did? I mean, you were a kid, you didn’t go to the—I mean, how old were you for your first date?
Rhea: We would just hang out. We’d meet at a corner, and you’d go to another corner.
Editor’s Note: At this point, the audio started to the movie but there was no picture. Rhea and Danny both yelled, “No picture!” along with the ruckus that others were raising. When the audio stopped, Danny stood up to make an announcement, welcoming everyone to the new Apollo, now with no picture. “Just think of it as if you are on the cutting edge. Just imagine what it would be like.”
When he sat back down, Danny flagged a manager who came quickly. “Watch this,” Danny told me as the manager approached. Danny explained that the manager better give these people free refills. “Should I start the popcorn machine now?” The manager asked meekly. “I mean, you better,” said Danny.
The manager walked toward the front of the theater. “I have an additional announcement,” he started, “if you give us a few minutes, I will refill any popcorn. Just go to the end of the line.”
“So that’s what it’s like being Danny Devito?” I asked. Danny chuckled.
“Good move,” Danny said to the manager as he passed by. I got the chance to ask one more question.
F+L: What has been your favorite memory of Oberlin?
Danny: Right now. This is like fantastic, man.
F+L: Yeah? What about it?
Danny: You’re experiencing it, man. It’s all crazy. Look at these guys.