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Scott Cohen: There's Whatshisname, 12.30.01 ...

On a hipness scale of 1 to 10, the actor Scott Cohen ranks himself a zero. "I didn't hang out with the hip," he said. "I never went to clubs. I'd rather talk than dance."

Nor does he consider himself good looking. "I don't think I've ever had the confidence to feel pretty."

No worries. He has ended up married to a model-turned-actress- turned-playwright who was in Vogue. And, at least to the elementary school set who saw him on television playing Wolf, the half-man- half-beast in the 10-hour fractured- fairy-tale "10th Kingdom," or who love "The Gilmore Girls," he's a big, big star. Why, he even beat out Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys in People magazine's most-beautiful- people poll last year, and came in right behind Britney Spears. That's how big he is.

The lobby of his apartment on Sullivan Street is decorated with Chinese menus, pest-control notices, sorry seasonal decorations and a Christmas tree. On Thursday he and his wife, Anastasia Traina, and their 6-year-old son, Liam, had tried out their two-day-old Volvo ("which is bigger than our apartment") for a trip to Katonah, N.Y. And now, wife and son snugly settled in for the night, he was ready to go for a walkabout. The only problem was that none of his friends wanted to head out with him. The week between Christmas and New Year's is dead quiet. "You know," said Mr. Cohen, 37, "after a certain time of night people don't answer the phone."

Kangol cap screwed on backward ("My wife says it's flattering"), he set out for a walking tour of Scott Cohen's SoHo. He talked about his new television series, "Street Time," an attempt by Showtime to out- H.B.O. H.B.O.'s "Sopranos." (He's basing his parole officer on Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani "very tight, ambitious and motivated, and trying to break away from that typical Italian mob thing.") Somewhere around West Broadway he acknowledged that it was a thrill that the children in his son's school recognized him in the halls. "I'm a big hit, grades four through eight," he said.

"I can't imagine what it's like to be George Clooney," he added. "Maybe people are so scared of him they don't even approach."

Next stop, Jerry's on Prince Street. Mr. Cohen worked there for many years as a waiter and bartender. Until he got fired. "My wife came in and I gave her a turkey sandwich and they caught me," he said.

He settled into a red booth with a vodka martini. Big change from the old days. Now he is not only a television star, the object of preteenage obsession, and about to be in a lesbian movie in which "I get the girl!" but he is also buying a country house in New Lebanon, N.Y., though he and his wife are fretting that they are about a month and a half too late to get the lowest interest rate.

Mr. Cohen is the kind of father who talks incessantly about his son. The day before, he had arranged for a friend to send Master Liam a Hogwarts letter from England. "It was on the floor in the lobby, and his eyes went wide. Liam thought the owls had delivered it. He's already written goodbye notes to us."

Now Mr. Cohen was launching into a discussion of Bugs Bunny and Buster Keaton, the kinds of things he watches with his son. "I'll tell Jerry you stopped by," the waiter said.

Back out into the streets of SoHo. Gesturing to the empty, wind- whipped streets, Mr. Cohen said: "That used to be a bookstore. This was the post office. And here's that store that sells photos of the World Trade Center." He studied an aerial view in the window, the site from 2,000 feet. Then near midnight, around the corner to a SoHo institution, Ben's Pizza.

The man behind the counter was standing in front of a framed photograph of two of the cast members of "Sex and the City" and immediately recognized Mr. Cohen as some kind of star. "Here, sign this," he said. "We'll put it up on the wall."

Mr. Cohen took out a pen and paused. With a flourish he wrote, "Best Wishes, George Clooney."

Then he changed his mind, took back the paper and signed his real name. The man behind the counter looked up, puzzled by the signature.

"Who are you?" he said.
Credit: NY Times

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