This week we take a moment to talk to event planner and man about town Al Fuchs.
PGN: Tell me about where you’re from.
AF: I’m from North Jersey, a town called Denville. It’s about 40 minutes from New York City, 30 minutes without traffic. If you drive west from New York, it starts becoming residential around Route 80 and then you run into farmland. So even though we were close to the city, we grew up with 3-and-a-half acres and horses in the back. I was a theater kid, so because the city was so close, I was able to do my acting thing and was cast in a couple of shows in New York. It was a great way to grow up, the best of both worlds. I could be in a matinee in New York and then go home and ride my sister’s horse.
PGN: What was the first show you did?
AF: It was when I was in fourth grade. There was a woman who worked for PBS who came to our school; she was the mother of one of my fellow students. She had red hair and an amazing personality and she was just brilliant. She brought in people from “Sesame Street” to help us make puppets. I made one and when I was finished, she called my parents and said, “I have a friend who’s doing a show and I’d love for Al to audition for it.” I did and got cast. It was a dinner-theater production of “The Sound of Music.” It was my first show and I did over 100 performances that summer. I loved it, just loved it. And so my parents knew that they had a theater kid on their hands. Someone saw me in that show and asked me to start auditioning for shows in New York. I did the Eugene O’Neill play “Ah, Wilderness” when I was 11, and then I grew very tall very quickly and grew out of being able to be a child actor. I stayed in the business but I wasn’t very marketable. I joke that I had a better career when I was 10 than I did when I graduated college. But I still am involved in theater, more as a hobbyist, and mostly with a theater in South Jersey called the Ritz Theater Company. I’ve been there for about 20 years now, and I direct at least one show a year. It’s a good time. Once you start in the theater, it’s hard to stop, so this keeps the passion alive.
PGN: I went to “The Nutcracker” this year and I was watching all the kids who were a part of the production and wondering what it was like to be 10 and required to be on stage every night. Is it a real grind, or does the youthful energy take over?
AF: It’s kind of crazy: When I did my show in New York, it was hard because when I did go to school, I was always late and never quite on the same page as everyone else, even though I had tutors. My dad was out of work at the time so he was able to drive me back and forth to New York City; otherwise, I don’t know how we would have managed it. There were a lot of daytime hours required for rehearsals, etc., and then very late hours during the production. It was tough. I recently thought about it and called to say thank you so much to my parents. I mean, my dad was out of work and had to drive me around, which must have cost them a lot of money. They did a lot to keep me happy and I’m grateful.
PGN: And school?
AF: It could be hard because, as I said, you were missing or late all the time and other kids resented the special treatment. So they could be as brutal as teens can be because … well, you know. But for the most part, it was a great life. I don’t regret anything. And I do a lot of work with kids now; I love working with them. Up until two years ago, I directed at a local high school doing their yearly musical. I try to teach them about the business. Everyone thinks it’s so glamorous, but it can be a hard life. [Laughs] I’m like, “If you can do anything else, go with that!”
PGN: I was the co-host for the “Bozo the Clown” show for three years and I always joke that it was the most high-profile job that paid the least amount of money that I’ve ever done.
AF: Yup! Exactly! It’s crazy. It’s all about who and what, and I wasn’t good at that. It’s why I went into event planning.
PGN: So tell me about what it is that you do now.
AF: I’m an event planner for the accounting firm KPMG. I run their conference center, so I plan meetings all day and also do some event planning for them, both social and business. The conference center is beautiful with one of the best-looking views of the city. [Laughs] I do traffic reports from my window! I also head our LGBT group, KPMG Pride Network. We do a lot of work with The Attic Youth Center and P-FLAG and do a lot of educational programs with our allies here at KPMG. I also lead our KFFL, which is our KPMG family for literacy. We distribute books to children.
PGN: Outside of work and theater, what interests do you have? Play any instruments?
AF: No, I studied piano for nine years and never got out of Book One. I just didn’t have it. But I have an ear for music and I love supporting musicians. We love going to hear live music or entertaining at our place.
PGN: And by “we,” you mean the fabulous Eric Schellack? I interviewed him years ago about his horticultural skills.
AF: Yes, Eric and I have a house in Haddonfield that we’re renovating. We’re both mid-century, modern fanatics so we’re transforming a little bungalow, using my design ideas and his horticultural expertise. Generally, I’m the inside and he’s the outside but he’s trying to get me more involved in all aspects. We have a barn and a huge garden out back and he’s trying to teach me how to keep it alive. He’s also an amazing cook, something I take far too much advantage of.
PGN: So have you made an honest man of him?
AF: Yes! We actually had a secret wedding. We’ve been together for 16 years and married for two. We mostly did it because I wanted him to be able to take advantage of my benefits. We invited people over to a friend’s house, who had been ordained. We invited a bunch of friends and their kids and at dinner we shared with them that we were going to get married and that as our chosen family we wanted them to be a part of it. Everyone was saying, “Oh that’s so great!” “How nice!” “We’d love to,” and then to everyone’s surprise we added, “So if you wouldn’t mind stepping into the other room, we’re going to get this done … “ The next day we posted a picture of our hands with the rings and the marriage license on Facebook. Three-hundred “likes” later, everyone knew. A year after, we had a big party at a place called The Factory in Collingswood. It’s essentially a wood shop and coffee shop in an old theater. So we partied amongst the power tools and it was awesome.
PGN: Do you have a big family?
AF: I have two older sisters; my one sister still is local and my niece attends the University of the Arts, so the theater is in the blood. My great Aunt Deirdre studied with Michael Checkhov and she brought the Michael Chekhov method of acting to the states with her friend, my “Aunt” Beatrice Straight, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the film “Network.” She was on screen for five minutes and two seconds, the shortest performance ever to win an Academy Award for acting.
PGN: What did/do the parents do?
AF: They’re retired. My mom is a former administrative assistant and my dad was a chemist, which was the only class I ever failed in high school.
PGN: I understand that you’ve involved with a number of nonprofits. Where did that altruistic mentality come from?
AF: I like to connect people and through KPMG we have a program called Involve that I spearhead. It’s our philanthropic community-outreach program. KPMG really cares about the organizations that their employees are a part of. Working here really helps extend your network because you discover things that you didn’t even know you might have an interest in. With your colleagues and friends here, you really extend out into the community as a group and there are a whole diverse group of interests to get involved in. We support both monetarily as well as with hands-on volunteering.
PGN: You’ve self-described as quirky. What are some of your quirkiest moments or traits?
AF: I think part of the quirkiness is that I have my hand in a lot of different pots. I love theater, I love design, I love all things ’80s and all genres of music. If you listened to my iPod you’d hear everything from classical to hip-hop to German-industrial punk. There’s also the fact that I love pop culture and have a lot of useless knowledge in that area. Educational and historical facts just don’t stick in my brain, but I could tell you what Marilyn Monroe wore to her first Oscar celebration!
PGN: [Laughs] That’s great.
AF: When I was in high school, I was part of the club scene in New York. The Limelight was my second home for a while; I was tall so I could get in underage. I was a punk rocker so I had the big spiked hair and the whole 9 yards. I was one of the kids who handed out passes so people could get in for free. I don’t know how I was able to do that, especially on school nights, but I guess that’s the privilege of being the youngest. You can get away with murder!
PGN: When I was 17, I used to go to clubs in New York on my way home from school in Boston. I met this guy who drove the “Disco Cab” and he’d let me change in the back of the cab so I could put on my party clothes and then back into normal attire on my way home for Thanksgiving. [Laughs] I keep trying to corrupt my nephew so he’ll have some adventures to talk about but he’s too good to be bad.
AF: I know! I have a niece — actually, she’s my best friend’s kid — and I’m always pushing her to go out and have fun, to do something crazy, but the kids today are so cautious.
PGN: How did you end up in Philly?
AF: I went to Glassboro State and then to Rowan, so I’ve been in the area for quite some time. It’s amazing to see what a great city Philadelphia has become. I swear, in the beginning there was not much here, but now the restaurant scene and the cultural scene have just exploded. I definitely consider myself a Philadelphian now. This is my city.
PGN: Now for the silly part of our interview. Any reoccurring dreams or nightmares?
AF: I definitely have one from when I was a kid. I’m being chased by a group of random people in my hometown. I’ve had it about once a year since I was a kid, though I haven’t had it in a while. I hope I didn’t just curse myself!
PGN: Who was your first kiss with?
AF: My best friend Liz Kleiner. I’m still friends with her to this day. And we got caught by my parents!
PGN: I spend the most time reading …
AF: John Irving novels, he’s my favorite author. I can re-read “The World According to Garp” at any time. I can open to any page and just start again. I love the book. Even the movie was good, though they scaled it down a ton. It still did justice to the book.
PGN: A song that you’re embarrassed to admit is on your iPhone?
AF: There’s some Milli Vanilli I won’t talk about.
PGN: What talent would you most like to have?
AF: I love music and I can still get up on the dance floor but I’d love to be able to do some type of professional dancing, whether it be modern or classical, etc. But I just can’t, I’m not flexible in that way, but I think that dance is the greatest form of expression. I love watching “So You Think You Can Dance.” Those kids are incredible.
PGN: Which literary character most resembles you?
AF: I am a bit like Tigger from “Winnie the Pooh.” Always going forward and trying to find it all out!
PGN: A favorite show quote?
AF: It’s from the TV show “Eight is Enough”: “A plate of homemade wishes on the window sill … ”
PGN: If you were on “This is Your Life,” what two people would you want to see?
AF: I’d love to bring my Aunt Deirdre back, she’s no longer with us. She’s the one who taught me acting and I would love to pick her brain now that I’m an adult and teaching others, to learn about the method and the acting and to learn more about her personally. I’d also love to see an old teacher of mine, Per Brahe. He was an incredible teacher and now he’s a spiritualist and mask maker in Bali. I’d love to study with him again, and have a chance to go to Bali because I love to travel!
PGN: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
AF: I think I’d just want a big welcome and a warm hug.
PGN: You made it!
AF: [Laughs] Yes, because there have been times when I’m not sure I would.
PGN: Movie that makes you cry?
AF: One of the reasons Eric and I clicked is that “The Color Purple” was both of our favorite movie. So on our first date we watched it together. It’s a four-cry movie for me, and I’m talking ugly cry! We opened things up on our first date and have been together ever since.
PGN: Awww, now I need a tissue!