"I've Gained More From Failure Than From Success!"
TV By Day Magazine, August 1977
by Francine L. Trevens
Article Provided By Wanda
"When I started on Ryan's Hope I wasn't very good," Andy Robinson admitted quite bluntly. "Listen, I still haven't licked it, but I'm getting better. It's the hardest thing I've ever done; I couldn't conquer it."
We were in the kitchen of his sprawling New York apartment, and he was busily pouring apple juice for his three-and-a-half year-old daughter, Rachel. Our original topic of discussion had been a recent disappointment in his professional life - the closing of the Off-Broadway version of Gogol, produced by Joe Papp and starring Andy Robinson.
"You learn from your failures - at least I do," said Andy. "When things go right, you don't sit down and analyze them. But when something goes wrong, I sit and analyze and consider and get introspective. In personal life or professional, not succeeding teaches you more."
Before joining the cast of Ryan's Hope, Andy, who plays Frank Ryan, lived in Hollywood, where he scored well in Dirty Harry and did a raft of TV shows.
"When I saw Dirty Harry I said to myself, 'Robinson, you really did it. You pulled that off!' I was proud of my work and expected great things to come of it. It didn't take long to see what was coming of it!"
Andy was offered all the psycho and sickie roles in the TV and movie world. But he didn't want to be typecast; he didn't want to be boxed in that way. From what had seemed his biggest success to date had come not an opening of his possibilities, but a closing in. And from there came a sense of frustration that had Andy re-examining his life.
"I loved my house in California, my garden, the beach - but I wasn't happy," he confessed about his state of mind just before he returned to New York. "Working - that's what it's all about. When I went to Hollywood I thought, 'Oh boy, I'm going to be rich and famous. I've got it made.' It didn't work out that way, though!"
Not that he didn't have work - he did so many TV shows it's difficult to name them all. It's just that there'd be months between shows, months when he wasn't using his considerable acting talents. He did some live theater there; so did his wife. But it was not enough.
He was told Joe Papp had this script of Gogol and wanted him to come East to do the show in a showcase production, and he said he was willing any time. Then the producers of Ryan's Hope came out to California to ask him to play Frank on their show.
"I thought, 'A soap? Do I really want to do a soap?'" His nose crinkled, indicating his initial reaction. "Finally, I was talked into it. I'm not sorry. It's tougher than it looks -- and I am working."
Finding an apartment was hard for the Robinsons. They arrived in the city at Thanksgiving, when no one is moving unless they have to. It was cold, bleak; especially in the hotel where they were lodged while awaiting an apartment.
"I'm a native New Yorker, and the thought of coming back to a dark apartment got to me. I was used to light and space," he gestured to the wide white walls, wide-windowed rooms radiating around us. Through the windows is a spectacular view of the pond area of Central Park. He admitted that was part of what sold him on the apartment they are renting. In the central hall there is a playhouse. A large dog and fat cat greet you at the door. The cat is Charlie, and according to Andy's daughter, eats too much.
"My daughter Rachel - while I probably love her more than anything on earth - can be very trying to all of us," Andy remarked as his daughter made another demand on him. "All of us" includes Andy's wife Irene, a French actress who has had to start her career over again in New York, and her two sons from a previous marriage.
Andy's father died when he was about three, and for years he felt responsible for his father's death.
"You know, at one time or another every kid wishes his folks dead. So I spent most of my life feeling guilty and responsible for everything that went wrong, and as a result I felt I should right all the wrongs. I thought I had driven my dad out of our lives, though the fact was that he had died in the war. That sort of thing pops up in psychoanalysis, or when things go wrong and I'm in an introspective mood - and that's pretty often. I mean, there's never a day that something doesn't go wrong, but you have to learn to cut through all the bad times. Then there are also the wonderful moments when you have a mystical revelation but I'm not talking about those times when I talk about finding happiness for yourself. You have to realize you are only responsible for yourself."
This is Andy's second marriage, and discussing how he felt after his divorce was much on that same level. "I blamed myself for everything. I overreacted and thought myself a total loser in terms of loving someone on a personal basis."
He realizes now how useless all that self-imposed guilt is, but he also realizes that it was through examining such guilts and observing his reactions to them that he worked his way back to an understanding of himself and where he really stands in terms of his own picture of success.
"I realized when I was in Hollywood that Robert Redford's features are arranged more pleasantly than mine and that I was not the matinee idol type!" Andy laughed.
This revelation made him more of an actor and more of a person. The kind of person who can treasure hunting for shells on the beach with his daguther. The kind of person who feels that all life is important. He and Rachel recalled the seagull with the wounded wing they helped. Then Andy rememberd running along the beach one day and finding "an incredibly huge animal - at first I thought it was a whale, but it turned out to be a dolphin that had washed up. It was still alive. It had the most beautiful eyes and skin so creamy and silky feeling. I grabbed him and struggled to get him back into his depth. I helped it through the strong surf and it took off."
He was not being poetic or symbolic but his words conjured up thoughts of Andy himself, and his career. His success in Papp's Lafayette Street Theatre in Subject to Fits, which led to his "discovery" and his going out to California; his success in Dirty Harry, which led to the disappointment of being offered only disturbed people and baddies to play. And here he was, away from the beach and the sunshine he loved, but back in his native world where he could better serve his career.
"I'll probably be back and forth betwen New York and California for the rest of my life," he said realistically. For if there is one thing he has learned from his successes and his failures, it's that life is fluid; an actor cannot plant roots forever and stay put. He goes where the work and opportunities are. He goes where he can be happy and make a happy life for his family. "I've gained more from failure than from success," he maintains.
In additional to acting, Andy has served the theater as a director with a special troupe called La Mama Plexus. He has also written plays of his own, including Spring Voices which was produced in New York. But he didn't direct that one. "An author only knows what he puts in a play - someone else comes along and sees things the author didn't know he wrote."
In the same way, it is hard to know what our lives will lead to us. On opening night of his play years ago Stacy Keach tried to fix Andy up with "a nice girl" but the chemistry wasn't right. "We all went to a party and that's where I met Irene. We've been together since." The arranged date may have been a failure - but it led to a successful marriage. No wonder Andy believes failures and disappointments can work to your good.
At this point in his life, his world is as full of promise as his apartment was full of sunshine. Let's hope it stays that way for a long, long time.
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