got to sing on the final episode last season, his musical-comedy
side, he says, is basically unknown to the "Northern Exposure"
stars and creative team.
"I was doing the second episode of `Northern Exposure,'
" Cullum recalls. "I was reading the script.
It said that Maurice gets angry at Chris and takes over the radio
station because Chris is playing the wrong kind of music and he's
going to play what he went up into space with - Broadway hits."
Ironically, the song Maurice
Corbin) was to have rocketed into the stratosphere with was
"On a Clear Day." "I said, `These guys don't
realize that if they play the record, it has to be me because I
sang the title song,' "
Cullum says. "They didn't know." And the song
Though Cullum and his wife now have a home in Malibu, for most
of his professional life Cullum refused to leave New York. "I
was married to a dancer who had a dance company in New York City
and she toured," he explains. Cullum, though, wouldn't
tour with his shows and was reluctant to try Hollywood. "There
was a time I wouldn't fly to California if I had to spend the night,"
he admits. "Can you believe it? I would not fly to California,
the phrase was, `if the sun has to set on me.' I just had prejudices
Hollywood left a bad taste after Cullum met a high-powered agent
early in his Broadway career. "He turned me off so badly
I literally could have killed him," Cullum says. "I
spent a lot of time talking to him. He was probing me. He asked
me simplistic questions. Afterward, he told my (New York) agent,
`He is very exciting. He's wonderful. But his values are wrong.
He should not be married to his wife. He should have a nose job.
He would be perfect.' "That made such a strong impression on
me, I thought, `That's not my world. That's not for me.' "
But his feelings changed when Broadway changed."If I had
a hit show I would end up playing the same thing for anywhere from
400 to 800 performances," he explains. "That
particular discipline was one I could get into. I could force myself
to do it. Then, musicals took a change because the whole English
faction came in. They weren' t doing musicals the way I remember
them being done."
Cullum made his Broadway debut 33 years ago in "Camelot,"
in which he played Sir Dinidan and understudied Richard Burton's
Arthur. "It was the old-fashioned big guns kind of thing
where you had the best established people in the business,"
he says. "That was my first Broadway experience. Before
that, I had done only Shakespeare. I got into musical comedy because
of Shakespeare, not because of singing. They needed someone to understudy
Richard Burton. I was also going to musical auditions because the
agent I had insisted I go to them."
Since moving to California in the mid-'80s, Cullum has done five
plays. During his hiatus this summer, he played King Arthur in the
San Bernardino Civic Light Opera production of "Camelot"
and performed on the first complete recording of the George and
Ira Gershwin musical "Pardon My English."
Cullum exposed more than his acting talents last year at the Williamstown
Theatre Festival in "Man in His Underwear," a
play by Jay ("The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd")
Tarses. Megan Gallagher played Cullum's love interest. A sheepish
expression creeps across Cullum's face. "I was always taking
off my pants and jumping in bed with her," he confesses.
"I never thought I would ever do anything like this. I
did some explicit sex scenes. I was very self-conscious. It turns
out the director expected us to both be stark naked. We finally
ended up wearing skin tights."