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'This Is My Sidekick . . .'

December 30, 1989|SUSAN KING

When he was a struggling actor in New York, Robert Pastorelli was so poor he lived in his 1966 Dodge.

But now, thanks to his scene-stealing role as Eldin Bernecky, Candice Bergen's house painter on the CBS comedy hit "Murphy Brown," he has earned enough to buy a house and restore his 1961 Cadillac.

According to the New Jersey native, though, fame can sometimes be a pain. "Money doesn't give you peace of mind," he explains. "When you didn't have much money, you didn't worry about much."

"And, if another person asks me to paint their house, I'm going through the roof."

Pastorelli doesn't find it painful to work with Bergen. "She's great. We start at 10 a.m. so she can spend time with her little girl. That chick is all right."

And so is Colleen Dewhurst, who has guest-starred twice as Murphy's mom. "When she first was on the show last year, she said to the producers: 'I just want one thing, to have a scene with the darling young man who plays the painter.' That had me flying for a week."

Pastorelli, who says it's a "long story" when asked why he became an actor, made his debut in "Rebel Without a Cause" in 1977 at New York's Ensemble Theater. A guest shot on "Barney Miller" brought him to Hollywood in 1982.

The actor spent last summer in Pierre, S.D., playing a mule driver in the Western "Dance With the Wolves," Kevin Costner's film directing debut. "They wanted an older man for the part," he says with a smile. "It was between me and Mickey Rooney."

It took Pastorelli a week to master his six-mule team. "I'm from Jersey," he says with a sigh, "I never saw a mule before. I stampeded them once."

Pastorelli got a kick out of the fact he was recognized more in Pierre than sex symbol Costner. "If people don't go to the movies, they don't know who he is. We would go to dinner and people would say, 'You're the guy from 'Murphy Brown.' I'd say, 'Yeah, and this is my sidekick, Kevin Costner.' "

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