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Lewis Arlt's First Act

arlt3He's handsome, charming and a skilled public speaker. Though most people here know Lewis Arlt as the man who heads up Houlihan Lawrence's busy Scarsdale office, there's far more to his story. Before going into real estate, Arlt was famous in another realm. If he looks vaguely familiar, it's probably because you watched him on television. Here's the history on Lewis Arlt:

What did you do before you went into real estate?

I spent a lot of time in the theatre, acting, directing and writing. I started in regional theatre in St. Louis, Hartford, and summer stock. Some Broadway. The writing mainly was for soaps.

Where did you train to be an actor?

SUNY New Paltz and Carnegie-Mellon.

How did you get your first break?

Sitting in a New York bar with a CMU classmate after watching him perform in a show on Broadway called Equus. My friend ran into a friend there who just happened to be producing a new play later that year, and they'd apparently already auditioned every other young male actor in New York. I fell into it. As Peter Cook says, "one thing led to her mother, and we were married on the spot."

What were your favorite roles as an actor?

Well that was certainly one: a character named Ted Cotton and the play was called Murder Among Friends. It starred Jack Cassidy and Janet Leigh. That was 1975. I opened the play with Janet, the two of us naked under a bear rug, then got dressed in a tux for New Year's Eve, kissed her bye-bye, then kissed her husband when he came home, later got shot for two-timing, and tumbled down these wonderful circular stairs. End Act One. Had a good try-out in New Haven, not so good in Philly, ran for 3 weeks in New York and closed. But in the audience during that brief run was the casting director of a soap called Search For Tomorrow, Bob Nigro. He called me in to audition for a new role they were creating on Search and I got lucky again.

Which shows were you on for the longest time?

Search was 5 years, that was the longest.

For what roles are you best known?

It's been so long....arlt Maybe Ken Jordan on Another World, where I worked with Vicky Wyndham for a year. Ken was sort of an Indiana Jones guy – lots of mystery and hiking clothes. We did some fun shows together – a studio-built Sonora valley rock face with tarantulas biting and bad guys sneaking about – it was a challenge making it real. But it got the heart pumping. That show was also where I later got a chance to direct about 50 episodes.

You also became a television writer – tell us about that?

A friend from Search – Millee Taggart - was head writing Ryan's Hope. About 1983, I asked her if I could do a sample script, she was kind and agreed to let me try. After much coaching and re-writing, I got the hang of it, and wrote for Ryan's for about 5 years. That was great fun. I also worked for Claire Labine, the brilliant creator of the show who is a master storyteller. We did Ryan's together and later General Hospital. I got to write a wonderful scene where a doctor transplants his recently dead daughter's heart into the chest of the little girl's cousin, who needs one. And he says, as he gently touches his daughter's heart beating in the cousin's chest, "Daddy loves you." Well, that's rich.

When did you make the career change and why?

arlt2Why? I needed work. Actors have good years and not so good years, it's an iffy business. Writers too. One day in 2000, my wife told me I should get a real job, so I talked to Liz Lindsay, who owned Lindsay Real Estate in Fleetwood. She was kind enough to sponsor me and helped me get my license. She had just joined HL and taken over the Bronxville office. So I worked there in sales for 3 years and learned the business. Then she encouraged the HL brass to give me a shot a managing the Scarsdale office. I think they had also already interviewed every other potential candidate, so I got lucky again. I owe Liz a huge debt of gratitude.

From what you can tell, how has the business changed since you left?

Broadway has gotten more commercial, if that's possible. Regional theatre – my first love – continues to be a wellspring of new writing and acting talent, but without subsidy by good boards of directors – angels – it's hard to run on ticket sales alone. So, many struggle. Attention spans have shortened in life, as in the theatre; it's hard to find a good thinking-person's two and half hour play, but thank goodness the classics are still among us.

How do you use your training as an actor in your position at Houlihan Lawrence – with the agents? With the clients?

There are many correlations. If you enjoy performing for strangers, taking abuse with a smile, job instability, and dancing to the tune of others, either will do nicely. But the rewards are enormous. We all live to serve. And every office team is a family of sorts – similar to a cast of actors. Being able to help in some small way people reach their potential is its own reward.

Do you miss the acting life? Are you ever tempted to make a go of it again?

Sometimes it does call to me. Or maybe that's my imagination. I'm not sure I have the stamina to dive back in.

Do people stop you on the street and ask you why you look familiar?

arlthoulihanNot for the theatre roles any more – now they smile and say hi because we've met at the office, or a closing, or at the Chamber, a local shop, or the JCC or the Junior League. A different scene. Perhaps Act Two, scene one.

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