Thoughts on Action
"Contemplation often makes life miserable. We should act more, think less, and stop watching ourselves live." ~ Nicolas de Chamfort

Childfree Celebrity Spotlight: Christopher Walken

 

Where does one even start with Christopher Walken? Probably with more cowbell and less kids if you know what’s good for you. The quirkiest actor of our times began life as Ronnie Walker (after his mother’s favorite actor, Ronald Coleman) but legally changed his name to Christopher in the sixties when cabaret singer Monique van Vooren told him “he didn’t seem like a Ronnie.”  The eccentricity streak continued as he took a lion-taming job in a single-ring circus, danced with Judy Garland at Liza Minnelli’s 16th birthday party, put on a cable television cookery show with crockery-smashing artist Julian Schnabel, and confessed a deep passion for collecting Tupperware. After all this, one would think there’s little more to Christopher Walken that could possibly raise a brow.

But to some, the most unexpected thing about him is what he hasn’t done: have kids. Married to the same woman – Georgianne Walken, his on-stage sweetheart in a touring production of West Side Story – for over forty years, the only pitter-patter of little feet are coming from the Abyssinian cats they keep in their Wilton, Connecticut home. Not exactly putting out the fatherly vibe, Walken has largely escaped the media’s “Where’s your celebrity babies?!” spotlight so often aimed at other actors like Jennifer Aniston and George Clooney. Perhaps it’s because the thought of Christopher Walken rarely summons soft, fatherly images (despite his first paying gig being photographed as a naked 14-month old baby with two cats for a popular calendar). This, in combination with his aloof nature and habit of meandering off subject in interviews, has left relatively little information about how he arrived at the Childfree lifestyle. But it’s clear he’s comfortable without kids in his life, after saying in an interview, “’When I’m with them, I think, “Gee, I wish this would end so I could have a conversation or something.”

Or in his case, get to work. He cites the absence of children and any desire to travel or pick up a hobby as the reason he takes on so many acting projects. It’s led to an Emmy, a Golden Globe, an Oscar nomination, and an Academy Award after more than 100 movie and television roles. It’s given him the courage to spit in Robert DeNiro’s face in Deer Hunter – unscripted! It’s resulted in an open invitation from Lorne Michaels to host Saturday Night Live whenever he’s available after his legendary “More Cowbell” performance on the Blue Oyster Cult skit. When speaking about his success, he says, “I always felt I would do okay, but I assumed I would be fairly anonymous. The fact that I get some respect in my craft is something I didn’t anticipate. I am financially better off than I ever thought I would be. I’ve already done more than I thought. That amazes me.”

Would he feel the same way if he’d had kids? While they might have been added to his list of accomplishments, would soccer games and kindergarten graduations have taken the place of his amazing dance routine for Fatboy Slim’s Weapon of Choice? Or maybe his breakout performance in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall? If they’d come too early, maybe he would have traded in the precarious actor’s life altogether for the reliability of a 9-to-5 gig to support a family. I’d like to think not, since entertainment seems to be in his blood (as evidenced by his age three start at the Professional Children’s School in Manhattan where he learned to tap dance). But like so many things in life, it might’ve come down to timing.

Walken’s wildly diverse career can also be at least partially attributed by his inability to sit around and wait for something better. He never holds out for the “perfect script” and instead chooses from the best of what’s available to him at the moment so he can keep doing what he loves, all the time. Kind of fits in nicely with the Childfree lifestyle: being totally content with what’s out there right now instead of chasing after a future idea of happiness that may not end up being any better than what he’s got.

Makes sense to me, but I’m sure it leaves some of his fellow actors and fans scratching their heads. But in Walken’s opinion, that’s not such a bad thing. “When they see me in a movie,” he said, “they expect me to be something nasty …. That’s why it’s good to defy expectations sometimes.”

I, for one, am glad that attitude has carried over to his thoughts on having kids. Because let’s be honest: who among us couldn’t use a little more cowbell in our lives?

12 Responses to Childfree Celebrity Spotlight: Christopher Walken

  • Audrey says:

    I absolutely LOVE Christopher Walken – my favorite movie that he was in wasn\’t a big blockbuster. His performance as the \’Boss\’ in \”Suicide Kings\” had me quaking in my boots – he\’s really, really good with intimidation. I\’m sure his voice helps a great deal.
    I\’ve always found him a little odd-looking, but that definitely adds to his character. I had no idea that he had no children – in all of the interviews I\’ve seen, it isn\’t even mentioned. I very much doubt that he could have accomplished so much with kidlets to weigh him down.
    Great blog post! It\’s nice to hear about childfree men – most of the focus is (understandably) on childfree women.

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      I had no idea either until I stumbled across a big list of famous Childfree people. There were a lot of surprises on there!

  • Sarah says:

    I always loved Christopher Walken, now I have yet one more reason to celebrate his awesomeness. Love your childfree celebrity spotlights. Keep ‘em coming!

  • Scott says:

    He plays a lot of characters you wouldn\’t want to be fathers, so there\’s a lot less expectation that he would be one himself.

    His looks are a factor, too. There\’s different pressure on celebrities depending on how attractive they are. In his case, there\’s a lot less of that creepy eugenics impulse a lot of people still have. If you\’re goodlooking like Clooney or Aniston, then you HAVE to have children. No one thinks Walken\’s genese are \”going to waste\” like the pretty people\’s genes. No one pressured Roseanne to have kids….

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      True – I’m sure Clooney has been told it’s a “crime” that his genes aren’t being passed on more times than he can count.

      • Scott says:

        I know. Creepy , right? It\’s like the Nazis or something. Like your genes belong the collective. Hands off my DNA, people.

        • Andy R says:

          Nothing wrong with wanting good genes in the gene pool – it’s the methods people use to go about it that are sometimes wrong, not the motive itself.

          It’s sad that wanting good genes has become permanently associated with the Nazis – it’s as if wanting good hair had become permanently associated with Sweeny Todd

  • A mama says:

    So, I think your site is pretty funny. I mean, yeah, we parents have to deal with some awful, embarrassing, downright uncomfortable things sometimes. And our lives might actually be easier without the kids (yeah, I\’ve really thought that).

    Here\’s the thing: I was once considering being child-free myself. Then I had an \”oops\” baby. I promised myself I would never have another one. Nope! Never ever ever again would I have a baby. But then my kid would be stuck as an only child, and that would suck. And I wondered what having a kid of the opposite gender would be like. On and on and on with the reasons I needed another kid. On and on and on with the reasons I should NOT have another kid, because one kid gets more attention than two (\’cause they have to share you). I argued with myself until infinity and beyond.

    Then I kinda realized that it\’s not exactly a logical decision, you know? Whether or not to have kids, for me, came down to this weird feeling way down in my ovaries (I think that\’s where it was. Maybe I just had to poop that day, but I don\’t really remember). Bottom line is that for me, I didn\’t make the decision to have more kids with my brain…I just KNEW I had to do it. Sure, there were doubts afterwards (I HATE being pregnant), but I always came back to knowing it was the right thing.

    So the point of my very long comment is that I wish the same moment of understanding and clarity will come to you…before you drive yourself nuts with the pros and cons lists :)

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      Thank you for wishing a moment of clarity upon me! It would be a glorious day indeed to “just know”, one way or the other. I’m glad it worked out that way for you! And jealous, of course.

  • Katie says:

    He\’s a favorite actor of mine! Before I read this post, I also hadn\’t even considered his personal life and wasn\’t even aware that he was married, much less wondered about his parental status. I can say the same thing about Steve Buscemi… (Who I just Googled and learned that he\’s been married since 1987 and does have one child.)

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