Look at that face in the photo and try to tell me that is not a great neighborhood face. Aging handsomely and full of life, it is the face of actor Danny Goldring — even the name is neighborhood perfect, Danny — sitting in the barbershop that he has visited with regularity for the last 20 years.
The guys, barbers and customers, at Alfredo's, at 833 N. State St., greeted the actor warmly last Saturday morning. Stories were swapped, a few wicked but well-meaning wisecracks filled the air, and fading photos of customers and barbers past lined the walls.
"I love this place," says Goldring. "It's old school. A lot of characters."
Born in Woodstock, Goldring, the son of a U.S Navy officer, traveled the world as a kid — Japan, Hawaii, Maryland and other spots — before arriving in Chicago for keeps in 1968.
He started his theatrical career as a puppeteer with the Cole Marionettes, a troupe that toured schools throughout the Midwest from the 1930s into the 1980s. He later studied at the Goodman Theatre School of Drama and has been working ever since on stage, screen and television.
Here's a small sampling, across the decades: He played cops in small roles in the movie "The Fugitive," the TV series "NYPD Blue" and "The Practice" and the Lyric Opera's production of "Porgy and Bess"; had small and starring roles in a vast number of local theatrical productions; was "Grumpy," one of the Joker's henchmen in "The Dark Knight," though he never took off his mask in the movie; and his work in "Six Feet Under," "Crime Story" and "Star Trek" is also featured on his lengthy resume. He's been solid in them all and spectacular in many of them. Tribune theater critic Chris Jones, reviewing his portrayal of an iconic veteran Hollywood actor (think Clint Eastwood) in Brett Neveu's "The Earl" at the Red Orchid Theatre in 2006, wrote that Goldring "is superbly cast and offers such a knockout performance that you never want to see anyone else in that role."
The actor has a lot of things in the pipeline but, like many working stiff actors, doesn't want to talk about them on the record for fear of "jinxing the deal."
But he is currently a prominent presence in the second season of "Boss," as a new character in the stunningly good and gritty Starz network series that stars Kelsey Grammer as the fictional mayor of Chicago, a venal Tom Kane, desperately and manipulatively holding on to his immense power while dealing with a debilitating and fatal illness and all manner of people eager to bring him down.
The show captured lousy ratings its first season but is picking up considerable word-of-mouth steam. My colleague Mary Schmich just discovered it and, as she wrote a couple of weeks ago, "downloaded the first season, a bargain at only $14.99. I was riveted. … In 'Boss,' everyone with any power is corrupt or corruptible, except, maybe, and only maybe, the newspaper guy."
Wait until she jumps into the second season, which began airing in August. In it Goldring plays — "I just auditioned and, thankfully, got the job," he says — Ryan Kavanaugh, a childhood friend of the mayor's, a retired homicide detective and the owner of a tavern called the Lion and Lamb Pub, the sort of dimly lit joint that used to be a fixture in most every neighborhood.
"The character is almost a perfect fit. I know this guy; guys like him, taverns like the Lion and Lamb," says Goldring, who lives in the Lakeview neighborhood. "And for the viewers, my character plays what I think is an important part in helping understand who Kane is. In Ryan's interactions with Kane they get to see the mayor as a human being, the only time they see him that way."
In some circles and tabloid tattling, Grammer has a reputation as being rather churlish; he recently skipped out on a scheduled interview on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight" after seeing a photo of his ex-wife/reality show star being used in a taped introductory segment.
Goldring would beg to disagree.
"He's a great guy," he says. "A very giving actor, and he's got a great sense of humor. Now, he's a Republican, but I can't hold that against him."
Goldring has not, though he has had the opportunities, fled Chicago. "I go to theater all the time here, any time I can," he says. "Stay here? How could I not. There is truth in the work here."
Many of his longtime pals have parts in "Boss." Any frequent local theatergoer will recognize many faces in it, and it's impossible to miss Steppenwolf's Francis Guinan and Amy Morton in meaty roles: he the lame duck Illinois governor and she the candidate seeking to replace him.
"They are both so great in their roles," says Goldring. "And I'll tell you, Kelsey's helped get so many actors here work, I think he could get elected mayor."
Listen to, among many guests, members of the Chicago Sinfonietta, Carol Marin and Mary Ann Ahern, author Naomi Wolf, the Tribune's Nina Metz, and Eddie Payton about his new book, "Walter & Me: Standing in the Shadow of Sweetness," when Rick Kogan hosts the "Afternoon Shift" Monday through Friday on WBEZ-91.5 FM.