Friday, December 11, 2009
John Mahoney is a familiar face to many people. He played Frasier's father on the long-running sitcom, and has appeared in many films as a reliable character actor (I particularly liked him in Barton Fink as an eccentric, washed-up, and astoundingly alcoholic William Faulkner). He also happens to be one of Chicago's own, and his own personal story is a pretty amazing testament to anyone who decides to stick to their guns and follow the path they feel is their destiny.
Mahoney worked for years here in the city as an editor in the publishing industry. His last job was working for The Quality Review Bulletin, a journal of the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Hospitals. The job was comfortable and seemingly emblematic of the American Dream; Mahoney had a nice private office on the 37th floor of the John Hancock building, and all the other trappings of corporate success. But it wasn't enough, and he found himself unhappy and unfulfilled. At the age of 37, Mahoney quit his job and decided to make a go at becoming an actor. While taking an acting class at the St. Nicholas Theater on Halsted Street (now defunct), Mahoney was cast in David Mamet's play The Water Engine - his first professional acting gig. After that, he co-starred with John Malkovich in Ashes, and went on to star in many stage productions at the Steppenwolf. Mahoney's successful stage career led to small roles in films such as Moonstruck, Suspect, and Betrayed. Ultimately, his role as Frasier's father was what made his face so visible and famous, but Mahoney has remained a true Chicagoan to the end. He still lives here, joining his beloved Steppenwolf for various productions, and for the most part has rejected the call of Hollywood in his post-Frasier semi-retirement. "Chicago has been fabulous for me as an actor," he said. "My career got started here. All the theaters are here. I learned my craft here. Chicago has a got a personality like no other city...it's almost like a person instead of a city."