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TV Review: Cortese's 'Rock Me Baby' not for the family

Sunday, September 14, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

HOLLYWOOD - Standing near the bar at a UPN party in July, Sewickley native Dan Cortese got pulled away from a conversation for a job unique to Tinsel Town: Posing with a UPN executive for a staged "candid" shot for a photographer from one of the Hollywood trade publications.

 
 

'Rock Me Baby'

When: 9 p.m. Tuesday on UPN.
Starring: Dan Cortese

   
 
 

It's all in a day's work.

So is shooting promos. When it was time to shoot one for Pittsburgh's UPN affiliate, WNPA, Cortese tried to add a shout-out to his hometown, saying, "What's up Pittsburgh? Go Steelers!" But the promo's director said it took too long.

Viewers may not hear it, but Pittsburgh is often on the mind of this sitcom star, whose new series, "Rock Me Baby," premieres Tuesday. His parents, Vince and Mary Lou, still live in Sewickley, and Cortese and wife Dee Dee returned to town this summer with their son, 2-year-old Roman.

Cortese graduated from Quaker Valley High School in 1986. His father was principal there at the time.

"I had a 3.5 GPA and never had detention," he said. "I knew what I had to do and as long as there were no problems at school, there were no problems at home. Luckily, I got along great with my dad. All the students loved my dad, so it wasn't a difficult situation."

Cortese first gained fame as an MTV sports jock, a job he landed after graduating from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where he played football before studying acting. It's also where he met his wife.

"It'll be 10 years in May '04, which by Hollywood standards I should be up for some kind of award," Cortese said of his marriage. "It's funny, when I tell people out here, they go, 'Seriously?'"

After college, Cortese moved West to pursue his acting dreams.

"I told my parents I was moving to L.A. to be a movie star and they thought it was money well spent at college. So far it has seemed to work out like I planned. Talk to me five years from now."

Best known for his role on NBC's "Veronica's Closet" opposite Kirstie Alley, Cortese has gone through one substantial change since that series. Instead of pronouncing his last name "Cortez," it's now "Cor-te-say."

"It hasn't changed, I'm finally just saying it right," he said, explaining his father immigrated with his family to America from Italy at age 4 and the pronunciation got changed in the transition. "With the birth of my son two years ago, I decided to start pronouncing it correctly, basically out of respect to my father and grandfather. Personally, I don't care what you call me as long as the check clears."

Cortese said some people in Hollywood have speculated the new pronunciation is a bid to be taken more seriously as an actor. Not so.

"If I wanted to be taken more legitimately as an actor, I would have changed it to 'Pacino' or 'De Niro' or I would just act better," he said, chuckling.

In "Rock Me Baby," Cortese stars as Jimmy, half of a pair of morning drive radio shock jocks. Jimmy also has a wife and newborn child and complains in the pilot episode that he's not getting to have sex with his wife. Some of the humor is raunchy, but Cortese said what will end up on air is tame by comparison to the original script.

"What you should be concerned about are the lines that didn't make it," he said, giving a concrete example that we won't print here. Cortese defends the show as grounded in reality.

"The things that take place in this pilot actually take place in my life and my friends' lives," he said. "Some of my married friends are younger and can relate to it. They say, 'Finally a show for us.'"

Wild or mild, Cortese said his parents in Sewickley will watch.

"My parents will love it because their son is in it. That is exactly why they're going to love it. They love anything I do and whatever comes out of my mouth pretty much goes right over their heads."


You can reach Rob Owen at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com . Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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