John Records Landecker's serious pride

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Posted by on October 12, 2009 at 11:13:04:

John Records Landecker's serious pride over daughter's big role

Amy Landecker is Mrs. Samsky in the Coen brothers' 'A Serious Man'

Mary Schmich | Tribune
October 11, 2009

John Records Landecker is fully prepared for the new Coen brothers movie, "A Serious Man."

No, absolutely no, he will not be flummoxed by his daughter Amy's performance as Mrs. Samsky, the character that one reviewer of the movie, which is set in Minnesota circa 1967, summed up as "the naked, stoned neighbor."

"I'm, like, oh boy, this is cool," Landecker said on Friday, the day the movie opened in Chicago. " Roger Ebert gave it four stars and said Amy was perfect. It's Roger Ebert saying this! It's not" -- he plucked a name from nowhere -- "like it's"

For 40 years or so, John Landecker was one of Chicago's iconic radio guys, spinning records and dispensing talk on stations that included WLS, WLUP and WJMK.

While he made his name, his daughter grew up. He went to her plays at Chicago's Francis W. Parker School and at the University of Wisconsin. Later, while she also cultivated a voice-over career, he watched her perform with small troupes in Chicago basements.

"The kind," he recalled, "where seating's on a couch from Goodwill."

He never felt a fatherly duty to steer her away from the actor's uncertain life of auditions and rejections.

"Her mother's a yoga teacher, and I'm a disc jockey," he said. "These two careers are not exactly wing-tips and 9-to-5."

I might not have paid much attention to who plays Mrs. Samsky in "A Serious Man" (which the Tribune's Michael Phillips calls "a tart, brilliantly acted fable of life's little cosmic difficulties") if one night 10 years ago, flying from Montana to Chicago, I hadn't been stranded overnight in Salt Lake City.

I wound up having dinner with another stranded passenger, an intense, lively woman in her late 20s, who had been visiting her mother in Helena. I'd never seen her before and I haven't seen her since, but she talked about working her way up as an actress.

At the time, I thought about the odds she faced, as one of scads of young Chicago actors angling for the big break. I occasionally wondered what happened to her.

Her name was Amy Landecker.

It turns out Amy had gone on to act at the Goodman Theatre and Steppenwolf. After leaving Chicago seven years ago, she made appearances on "Law & Order," "Medium" and "Mad Men." But the Coen brothers movie has vaulted her into a new league, the kind that puts her on red carpets and the New York Post's Page Six.

Her dad gave me her cell number anyway.

"I'm shopping in New York right now with my dad's ex-wife, Paula Mann, who I kind of based this character on, actually," she promptly said. "The smoking, detached, sarcastic sexpot."

Would her stepmother mind having the words "smoking, detached, sarcastic sexpot" attached to her name?

"Oh, she'll love it."

Amy's still forthright, funny and equipped with a good vocabulary. She was glad that I didn't want to talk in detail about what she called the "salacious" tidbit that has fascinated many reporters.

And she's no more worried about her dad seeing the movie than he is.

"My dad has seen me naked on stage for years," she said. "He was a hippie, rock 'n' roll disc jockey. This is, like, his era. I didn't even know pot was illegal until I was 15."

Amy's married now, to a writer and photographer. They have a 5-year-old. Her father says one thing that impresses him about her is her ability to stay level-headed and hardworking in a business that keeps many people off kilter.

On Friday, he was about to check the schedule for "A Serious Man," which he thought he'd see on Sunday, backyard scene and all.

"Amy has explained it to me over and over," he said. "I understand it's a long shot and all she's doing is lying on a lounge chair in her backyard. But ... how do I put this delicately?"

There really is no way, so we'll leave that discussion to others. Suffice it to say that the man now known as Amy Landecker's dad is proud of her.

"She told me she's done a radio tour," he said. "That impressed me as much as being in a Coen brothers movie."

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