Steve Guttenberg: How To Make It In Hollywood

Feb 22, 2013
Originally published on January 2, 2014 2:50 pm

No matter your age, there's probably a Steve Guttenberg movie that was significant to you in some way. Were you a college student in the early 80s? Police Academy probably made you laugh. Spent movie nights with the kids? Bet you rented Three Men and a Baby at the local Blockbuster. A child of the 90s? Zeus and Roxanne.

Steve Guttenberg joined host Ophira Eisenberg on the Ask Me Another stage to share his unlikely tale of Hollywood success, as chronicled in his 2012 memoir, The Guttenberg Bible. As Guttenberg tells it, he arrived in Hollywood as a teenager, sneaked onto the Paramount lot daily by pretending to be the son of then-CEO Michael Eisner, and proceeded to get himself noticed by casting directors. Assisted by equal parts guts, luck and imagination, he went on to star in Diner, Cocoon, Short Circuit and many more.

Sure, Guttenberg has earned a Guinness World Record and danced with the Stars, but we offered him his biggest trial yet: an Ask Me Another Challenge. Aptly titled "Three Men and a Baby," this game required Guttenberg to determine which of three celebrities is the father of some notable babies.

About Steve Guttenberg

"Forget being an actor. You don't have the look, you don't have the talent, and your name is ridiculous. You are the last guy I would ever pick to be a movie star." This was the first piece of advice Guttenberg ever received from an agent. Like many other times in his life, he didn't listen.

Guttenberg went on to star in some of the most successful blockbusters of the 1980s. He lives in New York.

Please enjoy the original 1984 trailer for Police Academy.

This segment originally aired on February 22, 2013.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


Welcome back to ASK ME ANOTHER, NPR's hour of trivia, puzzles and word games. I'm your host, Ophira Eisenberg, and joining me is actor extraordinaire Steve Guttenberg.


STEVE GUTTENBERG: Thank you, Ophira. Thank you for having me. Thank you.

EISENBERG: Thank you for being - you've been...

GUTTENBERG: It sounds like there's a real audience here. It's so cool.

EISENBERG: There is a real audience.


GUTTENBERG: It's just you and I in the studio. Wow, this is so amazing.

EISENBERG: I know, in this bunker.


EISENBERG: Waiting for the apocalypse.

GUTTENBERG: There is a wonderful audience here. I'm so psyched.

EISENBERG: And they are psyched to see you. Welcome.


GUTTENBERG: Smarty pants people, too.

EISENBERG: You're a smarty pants. I am impressed. I read your book "The Guttenberg Bible."

GUTTENBERG: Thank you for reading it. That is so amazing. You get interviewed by people and you go, did you read the book? No.


GUTTENBERG: So, thank you.

EISENBERG: They don't even lie?

GUTTENBERG: Well, no, most of them don't lie.


GUTTENBERG: They say no, I didn't. But just taking the time to read it is time, appreciate it.

EISENBERG: Well, I love the premise that you are this kid from Long Island with a dream. You go to Hollywood and basically, you talk your way into, well, the Paramount lot. Obviously, you pose as the stepson of - I mean, you could have picked anyone, but no, pick the CEO. I think that was the way to go, right?

GUTTENBERG: True, true.

EISENBERG: You find an empty office on the lot.


EISENBERG: 'Cause you're just hanging out.

GUTTENBERG: No. Well, yeah, driving around at night and, you know, sneaking around at night and everything and I found out. And then I'd scope it out for five, six, seven days and nobody was in it. And I said hey, that's an empty - it was called the Lucille Ball Makeup Building. It's where a parking lot is on Paramount.

EISENBERG: So you find this empty office you're like, well, "mine."

GUTTENBERG: No. Well, yeah.


GUTTENBERG: Well, you know, the building was mine. It was so amazing. I'll tell you...

EISENBERG: See, that's the right attitude right there.

GUTTENBERG: The whole building.


GUTTENBERG: Well, it was like five floors, empty and, you know, kind of spooky but really friendly and cool. And what was really wild, this was 1976. I went into rooms that hadn't been touched for 30 years, 40 years. There were these lockers that, you know, in the 50s and the 40s, guys had names like Walleye and like French and like Shorty, and you know. And they had lockers with like Shorty and French.

And I was walking around, one of the rooms in that building and I found a call sheet for a Humphrey Bogart movie, a call sheet. And, you know, it was just a really, cool, magical building. The whole thing was empty. I found an office, which had a great view, toward the back of the lot, and...

EISENBERG: I love that you held out for the one with the view.


GUTTENBERG: I never thought of that.

EISENBERG: As you're just taking over offices.

GUTTENBERG: Well, you're looking around, you're like, "Oh, this is nice." You know, so...

EISENBERG: I love the story of you busting in to a casting director...

GUTTENBERG: Hoyt Bowers.

EISENBERG: And trying to get his attention.


EISENBERG: First, you call and say that there's free cigarettes. That is such a time and a place.


GUTTENBERG: Yeah, well, you know...

EISENBERG: You got rid of his receptionist, correct?

GUTTENBERG: His receptionist. And I called because I was on the lot, so when she would leave the office, I'd sneak over and jump into his office and scare the hell out of him. And get two seconds with him and he'd throw me out. But about the third or fourth time, I jumped up on his desk and started dancing. You know, like, you know, I'm Steve...


GUTTENBERG: No, I was Steve - my real name is Steven Guttenberg, but my name in movies is Steve Guttenberg, but that was from an agent, so I'm not sure which one I was at the time.


GUTTENBERG: Anyway, I'm this dancing maniac. And I want to make it, you know, man, I want to make it. So he said, look, just sit down.

EISENBERG: Please get off my desk.

GUTTENBERG: You know, sit down. I'll give you five minutes. And it was like having five minutes with God.

EISENBERG: Can you explain to me about the fact that you hold the world record for the most hot dogs made, is that correct?

GUTTENBERG: I think hot dogs put in a bun.

EISENBERG: You just put them in the bun.


GUTTENBERG: In one minute. Yeah, it's a world record, and it's a Guinness world record, it's an official...

EISENBERG: Did you have to dress them or it's a...

GUTTENBERG: I'm trying to think.

EISENBERG: Was there ketchup involved?



GUTTENBERG: I bet there was. Let me think. I did it on a TV show in London. They, you know...

EISENBERG: That's how their TV shows go in London? They're like, hey...

GUTTENBERG: You're promoting a show and they go, all right, you're going to come out here. You're going to have a world record. We're going to make sure you get the world record, by the way. Don't worry. And I'm like, if I get the freaking world record, because I thought, no, I'm not doing it.

EISENBERG: What is the number, by the way? How many...

GUTTENBERG: I don't know, 23 or something.

EISENBERG: Twenty-three in one minute, okay.


EISENBERG: I'm going to say it's pretty impressive.

GUTTENBERG: Something like that, yeah.

EISENBERG: I feel like you are someone who's up for anything. You were on "Dancing with the Stars."

GUTTENBERG: Oh yeah. Oy vey.

EISENBERG: I've seen a video of you jogging naked.

GUTTENBERG: Oy vey. Oy vey, "Dancing with the Stars."


GUTTENBERG: God bless them.


GUTTENBERG: I'm telling you, a lot of dancing.


EISENBERG: With stars.

GUTTENBERG: It's not like it looks. It's a lot different.

EISENBERG: We don't have any hotdogs and we're not going to make you dance, but would you up for an ASK ME ANOTHER challenge? Answer wisely.

GUTTENBERG: If you're in your adult mode.




EISENBERG: I'm going to take your answer as yes.


EISENBERG: I'm going to take your answer as yes, all right. One more hand for Steve Guttenberg.


EISENBERG: And let me welcome back our puzzle guru Art Chung.

ART CHUNG: Hey, Ophira.


EISENBERG: And our special musical guests Paul and Storm.


EISENBERG: Now, Steve.


EISENBERG: On the stage, we've got Art, Paul, Storm and me. So this game is called Three Men and a Babe.



EISENBERG: The rules are simple. We're going to ask you some questions about famous babies and you have to choose which of three men is that baby's father. You'll be playing for a member in our studio audience, Victoria Cohen. And if you get three right, she wins a prize.

Your first question, Steve. Which of these three singers got in trouble for dangling his eight-month old baby off of a balcony in a Berlin hotel? Was it Prince, Michael Jackson or Little Richard? One of them dangled a baby.


GUTTENBERG: Can I do a lifeline thing?

EISENBERG: There's no lifelines.

GUTTENBERG: It was Prince dangling...

EISENBERG: Was it Prince that dangled a baby...

GUTTENBERG: I mean could the two - can one be dangling the other one?


EISENBERG: Like a daisy...

GUTTENBERG: Is that a no? That's a no?

EISENBERG: A daisy chain of dangling, no.

GUTTENBERG: No, I know that was Michael Jackson.

EISENBERG: Of course, yes, it is.


GUTTENBERG: Got one. Got one. We're two from the big prize.

CHUNG: Steve, in Persian it means "red rose" and in Hebrew, "princess," claimed what father about the name of his daughter Suri? Was it Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, or John Travolta?

GUTTENBERG: The Apple voice?

CHUNG: No, that's Siri.



CHUNG: That's Siri.

GUTTENBERG: That's Siri. Are you sure?

CHUNG: We have to ask Siri, but I think...

GUTTENBERG: Siri on - you mean on the Apple phone.

CHUNG: Right.

GUTTENBERG: That's Siri?

EISENBERG: Yeah, that's not anyone's child.

CHUNG: Yes. No, Suri.

GUTTENBERG: Is that Suri? Wait so Siri is the thing and Suri is the person you're - the little kid you're talking about.


CHUNG: Suri is a famous daughter of...

GUTTENBERG: Daughter of somebody.


CHUNG: Somebody. One of these three men.


CHUNG: Cruise or...

GUTTENBERG: Cruise or who's the third?

CHUNG: Brad Pitt.

GUTTENBERG: Brad Pitt. He's got like seven kids, right?

CHUNG: He does.


GUTTENBERG: I got to tell you something, I give that freaking guy a lot of credit. Come on. Seven kids and her, holy...


GUTTENBERG: I mean, seriously. Every guy on the planet is going, oh my god. I don't care if you're a super movie triple zillionaire, a billion dollars, can you imagine...

EISENBERG: Okay, do you have an answer, by the way?

GUTTENBERG: Anyway, I think it's Cruise.






GUTTENBERG: Now, two. Two. Got one to go.

EISENBERG: You're doing great. You're doing great.

GUTTENBERG: One to go and I'm set for life. Set for life. Little NPR money coming to you.


EISENBERG: We do our fund drive and then we just gift it back.

CHUNG: Okay, this next one is a musical question.


PAUL AND STORM: Isn't she lovely? Isn't she wonderful? Isn't she precious, just at one minute old?

CHUNG: That song was written by what pop superstar to celebrate the birth of his daughter Aisha, who can be heard gurgling at the end of the song? Was it Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder or Marvin Gaye?

GUTTENBERG: Which one was in the Four Tops?


GUTTENBERG: Which one was in the Four Tops?

CHUNG: That would be none of them.


CHUNG: None of the above is not an option here.

GUTTENBERG: Wait, which one - who is it?


GUTTENBERG: You're talking about Otis Redding? No.


GUTTENBERG: You didn't say Otis Redding. Who was the three?

CHUNG: Ray Charles.

GUTTENBERG: Ray Charles. Ray Charles, I saw the movie.

CHUNG: Stevie. Yes.


CHUNG: Stevie Wonder.

GUTTENBERG: He didn't do a movie.

CHUNG: Not yet.

GUTTENBERG: There's no movie on him yet. There should be a movie on him.

CHUNG: Or Marvin Gaye.

GUTTENBERG: Stevie Wonder I guess it is, right?



GUTTENBERG: Smart crowd here, man.

EISENBERG: Okay, you did it.

CHUNG: You won the prize.


EISENBERG: Victoria Cohen, you get a copy of Steve's book, "The Guttenberg Bible."


GUTTENBERG: That's the prize?

EISENBERG: That's a good prize. You also get an NPR ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cube.


GUTTENBERG: Wait, wait, put a...


EISENBERG: And Steve Guttenberg is giving you a twenty dollar bill.

GUTTENBERG: For the taxi ride home, you know, a 20.

EISENBERG: And Steve, I have an ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cube for you, too.

GUTTENBERG: Oh, Rubik's Cube.

EISENBERG: Yeah. It's an ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cube. It's like...

GUTTENBERG: You know, I have a friend of mine whose son can do it blindfolded. You know, they have these...


GUTTENBERG: They have these super brilliant - you guys should know this. There are these like, you know, big groups of people that can do these like...

EISENBERG: Well, you might become one of them.

GUTTENBERG: I hope so.

EISENBERG: I hope so, too. Steve Guttenberg, everybody.

GUTTENBERG: Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.