Nobody peered into the crystal ball and saw how huge a hit AMC’s Mad Men was going to be…especially not the cast, who love doing this scrappy, quirky TV show about 1960’s Manhattan advertising movers and shakers (and those that support them). Bryan Batt, who plays closeted art director Salvatore Romano, is a standout among a superb ensemble. The charismatic, out actor was already familiar to Broadway audiences from treading the boards in Beauty and the Beast and Jeffrey (the filmed version of which allowed him to reprise his role as Darius), Seussical, and Forbidden Broadway among several others. When he’s not working in New York or LA, Bryan and his partner Tom Cianfichi oversee their unique New Orleans housewares shop on Magazine Street called Hazelnut (www.hazelnutneworleans.com). On hiatus before Mad Men’s season three, Bryan chatted with us in the VIP Lounge.
Do you have any pre-performance rituals or special ways of doing things before you go on stage? If so, are they different when you are on camera?
For Broadway there is a definite vocal and physical warm up. For the camera...a quick articulation exercise, mud mask, and chilled under-eye cucumber pads.
What is the best or most unique souvenir you ever brought home from a trip, and where is it right now?
Usually the souvenirs I would want to bring home require an entire shipping container, so I often find myself accumulating prizes for my seven God-children and two nieces. However a Sumatran wedding headdress was quite an interesting challenge to get through customs.
What place in the world is on the top of your list to visit, and what do you want to do while you’re there?
Bali and relax for once...or Africa, but only with bellhops and steamer trunks.
Who would you hire to design the Bryan Batt Airline uniforms and planes?
As far as the actual mechanics of the plane...someone extremely smart. I believe I could handle the interior with chocolate mohair velvet, high glossed zebra wood, and chrome. As for the uniforms...Michael Bastien...or myself. I hear they’re doing interesting things with body paint.
What favorite film, book, or song evokes a particular place?
Piaf = Paris, Auntie Mame = New York, and A Confederacy of Dunces = New Orleans.
What has been your most memorable experience mixing with locals while in a foreign country?
Does a massage in Thailand count?
What is the first thing you do when you get into a hotel room?
Check out the view, make sure there is a blow dryer, then put a quarter in the bed.
Let’s pretend you are the official spokesperson for New Orleans Tourism—what iconic experience must visitors have, do, or see?
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my hometown, New Orleans. It is a passion. There is so much to experience here, especially after Katrina. The gorgeous architecture of the French Quarter, Garden District, Uptown, and other historic neighborhoods. There are more restaurants open now than before the storm. New Orleans cuisine is inimitable...there is no dining like we have here. The jazz, the arts, the festivals year round...oh yes, the shopping...is it mercenary that I mention HAZELNUT, my partner Tom’s and my home furnishings store on Magazine Street?
Have you ever had a horrific or humiliating travel experience?
While visiting dear friends in Tokyo we were shopping in the Omonotesando area and came upon the Hanae Mori boutique. In the window I saw some wildly patterned colorful summer slacks (I have a weakness for brightly patterned Lilly Pulitzer-esque pants for summer). I ran inside to get a closer look and the diminutive Japanese salesman flew to my side with his arms spread out wide (like the little statue that says “I love you this much”)...saying “We have no OLD SIZE”. Within a moment he called me fat and old...at 36 with a 33" waist. I was deeply offended, but nothing a little sake couldn’t fix.
Do you think there is someplace gay people should visit, as a political act?
I have to travel so much for work, and I love to travel for pleasure... politically? I’d have to say California, DC, Vatican City, and Iran (although I really don’t see myself visiting the latter any time soon).
If you could meet with anyone from the past, who would it be, where would you meet, and why?
Everyone says Jesus, which would be cool, but right now I’d like to meet George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, over drinks, and ask them how we are doing and if this is what they had in mind?
What is your number one travel tip?
Upgrade whenever possible, and easily removable, comfortable, yet stylish shoes.