There’s something engaging about very attractive people who don’t take themselves too seriously. Peter Gallagher — making his Bay Area Cabaret debut Saturday at the Venetian Room — is one of those people.
The multitalented artist is quick to joke, often at his own expense.
“I’m pretty oblivious to it,” he laughs. The “it” being people’s reaction to the package of piercing eyes, thick brows and lush lips set over a dimple that is his trademark.
It’s a package that almost did not get delivered. He was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. His mother’s doctor “suggested that she have a drink and a smoke and pray. She managed all three and I arrived intact,” he says.
Raised in the East, Tufts was Gallagher’s college, but he spent a summer at UC Berkeley studying non-Western economic thought and statistics.
“I discovered I had no aptitude for or interest in economics or business and couldn’t imagine life without theater,” he says. “I resolved to finish school and give myself six or seven years to make a living onstage. I hadn’t dreamed of movies yet. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait that long.”
A tour with the musical “Grease” helped prepare him for his film debut as a rock ’n’ roll singer in 1980’s “The Idolmaker.” Featured roles in a couple of television movies opposite Jack Lemmon and a young Kevin Spacey led to a breakout role as the venal, cheating husband in the movie “Sex, Lies and Videotape.”
He knew the role had impact when, while shopping for a crib for his soon-to-be-born first child, the saleswoman kept thinking she knew him.
“I told her I didn’t think we’d met before, but she kept insisting. Finally I told her I was an actor and her eyes got wide,” he says. “She stared for a second and then spat out: ‘You bastard!’”
In addition to his extensive film and television work, Gallagher has notable Broadway credits. He appeared in 1984’s “The Real Thing” with Glenn Close, Jeremy Irons, Christine Baranski and Cynthia Nixon. He also led the 2001 revival of “Guys and Dolls” with Nathan Lane and Faith Prince. In 2005 he recorded his first solo CD, titled “7 Days In Memphis.”
Gallagher is pleased with the trajectory of his career and wants nothing more than to keep working.
“I’ve had the great privilege of working with some of the greatest actors of our time in some great plays and movies and studied with some great teachers,” he says. “I still love what I do, and I still feel like the luckiest guy on the planet.”
IF YOU GO
Presented by Bay Area Cabaret
Where: Venetian Room, Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $40 to $45
Contact: (415) 392-4400, www.cityboxoffice.com