NEW YORK — Alec Baldwin, at a bookstore event he says he didn't want to attend, gave a fired up talk Tuesday night about a book he says he didn't want to write.
A standing room only crowd of more than 100, plus about 20 protesters outside, came to a Barnes & Noble in Manhattan, where the award-winning actor discussed "A Promise to Ourselves," a new memoir about his devastating divorce and child custody battle.
"I wish I weren't here. I wish I weren't doing this," Baldwin, 50, said at the beginning of a 20-minute discourse on family law and feminism, with references to civil rights, the Wall Street crisis, Beverly Hills lawyers and the notorious voicemail he left in 2007 with his then-11-year-old daughter, Ireland.
Wearing a dark blue blazer, a light blue shirt and no tie, his hair grayer and spikier than it usually appears in public, Baldwin spoke emotionally, compulsively, promising "This is the last thing I'll say" often enough that he finally joked, "I know, I said this before."
His book tells of his split with actress Kim Basinger, and his estrangement from their daughter, brought about, he says, by a court system that effectively drains both soul and pocketbook.
Baldwin's talk was held near the restaurant from which, Baldwin writes in his book, he slipped away last year during dinner and phoned his daughter. Failing, as he had for days, to reach her, Baldwin "snapped" and exploded, calling Ireland a "rude, thoughtless little pig." After the tape was leaked to the media, his private tantrum turned into a public fiasco that left Baldwin feeling suicidal for weeks.
His remorse remained Tuesday night, and so did his anger. "Who gained from that?" he asked of the tape's public airing. The entire incident, he said, was designed to "humiliate people," to embarrass and to taunt.
Baldwin took no questions, but he did respond to members of the Voices of Women Organizing Project who marched and chanted on the Broadway corner in front of the store. They were opposing Baldwin's defense of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), a controversial theory about how one parent, often the father, is effectively demonized by the other parent, with the child's help.
"It's junk science, and has not been validated or supported," said Kalima DeSuze, lead organizer of the women's group, which advocates for victims of domestic violence.
Inside, Baldwin acknowledged the protesters, agreed with most of their arguments, but said they failed to explain "how they would like to stop women who falsely accuse men." He then offered a brief history of the feminist movement, saying nothing would have been achieved without "the support of men, open-minded men," and that their help was needed now.
Baldwin, who on Sunday won a best supporting actor Emmy for "30 Rock," writes in his book of meeting Basinger in 1990 and being impressed by her determination to succeed on work and talent alone. "It was this quality, more than any other, that most attracted me to her," he recalls.
They were married in 1993, but their relationship never recovered from Basinger's own courtroom horror _ a breach of contract lawsuit after she left the production of "Boxing Helena" that shattered her financially and emotionally. Ireland was born in 1996 but the couple divorced in 2001.
"Things," Baldwin wrote, "began to change rapidly."
On Tuesday, fans began lining up hours before his reading and many were turned away. The audience was male and female, young and old, with a few police by the doors and in the back, in the corner, fellow actor Richard Dreyfuss.
"I liked it," he said after Baldwin's talk. "What's not to like?"