AN EXCELLENT DUDE GOES TO HELL
Bill & Ted?s Broadway-trained Alex
takes life one awesome step at a time
by Susan Schindehette &
John Griffiths in Los Angeles
Photographs by David Strick / Onyx
The exterior of the three-story clapboard house in
sea-breezy Venice Beach, California, may look decidedly nonbodacious, but
inside, it is truly a home fit for one excellent dude. Sinister Balinese
ceremonial masks dot the walls, and a monkey skull peers from a shelf. Over in
the easy chair, Alex Winter is thinking lite for a snack. "M-m-m-m-m,"
he says, hungrily eyeing the errant gnat buzzing him. "Dinnertime!"
Winter, the 26-year-old blond half of the summer
sizzler Bill & Ted?s Bogus Journey, is, for the most part, just goofing.
But his interest in the bizarre is right in character. In the sequel to 1989's
sleeper hit, Bill & Ted?s Excellent Adventure, Bill and partner Ted
Reeves) tackle hell in the only summer movie that asks the eternal question,
"How?s it hangin?, Death?"
If Winter has a slightly skewed take on the world, then
perhaps it?s because of an upbringing that was, well, likewise. He was born in
London, where his New York-bred mother, Gregg Mayer, a former Martha Graham
dancer, founded a modern-dance company in the mid-60's. Her Australian husband,
Ross Winter, who danced in the troupe, recalls his son?s childhood with wry
humor. "His mother and I had a British approach to upbringing -
strict," he says. "Alex was simply more important than the family
When he was 5, the family (including elder brother
Steven) moved to St. Louis, where the Winters formed the Mid American Dance
Company. "Whenever other companies would tour St. Louis, these crazed
bohemian dancers would sleep all over the floor," says Alex. "My
memories of childhood are of waking up with a foot in my face." In 1973,
the Winters divorced, fairly amicably, says Alex. "I handled it pretty
well. It made me fiercely independent."
And it didn?t stop his household pranks, especially
those aimed at Mom. "She didn?t dig the fake barf on the bedroom
floor," says Alex. "I was the little brother from hell."
Drawing on the family penchant for performing arts,
young Winter hit the stage himself at 11, playing a street urchin in a local
production of Oliver! with Vincent Price. Soon after, he was on Broadway in
The King and I with Yul Brynner and at 14 was soaring as John Darling in Peter Pan
with Sandy Duncan. After graduating from high school in Montclair, N.J. (where
he moved with his mother after her divorce), Alex signed up at New York
University film school, only to drop out because of "complete financial
breakdown." In 1985, he won the role of a rapist in Death Wish III and
still jokes about his "relationship" with costar Charles Bronson,
which ended with the film. "Yeah, we pal around a lot. Actually, Chuck?s
upstairs nappin?. We were up late. You know how it is - he?s a real party
animal." In 1989, three years after he moved to L.A., Excellent Adventure
made tubular history.
Playing Bill hasn?t slowed Alex down. Winter has
directed several music videos and recently wrapped a half dozen Idiot Box
episodes for MTV. This fall he?s set to star in and codirect a film he
titled, appropriately enough, Freaks. "I?ll play a jaded actor who
promotes toxic chemicals in South America and learns his lesson when he?s
thoroughly disfigured," says Winter, barely concealing his glee.
So far, Alex hasn?t had to erect the high fences to
ward off fans. "I don?t get noticed much," he says. "Unless I
go to a place targeted to our audience - like a mall or water-slide park. Then I
Clearly, Winter wants to live at least some semblance
of the quiet life. He collects underground comics and primitive Tibetan art.
he also hangs with cutting-edge musician friends, including members of the Meat
Puppets and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who guitarist, Flea, says of Alex,
"He?s this pop celeb guy, but he doesn?t gallivant around town being a
Instead, most nights Alex can be found with his
girlfriend of several years. So far, no one?s talking about a journey down the
aisle. "I?d like to settle down at some point - I mean, not settle down,
just raise a family," says Alex. "I don?t think settling down is
something I?ll ever do."