By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Income: $20,000 (last year)
Health Insurance: adults, none; child, covered by Cryer's ex-husband
Oh boy, is this family busy!
Robin and Phil have a band. Sometimes they silk-screen the band T-shirts in the living room. Other times they record songs on the four-track in their bedroom. Robin's daughter has a band, too, and they practice in her roomtheir first cut was "Jingle Bells." Robin's mother is at her desk writing songs and plays or faxing somebody about her mail-order food business. Then there is the Swedish boarder who models for Victoria's Secret and only storms in occasionally.
How did they all get there? It was 1993, Phil said. "I'd been living in New York for two years, after doing B movies in L.A. I had a one-way ticket out of town. I was going to go to Spain. Study guitar. Be poor. Drink a lot of sangria. I was just getting ready to change my life."
Then he saw this singing mermaid at the Actor's Playhouse. A former bass player for an Elvis impersonator, Robin Cryer "had such a mesmerizing vocal quality. I asked if she'd be interested in singing backup vocals with me."
"We've not been separated since," Robin said. Their band Girlfriend plays at Shine and Luna Lounge and recently at Day in the Garden in Woodstock"our biggest gig ever," Phil said. "No, we didn't get paid but we got to hang out with Joey Ramone [and] all these 14-year-old boys wanted our autographs," Robin said.
In short, "we're doing great. But the credit card people want to put us in the East River." Phil, 29, said they are about $17,000 in debt"promotion is the big monster. We may make $600 on a good night at Shine but we spend hundreds on cards, postage, posters."
Still, they are pushing on. During the summer Phil made $15 an hour cleaning out cesspools on Fire Island for Joey Zigon, the cesspool king, who used to be in surfer movies. Robin, who is in her twenties, makes a few thousand a year putting miniature photos on jewelry charms. Hallie's father provides $273 a month child support.
"I'm so used to living on the edge, I don't know any other way." Robin's mother is playwright-lyricist Gretchen Cryer, who cowrote and starred in I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road. Gretchen came to New York in the early '60s, not long after she was a 4-H Club member in Dunreith, Indiana (pop. 200), and moved into the huge apartment above 96th on West End that she now owns. She had two children, was divorced from her husband who had studied to be a minister but is now an actor on tour with Phantom, and took in and raised Robin's best friend at 13 "when something happened with her parents." About 10 years ago, after Gretchen's own parents in Indiana became ill and got skinny because they wouldn't eat the beans that their vegetarian son was feeding them, Gretchen began whipping up chicken legs to send them UPS. Before she knew it, she had started a mail-order food business for the homebound.
"My mother's gone through incredible periods of feast or famine," Robin said. "She did a great job raising us, though. We never felt poor even though we were. We all went to public schools."
"Gretchen's our guardian angel," Phil said. "When we run out of money, she's very accommodating."
"And my brother helps us all out," Robin said, talking about Jon Cryer, who played Duckie in Pretty in Pink and is now in Getting Personal on Fox. "He was one of mother's first investors in her food business. He kicked in $50,000. He's started a college fund for Hallie."
Robin said her brother is a family exception when it comes to money. And Phil? "I come from a family of Irish Catholic martyrs. Enough said."