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André Gregory, Actor, Director, Writer, b. 1934

“The FBI tried out our typewriter.”

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I always looked a little lost in my childhood. I liked spy stories, and I liked being a little bit of a spy. We had a German cook who got arrested because she and her sister had a little doll shop on 86th Street, which was the German section. It turned out that they had been stuffing dolls with cash for German agents in New York. I invented a spy code with a school friend when I was about 9. We would write codes to each other, and one of these coded messages got sent to the laundry in my trousers. Everywhere in those days there were signs that said the walls have ears! report anything suspicious you hear to the fbi. The laundry sent these coded messages to the FBI, who tracked them down and visited my parents, who were absolutely terrified by the experience because they had also lived in Soviet Russia. The FBI even tried out our typewriter and found out that this was in fact the typewriter that wrote the code. I wasn’t allowed to listen to radio dramas for six months as punishment.

Mostly I was spying on my own family. And whenever I was in a bus or on the streets, I was intensely scrutinizing people’s faces. ­People are hiding behind masks all the time, and I think that, as an inquisitive kid, I was fascinated with trying to discover who the real person is behind the mask.


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