There's a mob outside the Rivoli Theater, and the blood-red marquee screams the attraction: PSYCHO II.
"Anybody got an extra pass?" a cab driver barks.
There's Marisa Berenson in layers of chunky jewels and pancake makeup. There's Quentin Crisp, in fey black fedora and cape. There's Tony Perkins in tailored gray suit, lavender shirt, slicked-back hair and taut mocha skin. There's Berry Berenson, Perkins' wife and sister of Marisa, in hot pink quilted jacket and torrents of tangled platinum hair.
"Who's that?" one New Yorker asks, peering over the throng.
"That's Tony Poikins," another says.
After 22 years, Tony Perkins is back on the screen as Norman Bates, the twitchy, psychopathic killer of "Psycho" or, in the words of the 51-year-old actor, "the Hamlet of horror roles." He was 28 when Alfred Hitchcock chose him for the role that made him internationally famous. He says the nervous twitch was real. "It was fear," he says.
Perkins had a lot of fear back then. Mostly fear of women, he says, avoiding the question of whether it was emotional or sexual. "Definitely fear of intimacy," he says.
Now, Norman Bates is back in town. And Tony Perkins is still twitching.
The suite on the 26th floor of the Pierre Hotel has a slightly rumpled look, with empty juice glasses and coffee cups on the room service breakfast tray. The sign on the door says, "Do Not Disturb." On the mantel are two dozen plastic bottles that appear to be vitamins. On the coffee table is a book, "The Network of Thought," by Krishnamurti. The publicity man says the interview will be one hour. No longer. There are four or five interviews scheduled for the same afternoon, a media cattle call.
Tony Perkins lopes out of the bedroom, in khaki pants, pale lavender shirt, gray Ragg socks, blue Nikes and a brown leather western belt tipped in silver. He sits down in a chair and rubs his eyes after a late night at Studio 54, with a star-studded party to celebrate the premiere of "Psycho II." It will open nationwide today.
The interviewer sits on the couch near him. Perkins gets up from the chair and moves to another across the room. The interviewer puts a small tape recorder on the table. Perkins stretches forward, lifts the recorder off the table and places it on top of two books. Then he picks up a tube of Chap-Stik and, hands trembling slightly, rubs the lip balm back and forth over his mouth, which is set in a grimace.
He has chiseled features and a George Hamilton brand of celluloid agelessness. The eyes are deep brown, with arching brows which make him appear slightly sinister at times. The nose is long and thin, with flared nostrils. There's a hint of a dimple in the chin and strands of silver highlighting the dark hair.
"It never occurred to me that my looks were outstanding in any way, really. My face is too small. I've always felt that my face was one of the things that hadn't developed along with my id, if you want to use a Freudian term. If anything, my face is kind of growing up more maturely now that I'm getting older. I suppose I was on ice for a long time."
But the ice hasn't quite thawed. Cold would be a way to describe him.
"You think I'm cold now, you should have seen me then," he says, referring to the years before his marriage to Berenson, and the birth of his two sons. "Ice masquerading as warmth. There's nothing worse than that."
His chooses his words carefully, dramatically, as if reciting lines from a play.
"So if you perceive me as not warm, at least you're seeing the real me."
The interview is punctuated by uncomfortable silences, the ringing of the telephone, which Perkins answers, and several cameo appearances by his wife, who bounds into the room carrying a dress bag, sits on the edge of the chair for a photography session, then bounds out the door. Five minutes later she is back.
"You got the vitamins?" Perkins says.
"I'm coming back for them," she answers, breezing into the bedroom.
She stands in the bedroom doorway, making funny faces at her husband, who laughs, sharing a private joke.
"Where were we?" Perkins finally says.
Born in New York, Perkins was raised by his mother after his father, actor Osgood Perkins, died when his son was 5. The similarities between Norman Bates and Tony Perkins are striking: unresolved anger and guilt bubble under the surface of both. He is asked about his relationship with his mother. "She was left with a 5-year-old boy and no bucks to take care of him. I think perhaps she was a little bit more controlling than she might have been if there had been a father around. So that might have slowed up my progress as a person. I think she was frightened. She did the best she could. Part of the realization, part of the thing one learns to accept in analysis, I think, is that our parents, for all our gripes we may have in our grown-up lives, is the acceptance of the fact that they did the best they could."
He grew up in Massachusetts, attending Rollins College in Florida, then Columbia in New York, before turning to the stage. Acting, he says, "was a substitute for real living."
His first film role was opposite Jean Simmons in "The Actress." He was 21.
He next appeared in "Tea and Sympathy" on Broadway, then starred as Gary Cooper's son in "Friendly Persuasion." He was quickly typecast as the anxious, nervous young man, appearing in "Fear Strikes Out," "Desire Under the Elms," "Green Mansions," "Tall Story" (Jane Fonda's first film) and "On The Beach."
In 1960, he managed to break out of that mold, his all-American innocent good looks a perfect foil for the role of Norman Bates, where his natural anxiety was taken to new heights.
It was inspired casting.
"I was antisocial then. I was very remote with people and very frightened of people," he says. "Frightened of all people, particularly women, because those were the creatures I wanted to be closest to in the first place. But my anxiety that somehow my affection for my mother had somehow killed off my father was enough to put the skids on any real development. I was a retarded person."
He says he was equally frightened by large crowds, small crowds and "even face to face with people. It was very difficult." He says he became "virtually" phobic.
"I would walk into a store or restaurant and if I saw that people were staring at me, I'd leave. I'd just leave."
The press dubbed him a "confirmed bachelor."
He talks about the "confusion" of those years. "I never made that confusion public, therefore I've always been treated with dignity."
He pulls his legs up on the chair cushion.
"I felt I didn't have a developed personality. I felt I was a rather lopsided personality . . . an unfinished personality.
"Some of my performances in the '50s are eerie because they, too, are on ice. Films like 'Green Mansions.' I'm almost like a zombie. It was not long after that that I first decided I really needed to do something about my inner life, so that I wouldn't virtually vanish into my own smallness and meagerness of spirit."
He spent 10 years in analysis, read voraciously "as an excuse for not hanging around people" and married 10 years ago.
More films followed, including "Pretty Poison," "Play It As It Lays," "Catch-22," "Murder on The Orient Express" and a starring role in the Broadway production of "Equus."
He credits his youthful appearance to his new philosophy of life.
"I don't worry," he says. "I don't have regrets and I don't have anticipations. I am rather easygoing. I didn't used to be. Marriage and fatherhood and all that has taken away a lot of my restlessness."
It also softened his need for control.
"Now I'm much more relaxed," he says. "I think those are the things that make us old, that stoop us down, that make us commonplace."
The interview is nearly over. He has grown petulant and defensive from the line of questioning. He appears irritable, answering a question, then snapping, "Next?"
No, he says, Norman Bates was never a difficult role for him. And how has Norman Bates changed since the original "Psycho"?
"He's smarter now. Keener about his own inconsistencies of behavior."
And is Tony Perkins keener and smarter?
"More aware, I think. I don't think there's much that goes by me."
He stands up and faces the mirror over the mantel, smoothing down his hair for the photographer.
As for the trademark nervous twitch, "Norman still has it," Perkins says, eyes widening. "But I don't feel I have it, do you?"