‘Sex and the City’ star talks about life, love, and latest book

BY VICTORIA SIEGEL, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

When Harry Goldenblatt proposed to Charlotte York at a Jewish singles event, the women in the room swooned…as did the television audience. Sex and the City fans will recognize this scene from an episode in the final year of the popular series. And many of those fans will recognize the actor behind the Goldenblatt character, Evan Handler, when he appears at the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival on Wednesday, November 12, 7:30 p.m.

While the producers’ original description of the Harry Goldenblatt role was not a flattering portrait of the character, Handler brought a sense of warmth, passion, and gentleness to Harry that made fans fall in love with how much he was in love with Charlotte. Viewers also are now fans of his role in Californication, where he co-stars with David Duchovny.

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But Handler’s road to this point in his life, much less to this level of celebrity, was not an easy one. “Twenty-three years ago it was as if I got kidnapped and taken away from my life and lived covertly for 4-5 years,” he said. Handler is referring to his difficult battle with acute myeloid leukemia that put him in and out of hospitals for treatments and procedures. When he survived what had been diagnosed as “incurable” he wanted to let people know what had happened. “I found I had a knack for telling my experiences. People would laugh in the places I thought they would and then be horrified; and then I could make them laugh again.”

It is with this weaving of humor and survival that Handler wrote his first book Time On Fire: My Comedy of Terrors. In his second book, which he is discussing at the book festival, called It’s Only Temporary: The Good News and the Bad News of Being Alive, Handler explores what happens when events change people’s perspectives. “To me everyone has battles between the gratitude they think they should feel with how they really feel,” he said.

In his book, Handler discusses the highs and lows of dating (“my 27 break-ups with 10 different women”), learning to trust in life again, and living his life backwards. “In my 20s I lived the existence of a dying old man,” he said. “I was set free when I was 30 to live my 20s and I wanted to get away from what I went through while knowing where we’re all heading.”

Handler talks openly about the difficult years after his illness when he was unhappy and yet searching for love. “I wanted incompatible things at the same time, I was conflicted. So there was a natural desire to find it and at the same time wanting to run away from it,” he said. Luckily he found the love he desired in the form of an Italian-born woman he married in 2003.

The irony of Handler finding love when he did came at a turning point in his fame, which he retells with humor. “A few of the Sex and the City episodes in which I appeared had aired already and I was on a first date with the woman I knew was going to eventually be my wife. I’m sitting at the table with her and there are all these young women across the street who are yelling things like ‘Harry, come take a picture with us’ and ‘Harry, we love you.’ I wanted to say to her ‘Can we put this date off for a week or two?'”

Luckily, he was able to combine this new fan adoration and a new relationship and found the love and happiness that he wanted after his years of illness and facing death. “I think that love is the balm that soothes us from the knowledge of our own mortality,” Handler said.

At his appearance in St. Louis he will talk about “Sex and the City” stories, overcoming a fatal illness, celebrating “reform Jewish Christmas” as a child with his family, the notion of hope and the nonexistence of false hope, insights into the questions of whether G-d exists, and Italians’ fascination with Americans’ lack of bidets in our bathrooms.

Tickets to see Evan Handler are $15; this event is included in the Festival Series Ticket. They can be purchased in advanced by calling (314) 442-3299 or prior to the program at the JCC cashier’s window or at the door, depending on availability.