For Roslyn Heights native Adam Rothenberg, the best part of his job is chatting with people he grew up admiring on the Broadway stage.
“I get to talk to all of these artists, so many of whom I grew up admiring, and in my adulthood have become fans of,” Rothenberg said. “I get to have a moment with them that most people don’t get to have.”
On his podcast “Baring It All with Call Me Adam,” Rothenberg interviews artists from the world of theater, film, TV, and music. His second season, which launched Jan. 7, specifically focuses on the theme of legacy.
“This season, in particular, I’m focusing on my guests’ legacies and lessons learned,” Rothenberg said. “So I want to talk to them about, in X amount of years from now, if somebody mentioned their name, what do they want people to think about them or remember about them? And then, of course, I want to know what lessons have they learned throughout the years.”
The idea for the season came to him in light of the pandemic, he says.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about how precious life is,” Rothenberg said. “And I really wanted to gravitate the conversation towards that thought process that I was having with myself. What do I want to leave behind? What do I want people to remember about me?”
His interest in the performing arts began at a young age, Rothenberg says. Together with his parents and brother, he would attend a Broadway show once a year, ranging from megamusicals like the original runs of “Les Miserables” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” to British imports like “Me and My Girl” and the Off-Broadway oddity “Return to the Forbidden Planet.”
Closer to home, Rothenberg says he also found inspiration in a local landmark, Hildebrandt’s Restaurant in Williston Park, adding that he is “heartbroken” about its closing.
“I remember when I was a kid, and my dad took me there for the first time because he was excited about going to this 50s-style diner, and we went there, and we never stopped going back,” Rothenberg said.
He has so many “wonderful memories” there as a child, he says, and even returned for his 40th birthday.
“I even remember that Elizabeth Taylor poster they have in there,” Rothenberg said. “Every time I go in there, I just stare at it. It just represents that old-time Hollywood feeling that I loved.”
Despite his interest in entertainment and theater, once he entered Herricks High School, Rothenberg says he eschewed performance in favor of focusing on his studies and dealing with a learning disability called auditory processing disorder that made classroom learning difficult.
“If somebody is talking to me, and then somebody is talking to somebody else next to me, it will take me a little bit longer to process what they’re saying, as opposed to somebody else [taking a shorter time],” Rothenberg said. “If I took on theater at Herricks, I think my studies would have suffered a little bit. So, unfortunately, as much as I wanted to, I didn’t…in order to really focus, I just wasn’t able to participate in an extracurricular activity.”
Eventually, though, inspiration would come via an unexpected source: the 1992 comedy film “Straight Talk,” starring Dolly Parton (a favorite singer of his and “a dream guest on the podcast,” Rothenberg says) as a radio personality dispensing advice under the guise of being a clinical therapist.
As a result, after graduating from Herricks and while attending Curry College in Milton, Mass., Rothenberg earned an internship in the promotions department of radio station WPLJ.
“From there, I just wanted to try every aspect of entertainment,” Rothenberg said. “I also then interned at the American Repertory Theatre, in Cambridge, and it was really there that I started to fall in love with theater even more.”
From there, Rothenberg says he worked “a few different theater jobs,” including at SpotCo, a premier advertising agency for Broadway shows. It was in 2008, while living in Great Neck and working for SpotCo, that he got an idea.
“It was there that I actually got the idea to start interviewing actors,” Rothenberg said.
He launched a website, Call Me Adam, where he began interviewing creatives in the theater and other entertainment areas, and eventually, he would be recruited by other companies to interview celebrities for print and audio. Rothenberg’s subjects over those years included Olivia Newton-John, Sutton Foster, Kathie Lee Gifford, George Takei, Chita Rivera, and Mel B, among many, many others.
In 2018, he brought his conversations to a live interview stage show entitled “Baring It All with Call Me Adam,” which the Broadway Podcast Network would later host on their network.
Now Manhattan-based, before the pandemic Rothenberg estimates that he was seeing between two and three performances a week, including stage shows and cabaret concerts.
“The last show I saw, literally, right before the pandemic shut things down, was ‘The Inheritance,'” Rothenberg remembers. “I saw it on Wednesday, March 11. And then Thursday, March 12 is when Broadway shut down.”
In the meantime, while he misses going to theaters and cabarets, Rothenberg says he’s been getting through recent months by relistening to favorite musicians, like Parton, Newton-John, and Kelly Clarkson.
“Music has always helped me in tough times, and has always helped me move forward,” Rothenberg said. “It’s just about looking towards the light and finding ways that allow you to move forward and not stay in the darkness.”
He adds that when performance venues reopen, they will most likely take the most necessary precautions.
“I think that when Broadway comes back and all the cabaret rooms reopen,” Rothenberg said. “I do think they are going to be as safe as it possibly can get.”
But for now, Rothenberg says he’s happy with the good company and conversation on his podcast.
“I always learn something,” Rothenberg said. “And it’s always a satisfying feeling afterwards when the guest feels like, ‘Oh, this was a great conversation.'”