By Stephen Saban Photographs by Mike Ruiz
Is Alyssa Milano really charmed? Recently, one of her cats jumped off a second-floor balcony in her Benedict Canyon house and sailed 20 feet to the atrium floor, shrieking like a hellcat en route. "She made this horrifying sound, like I've never heard before," says Milano. Kitty didn't land on its feet as expected, so Milano swooped down (the stairs) after her and picked up the sprawled feline, ready to administer last rites. "But she started purring seconds later, and I thought, 'This is a special cat.' "
Her: My little brother, Cory, who was 12 at the time, went on the Internet and typed in my name and found me on a lot of porn sites. He was devastated. It was a major family dilemma. My lawyer said that, even if the pictures were legitimate, they couldn't use my likeness for their income without permission. Those people were making 30 grand a month off me.
Milano was born in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, in December 1972. In 1976, a shooting in the neighborhood while little Alyssa was playing on the Milanos' front lawn prompted the family to move to boringly safe Staten Island. "I grew up in such a creative house," says Milano. Mom was a fashion designer with two boutiques in Brooklyn; Dad was a struggling musician (he now edits music for films in Hollywood). They were not a typical suburban family. "We didn't sit down and watch TV together. When my dad came home, we'd have dinner and then he played piano, my mom would sit with her sketchbook, and I would play with my dolls and make up scenes." Early on, she had taken singing and dancing classes and, at age seven, after seeing the musical Annie on Broadway, tried out for and won a part in the touring company. "It was so easy," she says. It was no hard-knock life for her.
Her: I did that for a year and a half. When I got back from Annie, I did theater work, some plays and a low-budget movie called Old Enough, with Danny Aiello. It was great starting out like that because it was like my acting class, you know. Then I got the pilot for Who's the Boss? when I was 11, and we moved to Los Angeles.
Her: I know. There are so many real ones. Absolutely.
Me: And you sued over those, as well.
Her: I sued for the real ones more than I did for the fake ones.
Me: Nine years ago you were a singing sensation in Asia. You were on the charts and your albums went platinum. How many albums are there?
Her: Five. And I have a compilation also. [Laughs] A best-of.
Me: What was your genre?
Her: The songs were a product of Japanese specialty writers and producers. Mind you, it was during that Asian bubblegum pop craziness.
Me: Like that 'Twiggy vs. James Bond' by Pizzicato Five?
Her: Yeah, sorta like that. I sang in English. I recorded the first album in five days.
Me: Do you ever listen to them?
Her: Not in five years. Now I'm married to the most brilliant musician who ever lived, so there's no way I'm playing 'em now.
Me: That's right. You married a struggling musician like your mom did. How did you meet Cinjun Tate? [Cinjun, Gaelic for St. John, is in the band Remy Zero.]
Her: We met at a mutual friend's party. That night, I knew I was gonna marry him. We talked for eight hours straight.
Me: Was he aware of exactly who you were? That you were, you know, Alyssa Milano?
Her: Oh, yeah.
Me: Did he boast to friends that he was going out with Alyssa Milano?
Her: Well, [he'd come from Nashville but] he'd been in L.A. for quite a while, so he wasn't really starstruck when he met me. But it was definitely weird for him the first month to be like, 'Wow, I'm falling in love with Alyssa Milano and she loves me.'
Me: In every print and TV interview you did before you met him, you gave the impression that you were desperate for a boyfriend, that you couldn't get a date. Was that really true?
Her: It was basically my gimmick. It was self-deprecating and fun to talk about in interviews. It became humorous. But I'd been single for two years before I met my husband.
Me: 'My husband.' You like saying that?
Her: I love saying that.
Me: Are you an old-fashioned wife?
Her: What does that mean?
Me: Is Cinjun the king of the castle? Are you the little missus?
Her: I am. I'm incredibly supportive of what he does and am trying very much to make the house a home, a supportive environment.
Me: Don't you also have a male roommate?
Her: I do. Davy.
Me: How does that work?
Her: You have to understand that I live in a house that's 6,700 square feet with five bedrooms and an atrium. So it's not like I have to see him. He has been a friend of the family for years and was going through a hard time with his wife.
Me: You were once engaged to [Party of Five's] Scott Wolf. Does it make you sad to talk about him?
Her: It's not sad to talk about it now. We're like bookends.
Me: You're 5' 2". How tall is he?
Her: 5' 3"! [Laughs] No, probably 5' 6".
Me: Then he was lucky to find you. You have his initials, SRW, tattooed on your ankle. When you broke up, you said SRW stood for Single Rad Woman. What does it stand for now that you're married?
Her: Some Rad Woman.
Me: It's like a mood tattoo. Now for some fun stuff. Describe yourself to me.
Her: I'm incredibly earthy. I like getting dirty. I'm loyal in friendships. Compassionate. Passionate – that's the Italian thing. I'm dedicated to my work, to an extent.
Me: What does that mean?
Her: I love what I do, but when it gets to the point of taking up every facet of my life I'll move to a ranch somewhere in Canada. I'm a good wife. I'm maternal. I'm domestic. I cook. I don't clean, but am definitely a straighten-upper.
Me: Other than your cats, dogs and birds, what one thing would you save if your house caught fire?
Her: Wow. I would grab my parents' wedding bands out of my jewelry box.
Me: Why do you have them?
Her: Because they buy each other new ones every ten years. I get my mom's old ones, and my brother gets my dad's.
Me: Is there anything you'd like to change about yourself?
Her: I'd like to be taller and have the height come from longer legs.
Me: What do you like best about boys?
Her: I love boys! Physically, I like the backs of their necks. And I love how they think they're different from us and how they're really not. I'm turned on by a really attractive man who is not afraid to make himself look like an asshole for a joke, who's secure enough in his beauty to be absolutely ridiculous.
Me: What do you like best about girls?
Her: Most women I'm friends with have a very nurturing, maternal aspect. That's really beautiful.
Me: Would you rather be first or next?
Her: It depends. It made me really proud to be the first person to sue a pornmaster; I felt like such a pioneer. But I'd like to be next in line for a scary ride that's untested and might kill me.
Me: What are you reading right now?
Her: In my trailer, I'm alternating between a book on the cabala and The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama.
Me: Are you spiritual?
Me: In what order would you give up sex, fame and money?
Her: Fame first, money second, then sex.
Me: Any beauty secrets?
Her: I don't use deodorant - too much aluminum in it. Use the crystal. That's my beauty secret.
Me: What's your favorite cookie?
Her: Famous Amos.
Me: I was hoping you'd say...
Her: Milano? That's my brother's favorite, actually.
Cinjun is the most brilliant musician who ever lived?! Mozart and Beethoven (among many, many others) must be rolling in their graves.