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Actress Lois Robbins on Filming Soaps in the City

By Heidi Patalano | February 26, 2014 7:47am
 The actress and lifelong New Yorker told DNAinfo New York about her favorite spots in her Upper East Side neighborhood.
Lois Robbins' Upper East Side
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UPPER EAST SIDE — Like so many lifelong New Yorkers, actress Lois Robbins' personal history paints a picture of the city in a previous era.

In the ‘80s, Robbins starred in soap operas shot at CBS and ABC in Manhattan — “One Life to Live,” “Loving,” “Ryan’s Hope” and “All My Children.” And she’s appeared in productions at the Roundabout Theatre Company and for the New York Music Theatre Festival.

The Upper East Side mother of three and wife to Andrew Zaro of the Zaro’s Bakery family has lived on the Upper East and Upper West Sides her whole life and can rattle off her favorite restaurants there without a moment’s hesitation.

She continues to act and sing, and last year starred in "Blowtorch," alongside Billy Baldwin. This year she’ll star in Meg Ryan’s new directorial project, “Ithaca,” in which Ryan will also star.

Robbins will take center stage Wednesday night at 54 Below for “Lessons From Lois.” As part of the cabaret performance, Robbins will sing classics from the American songbook.

She spoke to DNAinfo New York about her New York haunts and life on a soap in the ‘80s.

Was being on the sets of all the soaps in the 1980s anything like what they describe about the cast of “Saturday Night Live” in the 1970s?
There were definitely a lot of relationships that were brewing back then. I didn’t have any but I definitely watched a lot of people going in and out of romances. We were working nonstop and we did end up all going out together at night after the show when we finished taping. I think the business breeds that because you work long, hard hours with people.

There was a time for several years when “Loving” and “Ryan’s Hope” were filmed in the same building. Both casts were always hanging out together. We’d all see each other in the hallways and would end up hanging out after work. You’d run across to their studio if you had a couple of hours before you were shooting, hang out in front of the dressing room and just chat.

So you’ve lived either on the Upper East or Upper West Sides for your whole life. How would you say they’re different?
I feel like the East Side, it’s not more manicured but there’s something very lush and sophisticated about the East Side and the West Side is a little bit more down-home, more relaxed. We’re lucky though that the entire city can be your neighborhood.

Where do you like to eat around town?
For my vegan friends, I recommend Candle 79, which is on 79th between Lex and Third. Their sister restaurant is a little more casual — Candle Cafe. And they deliver, which is fantastic. If I want my ginger-miso stir-fry, I call them and it is just so yum.

For Italian we love Antonucci which is on 81st between Lexington and Third. When you sit down, they serve this red sauce with a dollop of ricotta cheese, alongside a beautiful basket of bread. I could have that and a glass of wine and the meal is done. Via Quadronno which is on 73rd between Madison and Fifth — I have a few moms that I meet for coffee there. We do our coffee there and we treat ourselves to croissants.

What can people expect from your show at 54 Below?
It’s everything from Cole Porter to original material by Amanda McBroom. I’ve got some music by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. I’ve got Sondheim. I do a Laura Nyro song, “I Never Meant to Hurt You.” It’s a variety of songs but it’s all based on a theme.

The show is called "Lessons from Lois" — they’re life lesson songs. I talk a lot about the fact that I’ve always wanted to have my own advice column. The theme developed out of that ... It’s conversational and it’s me being me. It’s funny and poignant and hopefully very entertaining.