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In the park, by the pond, with Whoopi
Folks tuning in during May to “The View” television show on ABC may have glimpsed Whoopi Goldberg strolling through Central Park with a much taller person — a blue-eyed, curly haired Islander-turned-New Yorker and aspiring actor, Nathan Kaufman.
2000 MIHS graduate Nathan Kaufman can be found every Thursday in May in a five-minute segment on “The View,” where he takes Whoopi Goldberg around New York City. The pair shows viewers hidden gems in the city unknown to most.
In between acting gigs, Kaufman works as a New York City tour guide.
Kaufman, 30, was voted by his Mercer Island High School class as “most likely to win an Oscar.”
As a boy, Kaufman did not show much enthusiasm for sports. His mother, Molly, needing to find a way to channel his energy, suggested acting classes. She took him to theater classes at Seattle Children’s Theatre, then on to YTN, the SJCC and drama classes at the high school and beyond.
He had found his niche.
“It was perfect,” he said. “I could be loud and obnoxious and get a lot of attention.”
But he became serious about acting. After high school, he headed east and attended a theater program at Purchase College just outside of New York City, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. After graduation, he headed to New York to find work as an actor and has been there ever since.
There he ran into old friends, found the right job, romance and an unexpected opportunity.
But in the interim, he worked at all kinds of less than perfect gigs. He was a bartender, a demonstrator — most notably for Nespresso coffee machines, but also grills and blenders, and handed out samples.
It wasn’t easy, he said. None paid too well.
Then the recession hit and it got harder. He had a temp job for a time at NYU — but was laid off. Things got a bit desperate.
He then ran into an old friend from YTN days, Amber Cameron, a friend from Newport High School. She and her husband, Luke Miller, have a tour company in New York City.
“They took me in,” he said. “They saved me.”
Their company is called Real New York Tours. “The company wants its clients to feel like they have a real New Yorker taking them around,” he explained. “You are on foot or take cabs, like a real New Yorker. You see the spots known only to New Yorkers.”
Going on a tour in New York is not like riding the Duck in Seattle, he said.
It is a serious business.
“In New York City, you have to train and be certified to be a tour guide,” he explained. “No kidding. You have to take a 150-question test and pass.”
“It was me,” he said of the job. “I love telling stories and being the center of attention. I get to meet new people and be outdoors — and no desk.”
Remarkably, one of his first group tours included his former high school drama teacher Cathleen (Ceecee)Monahan and her husband with a group of students from Shoreline. It was the same sort of trip that Kaufman had taken himself as a student with her.
“She told me to pursue my dreams,” Kaufman said.
In 2009, at 66th and Broadway, he ran into an acquaintance, Ashley Alderfer, from college. She worked at “The View,” the CBS television talk show. That meeting led to their wedding last fall.
Through his wife, the wardrobe supervisor for the show, he met the cast.
“I got to hang out backstage occasionally and tag along for social events,” he said.
“Over the last couple of years, I got to know Whoopi. She is the kindest, smartest, down-to-earth person you would ever want to know,” he said.
One day, a discussion about a new segment centered on showing hidden spots in New York.
“At this point, Ashley, my wife, becomes my agent,” he laughs. “She immediately said, ‘What about Nathan? He is a tour guide.’ Whoopi says yes, well, of course.
“So she texts me and says, ‘Would you like to take Whoopi around the city for the show?’ I can hardly believe it.”
Kaufman met later with Whoopi in her dressing room. They talked over fried chicken.
“I asked her what she wanted to do or where to go — after all, she is the native New Yorker, not me. She just said, ‘I trust you.’ All I could think is, I love you, too,” he said.
There is no script for the segment. After picking out a place, the two play it by ear. They usually stop in someplace for a bite to eat. At least one spot he took her, close to where he now lives, is a pond in Central Park. It is quiet and full of ducks and wildlife. Whoopi had never been there before. It was the place that Nathan had proposed to his wife.
Surprisingly, another segment was set near Wall Street. They have visited Chelsea Market and Harlem.
“It is a bit surreal,” he said. “I just keep think thinking how cool this is. Totally crazy. What an opportunity. And how much I owe to my friends for hiring me. I owe them so much.”
For more information on touring New York, go to realnewyorktours.com.
To find information about when Kaufman and Whoopi’s tours will be broadcast, go to http://beta.abc.go.com/shows/the-view.