Louis Szekely and Alix Bailey met at a New Year's Eve party in Boston when they both were 18. He was drunk and had vomit on his breath when he proposed to her about five minutes later; she just laughed at him.
When they met again in New York City through a mutual friend, 15 years had passed and both were in the process of establishing their careers. Bailey was working day and night as a painter in her Manhattan loft studio; Louis had changed his last name to C.K. ("phonetically, it's about as close as you can get to Szekely") and was working as a writer on "The Late Show with David Letterman."
Clean and sober with flossed and brushed teeth, C.K. proposed again and immediately received a positive response. So far, it has yielded two beautiful daughters - 1 and 4 - an apartment in the Big Apple, a house in upstate New York and an expensive rental home practically on the beach in Venice, Calif.
A perfect day with the family, according to C.K., is at their country house "with the kids running around playing with the water hose, my wife is gardening and I'm just lying about with a glass of water," he said. "It gets even better when the kids are both asleep and my wife and I share a beer and an occasional cigarette."
Though hardly autobiographical in every detail, the 40-year-old stand-up comedian-actor-director-filmmaker created HBO's "Lucky Louie," stars in the vehicle, writes for the show and acts as one of it's executive producers. He portrays Louie, a typical part-time auto mechanic with limited ambition married to Kim (Pamela Adlon), who almost makes ends meet as a gainfully employed nurse.
Louie and Kim - living the American dream/nightmare - are also the loving parents of an adorable 5-year-old daughter, Lucy (Kelly Gould), who is fully capable of carrying on philosophical discussions ("Why?") with her dad. Jerry Minor and Kim Hawthorne play the perpetually insulted African-American couple across the hall and Rich Shapiro appears as Jerry, Kim's useless brother.
"I would say that 'Lucky Louie' is a very honest approach to raising kids and being married in America without a whole lot of money," said C.K., who, among other kudos, collected an Emmy Award for his writing on "The Chris Tucker Show" in 1999. "It's about how I grew up and my frustrations as a parent."
Of course, C.K. (and his three siblings) had a fairly eclectic upbringing from the day he was born in Washington, D.C. His father did not find a great deal of work in the United States as a Mexican economist.
C.K.'s mother, a Catholic Irish-American, somehow fed them all as a computer software engineer - though often in small apartments and on skimpy rations.
He spent the first five years of his life surrounded by his father's family and friends in Mexico City. When they moved to Boston, Spanish was his first language.
"I do have very deep, fond memories of my family in Mexico City, but I also remember feeling funny for not speaking English - I was basically an immigrant," he mused. "But I picked up the language fast and soon I knew that I wanted to be a writer. Then I discovered a bin of comedy records done by Bill Cosby, George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Steve Martin. I wanted desperately to do that, too.
"Then, after watching films like 'Jaws,' 'Rocky' and 'Star Wars,' I kept thinking, 'God, I want to make movies,'" he continued.
After high school, he became a "crappy" car mechanic in Boston by day while working up the courage to do a stand-up gig on open-mike night at a local club. He was expected to do a five-minute act, but only had enough material for 120 seconds. It was a very long night.
A bulldog, C.K. refused to let go and gradually worked up to $100 gigs and hosting comedy clubs throughout the city. After four years, he had enough confidence to pull up stakes and move to New York - trading his small, $300-a-month Boston apartment for a tinier, $1,100-per-month Manhattan apartment.
In 1990, he launched his short film career with "Caesar's Salad," followed by "Ice Cream" three years later that created a buzz at the Sundance Film Festival and led to a two-year writing gig for Conan O'Brien's late-night program.
Next up was producing and writing for Dana Carvey's short-lived show, plus writing, directing and producing such feature films as "Tomorrow Night" and "Pootie Tang."
And now "Lucky Louie" is payback time for C.K., getting even for all the insults in the early days during gigs in rotten places, including a Mexican restaurant in Massachusetts where the drunken owner often waved a gun in the audience and once held it to the head of heckler: The burly, balding and bearded hyphenate does it by getting totally naked in love scenes - and it isn't a pretty sight.
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