The latest hourly script changes for Moonlighting have arrived at 20th Century Fox’s Stage 20. Allyce Beasley, who plays the smash sitcom’s spacey, bug-eyed receptionist, Ms. Dipesto, has only a few minutes to learn her new lines. Not one to answer the detective agency’s phone with a simple hello, Dipesto is given to jabbering in jingles. Here’s the latest: “Amnesia cases are our special today/Finding the real you is our forte.”
With her frizzy black hair and high-piping, prepubescent voice, Allyce (rhymes with police) doesn’t need Stanislavsky to play Dipesto. But she hasn’t become one of the most popular kooks in prime time by coasting. “I’m a maniac,” says Beasley, 34. “I’m always running around with my mind on aware mode.” That condition is necessary, if only to help Allyce stay abreast of the show’s powerhouse stars, Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis, her bickering detective bosses.
On the set Beasley flubs the first take. “Allyce, my precious,” says director Christopher Hibler, “let’s do it again.” This time she has the new lines cold. “She’s crucial to the show,” says Shepherd. “She gives me and Bruce a chance to play off each other. It’s that triangle that keeps the show fresh.”
Beasley makes no claims to buddyhood with the reclusive Willis. “We relate to each other as our characters,” says Allyce. “I’m sure that’s not all there is to Bruce, but that’s how I know him.” As for Cybill, “I love her to pieces.” They go for walks, exchange health food recipes and share advice on how to handle directors.
“Allyce is one of the sweetest friends I have,” says Cybill, “but she won’t do a scene if she doesn’t think it’s right. She stands up for what she believes. She’s quite smart, not nearly as daffy as Dipesto.”
Follow Beasley home, though, and you’ll find she’s running Dipesto a close second. Wearing pink tennis shoes and a tie-dyed smock, Beasley offers a tour of the apartment she shares with her husband of eight months, Vincent (Fast Times at Ridgemont High) Schiavelli, 37. Featuring a stairway to nowhere and a dining room cabinet inexplicably filled with empty Progresso tomato sauce cans, the six-room Hollywood flat is as offbeat and oddly enchanting as the guide herself.
“Wanna see a really weird bathroom?” she asks impishly, dragging the visitor into a cubicle in which two toilets face each other. “It’s straight out of The Twilight Zone, isn’t it?”
Beasley might have been hatched in Rod Serling’s brain. When she tells you her father, Marvin, was a free-lance cartoonist, you get the impression she was created rather than conceived. But no. Brooklyn-born Allyce Tannenberg (mother Harriet is a retired bookkeeper) is made of sterner stuff. “Ms. Dipesto is me 10 years ago,” says Allyce, adding that she’s not necessarily more intelligent now, just more experienced. “I’m not mouthy or brash,” she says. “But now I say what I think.”
A decade ago, Beasley was a struggling actress and already the veteran of a failed two-year marriage. In 1970, after nine months at the State University of New York College at Brock-port, she dropped out and married photographer Christopher Sansocie. “He was a wonderful man,” she says sadly, “but we were just too young.”
Hooked on performing during her college stint, she eventually moved to Manhattan—attending auditions and workshops by day, waitressing by night and, on the advice of a football-fan friend, changing her name to Beasley, after Beasley Reece, the defensive back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
She started scoring career points after moving to L.A. in 1981. Small TV roles led to the part of Coach’s daughter in Cheers. At the same time, she did a double episode of Taxi, where future spouse Schiavelli was playing Latka’s clergyman, Reverend Gorky.
“She knew I was serious when I cooked for her the first time,” says Vincent, who wed Allyce last August after three live-in years. “I made her an Italian shrimp and rice salad. I don’t whip that up for just any broad.”
He still handles KP duty, which explains the tomato stains on his apron, but which doesn’t account for more than 30 empty sauce cans in the dining room. “Oh, those,” says Beasley with a giggle, “I guess we like the color.” The cans are about to be transferred to a new, three-bedroom Hollywood Hills house. “Our families were incredibly dipped-out thrilled that we found each other,” she declares, laughing at the sound of her voice. No wonder. The line, like so much of Allyce Beasley, is pure Dipesto.