The responsibility of raising Kade fell on the shoulders of his elderly immigrant maternal grandmother, with whom he lived in a tiny apartment in the “Russian projects” of Northeast Philadelphia. Kade was an angry youth who frequently mocked other kids and provoked fistfights, to deflect, he now realizes, his own insecurities. His grandmother was his only stabilizing force: “My grandmother was the love of my life, the only real love I’ve ever known.” After she had a mastectomy for breast cancer and could no longer sleep in her bed, Kade spent four years sleeping on a couch beside her couch, developing scoliosis in the process. And when she died suddenly from a heart attack in 1998, he felt devastated, and profoundly alone. “Actually, I considered suicide,” he says. “I don’t think seriously, but I talked about it.”
Kade is disarmingly self-aware about the long-term emotional and psychological toll his childhood — especially his father’s absence — had on him: “It created a lot of insecurities, a lot of needing to be the center of attention, a lot of not understanding my impact on people and what I was saying and how I was acting.” The manifestations were far-reaching. Even the job he took in the financial world — the lifestyle he built — was, he realizes now, born of a desire to “get my father’s attention — like, Hey, notice me!” But, Kade says, despite his material success, the person he was projecting was not really him.
It took eight years of weekly psychotherapy for Kade to fully come to terms with his father. Finally, two years ago, over Passover dinner at Café Michelangelo, Kade confronted him. “Here I am making x amount of dollars,” Kade told him, “and I’m not happy. And I’m not happy because you weren’t there for me.” During a four-hour, tear-filled conversation, his father explained that he’d treated him the way he did because he’d always believed Kade was able to take care of himself. As part of their amends, Kade confided to his father his lifelong dream to become an actor, including his plans for “The Journey.” His father agreed to be supportive. Their relationship is better than ever before. And having obtained some sort of long-desired closure, Arthur Kadyshes was finally free to become the man he truly believed he was: Arthur Kade.
I ask Kade if the vitriol of the comments on his site has gotten to him, if he feels misunderstood in some way. “It all comes with the territory” is his answer. Still, he acknowledges that some have been “particularly hurtful” — so much so that he’s started to reconsider some aspects of his physicality: not only his skin, but also his nose, which was corrected surgically years ago and which he’s always loved and considered “Adonis-like” but is now beginning to think “maybe is too big.” He’s also become more conscious of his lisp, which he’s committed to working on.
“Regardless of what you think of me, would you have the balls to do what I’m doing?” he asks his detractors. “Would you walk away from a six-figure career during the worst recession of our lifetime to go pursue something that you’re passionate about, to put it all out there for the world to see, and to take the abuse I’m taking?”
AND SO THE $64,000 question: Can he act?
Recently, I accompanied him to a workshop his agent — Mary Anne Claro — had set up in her cramped second-floor office at Broad and Passyunk. Ten of Claro’s aspiring actors had been invited to participate in a commercial workshop with Philadelphia husband-and-wife casting agents Sam and Susan Gish. The auditionees were a disparate group, including a middle-aged female doctor, two overzealous 14-year-old girls (archetypical stage kids who, in heavy acting makeup, looked far older), a massive 50-something Italian guy from South Jersey (with a shaved head and lots of gold jewelry), and a large, bald black man (with a thick beard and an intense face).