In May 1990, Robert Sedgwick should’ve been on top of the world. The 29-year-old actor had just booked a recurring gig on the ABC soap opera “One Life To Live.” He was making a grand a day, and though he considered soap operas “the lowest job in the acting food chain,” he was still grateful for the work.
The only problem? He was also in the middle of a court trial for drug possession and conspiracy to distribute. Accused of being the leader of an underground New York dope trafficking empire, his lawyers warned that he might be sent away for five years or more.
And yet, Sedgwick’s agent thought it was a gold mine that he was playing a drug dealer while simultaneously facing charges for being a drug dealer, the actor writes in his new memoir, “Bob Goes to Jail” (Rare Bird Books), out now.
“You should publicize the shit out of this,” the agent told Sedgwick. “You’d never stop working!”
But he turned down requests for interviews from magazines like Details, mostly because he didn’t “want to bring attention to my sister and brother-in-law,” writes Sedgwick.
His sister is actress Kyra Sedgwick and her husband is Kevin Bacon. She was fresh off of her breakout role opposite Tom Cruise in “Born on the Fourth of July” and Bacon was already a star thanks to “Footloose.”
“Rob, they have attention — you don’t,” his agent told him. “You need all the attention you can get.”
At the start of 1990, Sedgwick had come off a lackluster few years as an actor, starring in forgettable movies like “Nasty Hero” and “Staying Together.” And then, on Jan. 31, 1990, DEA agents raided his 12-bedroom Upper West Side home — which belonged to his grandparents, who’d let him stay there while they traveled in the West Indies — and busted him with 250 pounds of marijuana.
Agents mistakenly assumed Sedgwick was a drug lord and the brains behind the operation. But he was just a “schmuck” (his word) who’d made friends with the wrong people and had a pedigree that made his arrest all the more embarrassing.
The Sedgwick family has a long and prestigious lineage, from Judge Theodore Sedgwick, the fourth speaker of the US House of Representatives, to Edie Sedgwick, the ill-fated muse for both Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan.
“I cannot believe you would do something like this,” his father, venture capitalist Henry Dwight Sedgwick, scolded him. “I should have made you go to church and dress better. You’re a Sedgwick, for God’s sake!”
His younger sister, Kyra, was more sympathetic to her brother’s drug transgressions, especially given their family history.
After their parents’ divorce when they were young, their mom, Patricia, a speech therapist, remarried in 1971 to renown art dealer Ben Heller, a collector of abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. The family moved into an elaborate townhouse at 127 East 75th St., with butlers, a living room the size of a basketball court and, as the Sedgwick kids soon discovered, an abundance of drugs and alcohol.
While still teenagers, Kyra just 13, they would regularly enjoy booze and cocaine they procured from their in-house cook/nanny Linus, who instructed them to call coke “recipes” when on the phone (in case it was being tapped) and taught them “all about drugs, amazing music, advanced debauchery, [and] Bohemia gone berserk,” Sedgwick writes.
“I’m so happy,” Kyra would squeal, eagerly snorting cocaine as they ignored their mother’s worried knocking on the bedroom door. “I feel smarter. Does that sound stupid?”
Later, in 1988, Sedgwick had a chance encounter with a drug dealer named Jordan, a longtime friend of Sedgwick’s younger brother, Nikko, a painter.
At 27, Sedgwick allowed Jordan to store and distribute large quantities of dope out of his grandparents’ lavish home on 85th and Broadway. In exchange, Sedgwick netted thousands of dollars just for having the keys to the best safe house in New York.
Sedgwick’s side hustle gave him a cocky confidence in auditions.
“My newfound gangster gait … actually nurtured a blossoming uptown aura of cool,” he writes. “When I auditioned, I didn’t care. And when they smelled freedom on you, that’s when you were wanted.”
He landed a role in the Barbara Hershey/Keanu Reeves studio movie “Tune in Tomorrow.”
And then came the drug bust. As Sedgwick would soon learn, his casual confidence also made the DEA assume he was the main guy in their drug-dealing operation.
“They thought I was strangely composed during the actual bust,” Sedgwick writes. But in actuality, “fear reverberated in every fiber of my being.”
His acting chops likely saved him in the end. At his sentencing in January of 1991 — just months after his character on “One Life to Live” was written off the show — Sedgwick pleaded guilty in court and gave a mea culpa that somehow swayed the judge to give him a four-year suspended sentence.
He got sober four years later and soon after was cast as baddie Rolf in 1995’s “Die Hard with a Vengeance,” followed by other roles on shows like “Law & Order,” “30 Rock” and “Orange Is the New Black.”
Meanwhile, Jordan, the drug dealer who led to his brush with the law, remains one of his best friends to this day.
“When we talk about the bust, it’s something that we share just between ourselves,” Sedgwick told The Post. “As a sacred, lethal, surreal memory.”