Stacy Keach says golf keeps him sharp on stage

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When actor Stacy Keach arrives in a new city, he immediately gets in his car and goes searching.

Stacy Keach (L), a cast member in the new Fox television series "Prison Break," addresses reporters as fellow cast member Sarah Wayne Callies listens at the Fox summer press tour hosted by the Television Critics Association in Beverly Hills, California, July 29, 2005. REUTERS/Chris Pizzello

It’s not for good restaurants, the local sights, or late-night hotspots.

“The first thing I do is drive around and look for a good golf course,” Keach, 67, told Reuters in a recent interview. “A little fresh air, it’s relaxing. And it helps me stay sharp at night.

“Of course, it hasn’t helped my golf game.”

Staying focused at night is pivotal for Keach, who is currently playing Richard Nixon on a U.S. national tour of the stage play “Frost/Nixon”, about the landmark 1977 interview between the former U.S. president and British talk-show host David Frost.

The movie version, starring Frank Langella as Nixon, opened in major U.S. cities on Friday.

Perhaps best known for his portrayal of TV detective Mike Hammer in the 1980s, Keach has been in the public eye for more than 40 years. Equally at home on the stage, TV or narrating educational shows on television, the Savannah, Georgia-born actor has done everything from comedy to Shakespeare.

Keach is away from his homes in Los Angeles and Poland -- where he lives with his Polish actress wife Malgosia Tomassi -- up to five months a year.

“I try to structure my week in such a way that I devote one day to interviews,” said Keach, using his hands for emphasis, in a room just outside the Kennedy Center’s Opera House.

“One day I devote to golf. One day I devote to going into the studio to do recordings of either voice-overs or music.

“It’s about discipline. I try to maintain that. It’s not always easy. But without structure, I don’t think I could do it. I know I couldn’t.”

Keach’s worst moment in the public spotlight was in 1984, when he was sent to prison after being caught carrying cocaine at London’s Heathrow Airport. He insists his need for structure is not because he fears a relapse into drugs.

“This was in the early 80s and cocaine was everywhere in the showbusiness industry,” he said. “You’d go into a restaurant or a party and it was laid out. And I became addicted.

“I wasn’t a social druggie. It became a medicinal thing. It was something I needed in order to make me more alert, more confident. It’s a diabolical drug. It really is.

“The six months that I spent at Reading jail did the trick. I never went near it again. Everyone at the time said the sentence was too harsh. But it saved my life.”

Keach was certain his career was over but he was welcomed back in a big way.

He is one of the world’s busiest actors. The “Frost/Nixon” U.S. tour began in August and ends in May 2009. By the end of May, Keach will be back in Washington playing in “King Lear”.

When he was filming the U.S. TV drama “Prison Break”, he made 17 trips from his Warsaw home to Chicago in a single year.

“I like to be busy,” said Keach, who has two children with Tomassi. “I’m very fortunate that I can sleep at the drop of a hat. I can sleep on planes. I can sleep anywhere. And I do.”

He has no plans to slow down.

“With two kids in college, I’ve got to keep punching the clock,” he said with a laugh.