Archetypes: Kenneth Haller
An interview with Kenneth Haller, M.D., pediatrician at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, professional stage actor, playwright, cabaret producer, professor, social activist and Board Chair of PROMO, Missouri’s LGBT social and judicial advocacy organization. During his graduate work at Creighton University School of Medicine, Haller knew he had a desire to practice medicine in an inner-city environment. He spent four years as a resident at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City before making his way to work in East St. Louis. With more than 20 years of performing arts experience, Haller integrates music and theatrics into his daily interactions with young patients. He balances his time singing with Gateway Men’s Chorus, writing and performing original cabarets and, since 2008, serving as a visionary of social change, equality and LGBT representation.
What is your current frame of mind?
Broad. I’m doing a lot of different things, and everything I get to do, I want to doÛÓexcept laundry.
When and where are you happiest?
When I feel like I’m doing exactly what I’m meant to be doing right at that moment.
What is your favorite smell?
Babies, when they’re not pooping.
What is one word that describes you?
What did you eat for breakfast today?
Nonfat strawberry yogurt, a banana and coffee. Lots of coffee.
Which phrases do you most overuse?
“I’m too busy,” “Sure, I can do that,” and “I can’t; I’ve got rehearsal.”
What is your most marked characteristic?
A passion for justice.
What is your greatest weakness?
What trait do you most admire in others?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d be more assertive of my own needs.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My work with PROMO.
Which living person do you most admire?
Stephen Sondheim and Joss Whedon.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, who or what would it would be?
A bench in a parkÛÓsomething useful and peaceful that people would enjoy.
What is your most treasured possession?
A photograph of [my former partner] Bob Corsico and me. I was very much in love with him, and he was very much in love with me. He passed away in 1994.
What is your greatest extravagance?
My personal trainer.
What is your greatest fear?
Somehow not having good people in my life anymore.
On what occasion do you lie?
When people ask me how old I think they are.
Who are your favorite writers?
Vikram Seth, Don DeLillo and Ray Bradbury.
What is your favorite hobby?
Where would you like to live?
I love living in St. Louis, but I would also love to live in New York.
Who are your heroes in real life?
Harvey Milk and Larry Kramer.
If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
What’s something interesting that you just learned?
I didn’t know that Canada had won a war. When the American colonies were rebelling from Great Britain, they made overtures to British Canadian colonies to join them. Not only did they rebel, but they also started a short war against American colonies and won.
What are you most looking forward to?
Retirement. I love my job, but there are so many things I want to do. That, and “The Avengers 2.”
What is one thing you wish would happen?
That more people would appreciate how rich life is when you spend time with people unlike yourself.
What is something you still want to learn?
How to play the piano.
What is one thing you want to do before you die?
Sing at Carnegie Hall.
If you could say something to your younger self, what would it be?
Don’t worry so much.
Û÷Archetypes’ are off-the-cuff interviews with St. Louis’ most inspiring, well-known personalities based on the 19th century Parisian parlor game known as the Proust Questionnaire.
Photo credit: Wesley Law