Don't I Know You?

His face inevitably looks familiar, like someone you've met at a real estate function on Brickell. Or he might've been that lousy waiter from Cafeteria on Lincoln Road. Or maybe he was the lucky bastard who nabbed the last parking spot on Washington Avenue. Whatever the case, you just know you've seen his face before.

"Yeah, I get that a lot," Scotch Ellis Loring says. "People always come up to me and say, 'Have we met before?' and they keep guessing how they know me; it's quite fun." In fact, if you're a longtime resident of Miami Beach — or just own a TV — you probably have seen Loring before. Remember that episode in Beverly Hills, 90210 when Kelly finds out that Donna's date stood her up at the Peach Pit? Loring. How about that paramedic who was trying to revive Paula in season two of 24? Loring again. Oh, and remember Tootie's first boyfriend in The Facts of Life? Yup.

"I'm not that type of actor who only wants big leading roles," he insists, over the phone from his home in California's Hollywood Hills. "Acting is a job. Get over it!" He's happy enough to play an alien, a cop, or that poor schmuck who gets his ass kicked by Brad Pitt in Fight Club. Quoth the Loring: "I'm no Hollywood diva. I just play one on TV!"

Of course the guy has more to his name than acting credits. He's also a gifted singer and songwriter. His debut album, Standard Scotch, is a mix of laid-back jazz and crooner classics, originals and covers. It was music, in fact, that first brought Loring down to South Florida, as the apostle Simon in a touring production of Jesus Christ Superstar. He was instantly smitten, and what was supposed to be a weeklong run in Miami ended up as a yearlong residency on the Beach. "I was there in 1995, right when the Delano Hotel was getting remodeled," he recalls. "It just seemed like the entire city was on the brink of something big!"

Uh, yeah.

Loring wasn't around to see the Beach transformed into a celebrity-infested Riviera — and he says that's just as well. "It was nice to just walk to the beach, have a Cuban coffee, listen to some great Latin jazz playing on the streets the vibe was excellent, nothing like L.A." Loring has since returned to Tinseltown for the sake of his acting career. He makes his home in a quaint bungalow hidden, he says, from the worst of the traffic and smog.

One of the reasons Loring loved Miami, he says, is because he felt free of racial judgments. That isn't always the case for the 43-year-old, who is part African American, part Dakota Indian, and part Scottish (hence the name "Scotch"). "People would always ask what am I," he says. "In Miami, people never really questioned me. They just assumed I was El Salvadorean or Cuban or something. I felt so comfortable here. Miami was this giant melting pot and I blended in so well."

It's this sense of blending that Loring cherishes. "I love that I can have some anonymity, that I'm not the center of attention," he says. "Being famous almost hurts your ability to meet people, and I love meeting new people and getting to know them. Sharing my music is just an extension of that."

Which brings the conversation back to the one topic Loring holds dear. Born the sixth of seven children in the small town of Limestone, Maine, Loring grew up with music. "My father was a big jazz fan," Loring explains. "He was an army sergeant, so he would come home late and the only way I knew when he got home was when he played his records." The sound of Miles Davis and Dizzie Gillespie would lull him to sleep every night. "That was the only way I could go to bed!"

As for his singing voice, that comes courtesy of his mother. His fondest childhood memories are of his mom singing the classic 1967 Burt Bacharach hit "The Look of Love," a song Loring performed in tribute on Standard Scotch.

His latest single is "Lost Till I Found You," which plays over the credits of the upcoming movie Firehouse Dog. (Loring also plays a supporting role in the film.) The song begins as a melodic pop standard and builds to a rousing gospel climax.

"There's something about that style of music that really moves me," Loring says. "At times, I wish I was that get-down, funky R&B singer who could just turn it out like Luther Vandross or John Secada. But I know that that's just not me. I'm more into the styles of Michael Bublé and Norah Jones."

Loring says he's also been listening to Coldplay recently. Back in the Eighties, Loring fronted an alternative rock band called Manchild. The group's style — closer to grunge than gospel — stood in sharp contrast to the prevailing commercial trends, which ran more toward synthpop and hair metal. What really set Manchild apart from the rest of the pack was Loring himself. "Back then, there were hardly any cross-cultural singers. Now you got folks like Cristina Aguilera or Lenny Kravitz. But in the Eighties there was no one, especially fronting a rock band."

Loring is currently working on his sophomore release, Original Scotch, due out later this year. "At the end of the day," he says, "I just want to touch people in ways that my acting can't, like to hear someone say, 'Hey, we were listening to your music on our first date.' Or 'Your music helped me through some difficult times.' Now that's what I live for. That's better than any Academy Award or Emmy — I'm here to get a People's Choice!"

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Esther Park