smart spending

Star Jill Hennessy doesn't like to spend like one

After finding fame as Assistant District Attorney Claire Kincaid on "Law & Order," Jill Hennessy enjoyed continued success on series TV as the star of "Crossing Jordan." She's also indulged her passion for music with her album of original songs in 2009, "Ghost in my Head." Hennessy's latest project is the film "Roadie," in which she plays the old love of Ron Eldard's character, an out-to-pasture rock 'n' roll pack mule.

 
Jill Hennessy
Jill HennessyPhoto by PR Photos
How did you make a living before you got your big break on "Law & Order"?

I was a bartender and a casting assistant. My favorite job, though, was playing (music) on the street for money. I played in the subway in New York, at the 72nd Street stop on the 1 and 9 trains, and I played in Washington Square and Central parks. Wherever I could get away with opening my guitar case and playing without being arrested, that's where I'd play.

Were you ever arrested?

I had police officers very politely come up to me and say, "This is an area where you need a permit to play." Most officers would say, "Just play a Joni Mitchell song for me, and I'll let you off." I'd say, "Cool. No problem. You want some Springsteen, too?" In most cases, I'd end up singing with the officers and then moving on.

What else would you play?

Whatever was popular at the time because that's what would earn the money; whatever the top 40 songs were. I would always do Springsteen because people tend to identify it right away, which helps when loud trains are going by. When little kids were there, I would do the Barney song or the "Thomas the Tank Engine" theme. Kids would ask for it. That's why I learned them.

Jill HennessyPhoto by PR Photos
What kind of money would you earn in the subway?

It depends on the time of year. During the holidays is when you probably make the most money. The most I ever made -- and this only happened once -- was in three hours, I made just under $200. But that never happened again. On average, you would probably make $10 to $30 an hour.

Jill HennessyPhoto by PR Photos
Once you got "Law & Order" and started making real money, did you splurge on anything big?

I finally felt like I could buy a good guitar -- as opposed to buying the cheapest one available or going to a pawnshop to get an affordable $50 guitar. But the really big splurge, my second year on "Law & Order," was taking my twin sister to Italy for Christmas. We went to Le Sirenuse, one of the four-star hotels there, and you get great rates at Christmastime because it's almost empty.

Jill HennessyPhoto by PR Photos
Do you splurge a lot now?

I'm really afraid of spending too much money. Perhaps it's something I should work on because I wind up cheaping out on myself. I don't like spending money on frivolous things. If I'm going to spend money, I'd rather do it with traveling. I don't spend it on really expensive clothes and stuff. If I buy clothing, I go to Old Navy or Forever 21. I end up getting a lot of inexpensive stuff.

 
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