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Tim Allen's the 'Last Man Standing'

'Home Improvement' star celebrates 14 years of sobriety and 3-year-old daughter

Allen's love of machines extends to his newest hobby: racing motorcycles. "That's been a game changer," he says. "I always wondered about those high-speed turns where the bike lays down almost on its side. I'm really close to achieving that."

He's also obsessed with Apple products. Allen first met Apple CEO Steve Jobs while working on Pixar's Toy Story, providing the voice of Buzz Lightyear. The actor was intimidated at first, he admits. "I tried to act like hanging out with Steve was not a big deal, but it was a tremendously big deal. Your impulse is to kiss up to him or go, 'Hey, I'm very smart, too.' But soon enough, our real personalities came through, and I started asking him legitimate questions. All the way through our relationship he would say, 'No one's ever asked me that.'"

Their friendship continued until Jobs died, last year. "When Steve got sick, I sent a gift basket." Allen says, laughing. "It was all stuff I knew he would never eat, because he ate only healthy food. I sent him cold cuts and soda pops. I also sent all these magazines about PCs."

Talking about Jobs puts Allen in a philosophical mood (as does just about any topic; Allen minored in philosophy and design). He and Jobs did not always agree on things. "I'd call and ask him to give the laptops a more rugged, military look," he says. But Allen respected Jobs' central quest to "make a dent in the universe," as the Apple chief once put it.

As he closes in on 60, the actor can't help wondering what his own "dent" will be. Despite his enduring popularity, he admits, "I have never been anything but reviled or marginalized by critics." Does that bother him? Sometimes. He concedes it was "hurtful" last year at the Golden Globes when host Ricky Gervais introduced Allen and his copresenter, Tom Hanks. Gervais rattled off a long list of accolades for the presenter with two Oscars, only to quip, "The other is … Tim Allen." But after all these years, Allen knows he's more than the sum of his Hollywood parts. "Right before I die," he says, "I'm going to take the DVDs of everything I've made, grind them up and put it all in a pillbox and say, 'This is what it's really worth.' "

Because what's worth the most to Allen are the people around him, he says. His two daughters, his wife, his siblings, his mom in Michigan, who, in her mid-80s, still calls with motherly advice. An example: "Mom likes to say, 'Always make your bed at other people's homes,' which to me means always leave things a little bit better than you found them."

Add value, in other words. "You don't want the end to come, and say, 'I wished I'd loved more. I wish I'd smelled more roses,' " Allen says. "You have to do that now." That's when the philosopher exits and the comedian returns. "But who really knows?" Allen says, grinning. "As soon as I transition, I'll probably go, 'Damn, I should have had more ice cream.' "

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