So when I worked in the 80’s on a TV show called Best of the West at Paramount, I was at the studio and visiting the gift shop. No one seemed to be in there waiting on anyone and I kept looking at stuff and finally saw someone going through the T-shirts/Sweatshirts, so I said, “Excuse me, do you work here?” He said “no” with a dismissive shake and then I realized it was one of the two stars from “Bosom Buddies” Tom Hanks. I then said, “Oh sorry, your that guy…” and he nodded yes.
Obviously he went on to be a very big star. Bless his heart.
So while I was building houses in Davenport Iowa, I was told that Sylvester Stallone was shooting his next movie after the success of Rocky. He was on location in Dubuque Iowa. A really quaint town on the Mississippi in the northeast corner of Iowa. One of the few places in Iowa with hills. Just a lovely place.
I went up with my portfolio to try to get a job. At casting I was denied, they said they had plenty of help. But on the way back home I passed by the the hotel where Stallone was staying. I went into the bar and saw him coming my way from a phone booth. I walked up to him said, Mr. Stallone, my name is Dino I’m a professional fighter, I can take a punch, I’m from Boston and I’d like to be in your movie.”
He asked me if I came out in pure speculation I replied yes and he said, “absolutely.” He wrote something on a card, then introduced me to Norman Jewison the famous director. I proceeded to take a piece of gold jewelry off my neck chain and gave it to him. He accepted reluctantly, and I did have a hard time getting it off the chain. Which he got a kick out of.
I went back to casting, handed the card to them and they started taking measurements for a costume. I met the second unit director Max Klevens of stunt fame, and then Loren Janes, Steve McQueen’s double. The next day a stuntman got hurt and had to leave and I was put in his place. My first stunt was a fight scene with a hundred extras all fighting in a strike riot.
I had to get hit by David Huffman, and then throw him over my shoulder. That was the beginning of me meeting and working with some of the oldest and most experienced stunt people in the business. It was 1977. David Huffman was a gem and sadly was stabbed to death at Balboa Park in San Diego while doing a play there. What a shame.
Stallone was great to me. Put me in lots of scenes. I saw him help so many people’s careers take off. F.I.S.T. was the movie I worked with him on and got to meet and spend time with, Peter Boyle, Melinda Dillon, Annie Archer, Brian Dennehe and so many others.
After F.I.S.T. we went on to New York to do a movie called “Paradise Alley” which very few people are familiar with and yet it’s a cult classic [with some]. Stallone’s first bodyguard Clair McDermott got me the job working for Mrs. Jack Warner as her personal bodyguard where I live on her 15 acre estate for 2 years in Beverly Hills.
I used to take Mrs. Warner’s cars for a drive once a week to keep them active. So one day I am driving down Sunset Bl. in her 1955 Bentley Sedan, and I got the radio blasting who pulls up next to me in his Porsche but Kenny Rogers. The announcer on my radio says, “Let’s congratulate Kenny Rogers today who just bought the record home sale in Beverly Hills of 14 million dollars.” Kenny Rogers is right next to me and listening to my radio and looks at me and shakes his head, I shrug my shoulders and the light turns green and we both take off.
The Warner Estate was magical, water falls, a 9 hole golf course, endless gardens and many many different types of trees.
Mrs. Warner would stay up all night and we’d talk for hours about Hollywood in the Golden Era, stars, life, love and so many different things.
She’d have me sometimes cook stuff for her after her cooks went to sleep and it would throw off their whole meticulous calorie counting diet for her. She loved what I made and it would consist of frozen meals smothered with hot sauce which she thought was great. One year we went through something like one hundred cooks!
From an Olympic size swimming pool on top of the lower garage, to the floor in her foyer coming from Napoleon’s Castle, the estate was spectacular. She had four homes in Palms Springs, one she used to rent to Elvis Presley. A house at what she called “The Seven Currents” in LaJolla California, a working ranch in Arizona that had 13 homes and 7 lakes which went on for about 100 miles. The the two top floors of the Sherry Netherland Hotel in New York City. And oh yeah, a home on the French Rivera. Plus countless income properties in the most expensive commercial areas.
Our neighbors that I voted with on election days were. Priscilla Presley, Gregory Peck, Rod Stewart, Barbara Streisand, Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds and many other famous people. Yet as a young man, I often felt trapped in that estate with little contact to the outside. Next door was the Harold Lloyd Estate which one night I thought was burning, so I jumped the fence to put out the fire and ran right onto the set of Commando starring Arnold Swarzenegger.
When I left that job I went on to work at ABC Studios on “Benson” at Sunset Gower on “Making A Living” NBC on the Billy Crystal Show. In movies like, Honky Tonk Freeway, The Brinks Job, Sword and the Sorcerer, Hammet, at Omni Zoetrope, Broken Victory, and others.
I got to work for a short time with the team from Sanford and Son. And never had so much fun and so many laughs as I did with them. They just cut up all day long. The movie we were suppose to make was called The Bigoted Ghost but we never got really going on it due to the fact that Red Foxx was a little hard to nail down to a regular schedule.
One time Jackie Robinson was suppose to do a meet and greet in New Bedford, Mass., that was for the opening of a fish and chip restaurant. The problem was so much of the budget for the even went to Jackie that they didn’t spend enough on advertising him being there. So it was right down the street from Nashmont Projects where I lived and I was the first to show up and stayed there with Jackie for something like 4 or 5 hours! I drove him a little crazy but all and all, I have the distinct privilege of having Mr. Robinson who by the way was a great guy, all to myself for quite a duration of time.
I worked for Witt Thomas Harris, [Paul Junga Witt, Tony Thomas and Susan Harris], the creators of Soap, Benson, Golden Girls Making a Living and other shows. For two years Claire McDermott, my partner and I had offices at ABC in Hollywood.
So we got to meet many people there. People like Linda Carter, producers that sometimes needed our services to help solve union problems and production people.
I often watch TV here in prison and see people from my past in shows and think about the life I once lived compared to what I now live, as a federal prisoner with a huge sentence hanging over my head and future and it makes me melancholy.