Overall It Was a Good Experience.....

"...but, you need me...I'm your conscience", Jimney Cricket declared to Pinocchio as he headed away down the lane dancing in step with his new friends, "I don't need a conscience", Pinocchio called back happily, "I'm going to be an Actor!."

That line changed my life. "Pinocchio" is the earliest film I remember. I had no idea what a conscience was, in fact at 6 years old there were a great many things I didn't know, but one thing was for sure - I was going to be an actor!

I'm one of those people who is always telling stories about my adventures in films and TV. Not bragging so much as "relating entertaining stories" ...Well, OK, bragging! As such, somebody invariably says "Hey, you should write a book". Well, there's not enough material for that. So I'll post what I can remember of it here and share it with friends, and folks who might remember some of these shows, or might just want to know what it was like to be a child actor. Now, this will probably grow as I remember things that happened. I know that a lot of emails come from people my age who used to watch these shows and want to know what it was like to be a kid in TV & Films. Some have written to ask me why I never answered a fan letter that they sent in 1966. Some have written to tell me just how stupid I looked or how bad my performance was in "such-and-such" and to them I say, I couldn't agree with you more. Oh, I am proud of what I was doing as a working child actor in the '60's - but there was more "chutzpah" involved than talent. So we (my father, my agent, my press agent and I ) worked very hard at getting these jobs, but there would never be any acting awards in the future. I'm not trying to be self critical, or self effacing. I have several DVD's of my movies and TV shows (thanks to my friend Denys on The Isle Of Man) and now as an adult many years later I can measure my performances against truly great child actors - and objectively say....I was VERY VERY lucky to land all of the jobs I did. Welcome to my story.

The child stars in Hollywood are the very lucky and/or very talented young folks who have had the good fortune to be seen in popular films or TV shows. These child stars have the ability to achieve popularity and draw huge audiences. This can work out in their favor as they become adults, but even that is rare. Once they stop being a cute kid, the rejection and lack of spotlight and lack of understanding easily and swiftly reshapes their storybook life into a living hell. We - the public - are used to seeing that. The rare exceptions have had exceptional parenting. I had the opportunity to know Ron Howard's parents and Bing Russell, Kurt Russell's dad. In both cases these guys had parents who understood the demands of a career, but were grounded in the reality of their children's lives.

The "Working Child Actor" is what this blog is about. That's what I was. Not the "Child Star" who had a starring role in one movie, or TV series that catapulted them into the public eye. I was one of the many, many of working child actors who perform, or have performed in several Hollywood projects, but never attain the true measure of popularity that is equated with stardom. We are actors who have been performing small parts, featured parts, guest starring and co-staring roles in films, individual episodes of television series, commercials, industrial films, educational films, and theatrical performances. Along with all that, mix in some modeling jobs, public appearances and voice-over gigs, and you come up with what amounts to a very busy working child. (Did I mention to add to that all of the after-school interviews and on a 10 to one ratio, call backs, additional meetings and readings, cast rehearsal days, learning accents and music, wardrobe calls, special make up and hair calls, and PR photo shoots?) It adds up to a LOT of work that remains relatively invisible to the public, our friends, and most often even our families. I was not the busiest working child actor in Hollywood, but over the course of 10 years I averaged 2 jobs, 16 try-outs, 3 photo shoots, 10 agent meetings, and assorted personal appearances and newspaper, radio, and television interviews every month. Evenings after homework, and weekends were often taken up with memorizing lines for the upcoming shoot.

During the fall of 1959 the Cardamone family moved from our small Atlantic Ocean community of Patchogue, Long Island. With all the conviction I could muster, I orderd my father to make sure that we moved to that city where they made movies and tv shows. I think it was called "Hollywood". Much to my discontent, we only made it as far as Pasadena. I wasn't aware that my father had an engineering job waiting there, but that was nowhere as near important as my proximity to the movie and tv capital of the world. My first attempt at finding Hollywood came when a classmate in my third-grade class explained that all the great actors came from The Pasadena Playhouse! What LUCK! So I set about to find that place (I had no idea what a PLAYHOUSE was,) and found it nearby - on El Molino, just exactly where it is today. I found an open door off of an alley and wandered inside. A group of actors were rehearsing a play ("Of Mice And Men") in the main theater. I was striken, and smitten. I quickly shuttled to the darkness in the back of the theater and watched in silence, as they went over and over the script. One of the adults (a very young Victor French) played kind of a dumb guy, and another, James Almanzar, played his smart friend, and I guess they were soldiers the way they were talking. Another adult stood off to the side, giving advice, and line readings. He was the director - "Bob" they called him. The actors rehearsed the scene so many times that I quickly memorized the lines. A couple of times they would stumble on the lines and say "LINE...?" Before the director could find the line I would yell it out to them. They all stopped and looked into the darkness. I quickly hid behind the seats. They were a little uneasy and then started lauching that it was the ghost of some hungry actor who never made it out of the playhouse.

Forgetting totally about school, I followed this bunch around for about a month. After rehearsals they would head over to Roma Gardens on Green Street, which coincedentally was just over the back fence from my house on Steuben street. Every night I would sneek out of my bedroom and hop the back fence and slip into the back of the restaurant. I'd hide behind the bar, but by the time I was noticed , they were all too high to care. Tony, the owner of the restaurant, was letting me sweep and fill the salt and pepper shakers in exchange for pizza and change for the pinball machinge he had in the bar. The theater folks would all sit in the bar every evening and talk all night about their exploits no holes barred. There are reasons why children aren't allowed in bars, and I got more than an earful. And at times, more than an eye full! I probably learned things in that bar that no 3rd grader should ever learn. But I also listened and learned about the theater, and how television and movies were made.

To make a long story short, Bob, the director, came up with a deal to direct a film and he hired all his actor friends from the Playhouse to be in the film. A WWII mini epic called "Behind Enemy Lines" and later retitled "The Quick And The Daead". Even Tony and a few of the restaurant employees got in on the filming. Victor French and James Almanzar were the stars, and their leading lady was a young and beautiful Majel Barret (Later Roddenberry). Sitting on the end of the bar one nightTony asked me one day if I wanted to be in the film - and all the others chimed in to the director telling him that there must be a part for a small Italian boy in the film. I had finally gotten my chance. I got real quiet as the Bob looked me over. I had been in Pasadena an eternity - (four months) and was finally getting my big break. Bob looked up and said "Go get your father, we're going to make you a movie star!" The guys raised their glasses, drunk on the prospect of fame for all of us. It was a drink to savor for a moment.

The rough part was telling my father. Mom, I could get anything by, but Dad was a tough nut to crack.