Dallesandro starred in Flesh as a teenage street hustler. Rolling Stone magazine in 1970 declared his second starring vehicle, Trash, the "Best Film of the Year", making him a star of the youth culture, sexual revolution and subcultural New York art collective of the 1970s.
He was born in Pensacola, Florida and raised in New York. His father, Joseph Angelo D'Allesandro II, was an Italian-American sailor, and his mother was 16-year-old Thelma Testman. By the time Dallesandro was five, his mother was serving five years in a Federal Penitentiary for interstate auto theft. Dallesandro and his brother, Bobby, were taken to New York with their father, who worked as an electrical engineer. Both boys were eventually placed into the Angel Guardian Home in Harlem, prior to being fostered by a couple in Brooklyn. The family later moved to North Babylon. The senior Dallesandro would visit them about once a month at their foster parents' home. Dallesandro was initially happy living with his foster parents, but he began to resent them thinking that they were preventing him from living with his father.
Dallesandro began acting out and became aggressive. He repeatedly ran away from his foster home until his father finally relented and allowed him to live with him. At the age of 14, Dallesandro and his brother moved to Queens to live with their paternal grandparents and their father. At 15, he was expelled from school for punching the principal, who had insulted his father. After his expulsion, Dallesandro began hanging out with gangs and started stealing cars. In once such instance, Dallesandro panicked and smashed the stolen car he was driving through the gate of the Holland Tunnel. He was stopped by a police roadblock and shot once in the leg by police who mistakenly thought he was armed. Dallesandro managed to escape being caught by police, but was later arrested when his father took him to the hospital for his gunshot wound. He was sentenced to Camp Cass Rehabilitation Center for Boys in the Catskills in 1964.
Joe Dallesandro and his son Michael
The following year, Dallesandro ran away from Camp Cass. He supported himself by prostitution and later nude modeling, appearing most notably in short films and magazine photos for Bob Mizer's Athletic Model Guild.
Dallesandro met Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey in 1967 while they were shooting Four Stars, and they cast him in the film on the spot. Warhol would later comment "In my movies, everyone's in love with Joe Dallesandro."
Dallesandro played a hustler in his third Warhol film, Flesh (1968), where he had several nude scenes. Flesh became a crossover hit with mainstream audiences, and Dallesandro became the most popular of the Warhol stars. New York Times film critic Vincent Canby wrote of him: "His physique is so magnificently shaped that men as well as women become disconnected at the sight of him."
As Dallesandro's underground fame began to cross over into the popular culture, he graced the cover of Rolling Stone in April 1971. He was also photographed by some of the top celebrity photographers of the time: Francesco Scavullo, Annie Leibowitz, Richard Avedon.
Dallesandro also appeared in Lonesome Cowboys (1968), Trash (1970), Heat (1972), a sardonic re-imagining of Sunset Boulevard with Sylvia Miles, Andy Warhol's Frankenstein and Andy Warhol's Dracula (both 1974) also directed by Morrissey. These last two films were shot in Europe. After filming was complete, Dallesandro chose not to return to the U.S.
He continued to star in films made mainly in France and Italy for the rest of the decade, returning to America in the 1980s. He made several mainstream films during the 1980s and 1990s. One of his first notable roles was that of 1920s gangster Lucky Luciano in Francis Coppola's The Cotton Club. Working with manager/attorney Stann Findelle, his career enjoyed a resurgence. He had roles in Critical Condition (1987) opposite Richard Pryor, Sunset (1988) with Bruce Willis and James Garner, Guncrazy (1992) with Drew Barrymore, Cry-Baby (1990), and Steven Soderbergh's 1999 film The Limey.
In addition to films, Dallesandro has also worked in television. In 1986, he co-starred in the ABC drama series Fortune Dane. The series lasted only five episodes. Dallesandro has also made guest appearances on Wiseguy, Miami Vice, and Matlock.
In 2009, Dallesandro wrote and produced the documentary film Little Joe. The film chronicles Dallesandro's life and career. It was directed by Nicole Haeusser and produced by Dallesandro's adopted daughter, Vedra Mehagian Dallesandro.
Dallesandro, who identifies himself as bisexual (he lived for years with a male drag queen hair stylist in Hollywood), has been married three times and has two children. In 1967, he married his first wife, the daughter of his father's girlfriend, a woman named Leslie; they had a son, Michael (born circa 1968) and divorced in 1969. He married his second Terry (Theresa), in 1970. Together they have a son, Joseph A. Dallesandro, Jr., (born November 14, 1970); The couple divorced in early 1978. He has a grandson and a granddaughter by Michael and a grandson by Joseph. In 2011, he married for a third time to a woman named Kim.
Dallesandro is semi-retired from acting, and currently manages an apartment building in Los Angeles.
Dallesandro has a "homemade" scroll tattoo which he did himself on his upper right arm that reads "Little Joe". Dallesandro's nickname was used in Lou Reed's hit 1972 song "Walk on the Wild Side", which was about the characters Reed knew from Warhol's studio, The Factory.
A Warhol photograph of the crotch bulge of Dallesandro's tight blue jeans graces the famous cover of the Rolling Stones album Sticky Fingers. Dallesandro explained to biographer Michael Ferguson, “It was just out of a collection of junk photos that Andy pulled from. He didn't pull it out for the design or anything, it was just the first one he got that he felt was the right shape to fit what he wanted to use for the fly.”
The 1980s British band The Smiths would later use a still photograph of Dallesandro from the film Flesh as the cover of their eponymous debut album.
Joe Dallesandro: Warhol Superstar, Underground Film Icon, Actor by Michael Ferguson
Paperback: 402 pages
Publisher: Michael Ferguson (September 30, 2011)
Amazon: Joe Dallesandro: Warhol Superstar, Underground Film Icon, Actor
Here is the fascinating career of Joe Dallesandro, a tough kid from the streets of New York who became a counterculture emblem of male beauty and ambiguous sexuality through the films of Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey. Author Michael Ferguson examines in detail the six features Dallesandro made for the Factory, as well as the X-rated Frankenstein and Dracula, the score of offbeat, arty, and low-budget movies that followed in Europe, and his return to America as character actor. Ambivalent about his fame as a Warhol Superstar, Dallesandro is nevertheless irrevocably drawn back to the images of his younger self and a persona that captured the gaze of both women and men during the Sexual Revolution. As the first openly eroticized male sex symbol of the movies to appear casually naked on screen, he spoke to our fantasies and liberated the male nude as an object of beauty in the cinema. Including new interviews with Joe, an extensive biographical section, and photographs from the actor’s personal collection, Ferguson has revised, expanded, and updated his long out-of-print Little Joe, Superstar with Joe Dallesandro: Warhol Superstar, Underground Film Icon, Actor.
More LGBT History at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Persistent Voices
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