AKA Joseph Angelo Dallesandro
Birthplace: Pensacola, FL
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Bisexual
Occupation: Actor, Model
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Took a walk on the wild side
Joe Dallesandro's father was a sailor in the Navy, his mother a petty crook, and they were but teenagers themselves when little Joe came along. He was beaten by his father, and rarely speaks of the man except to say, "That was not love." Dallesandro had a troubled youth, often in trouble for vandalism, stealing cars, and other delinquent hijinks. Sent off to live with his grandparents, he was 15 when, while housed at a juvenile detention center, he etched his famous "Little Joe" tattoo on his right forearm with a pen and India ink, tracing and re-tracing it until it stayed.
Instead of high school, he was educated by hitchhiking across the US and Mexico in his teens. In a time when explicit pornography was generally illegal, the very handsome, very young Dallesandro soon found he could make easy money by posing for wrestling and bodybuilding magazines, which were popular with gay readers. And higher wages could be earned working as a prostitute, for customers of either gender.
By his mid-20s, Dallesandro was living in New York, and his drug supplier suggested he should visit Andy Warhol's factory. Dallesandro had never heard of the pop artist, and literally walked onto a movie set when he opened the Factory's door, where The 24 Hour Movie was filming. The director was instantly enchanted with this beautiful young man, and within minutes Dallesandro was in his skivvies, with cameras rolling. Wearing less and performing more he starred in several Warhol films, actually directed by Paul Morrissey, including the trilogy Flesh, Trash, and Heat, and Dallesandro's weirdly believable performances with Udo Kier in Warhol's Dracula and Frankenstein.
Most of the Warhol films were -- in Dallesandro's own opinion -- ridiculous, but with Warhol's name attached they were received as serious art, and in one review the New York Times summed up Dallesandro's talent: "His physique is so magnificently shaped that men as well as women become disconnected at the sight of him." He made hardcore, softcore, and gay porn, and when he wasn't on camera, Dallesandro helped out around the Factory and at Warhol's Theater, answering phones, working as projectionist and film librarian, enforcing security when necessary, and sometimes turning tricks in the projection booth.
Leaving Warhol's world, Dallesandro starred in the explicit ode to anal sex Je t'aime moi non plus (I Love You, I Don't), playing a gay garbage truck driver in love with a lonely, mannish waitress (Jane Birkin). Theirs is a doomed love, as he is only attracted to her from behind, and she finds the act more painful than pleasurable. The movie might sound like camp, but it is exquisite, sexy, silly and sensitive, and it offers Dallesandro's best performance. It also features a young Gerard Depardieu, who loves animals in ways PETA would not approve.
For his on-screen work and other employment, he was immortalized in Lou Reed's ode to the Warhol cast, "Walk on the Wild Side." Dallesandro's story begins with the third verse, "Little Joe never once gave it away, Everybody had to pay and pay, A hustle here and a hustle there, New York City's the place where they said, Hey babe, Take a walk on the wild side..." In 1984, The Smith's self-titled first album featured a cover photo of Dallesandro's chest and bowed head.
He was briefly considered for the Al Pacino role in The Godfather, but knowing that Warhol's films were largely improvised, Francis Ford Coppola did not believe Dallesandro could work from a script. Instead, his first semi-mainstream movie was Seeds of Evil in 1975, playing a crazed gardener who turns into a tree. He has worked occasionally in big-budget films, playing a country boy lured by a hooker in Louis Malle's Black Moon, Lucky Luciano in Coppola's The Cotton Club, and a Christian kook in John Waters' Cry-Baby. Dallesandro was deliciously despicable in the early Drew Barrymore thriller Guncrazy, but barely recognizable as Peter Fonda's brain-damaged criminal partner in The Limey with Terence Stamp. On TV, he played two different tough guys on episodes on Miami Vice with Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas, the elegant mobster Pat "The Cat" Patrice on the best episodes of Wiseguy with Ken Wahl, and a low-life thug on a two-part episode of Andy Griffith's Matlock.
Now semi-retired, Dallesandro's last film was the documentary Superstar in a Housedress, a tribute to his Warhol-era transvestite co-star Jackie Curtis. In all his time working with Warhol, Dallesandro says they rarely spoke beyond saying "Good morning."
Brother: Robert "Bobby" Dallesandro (d., suicide)
Son: Michael Dallesandro (b. 1968)
Son: Joe Dallesandro Jr. (b. 1969)
Risk Factors: Heroin, Cocaine
Wiseguy Paul Patrice (1987)
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
The Limey (15-May-1999)
L.A. Without a Map (11-Sep-1998)
Beefcake (Sep-1998) · Himself
Theodore Rex (14-Dec-1995)
Sugar Hill (25-Feb-1994) · Tony Adamo
Bad Love (30-Aug-1993)
Guncrazy (11-Sep-1992) · Rooney
Wild Orchid II: Two Shades of Blue (7-May-1992)
Almost an Angel (19-Dec-1990) · Bank Hood Leader
Cry-Baby (6-Apr-1990) · Milton's Father
Sunset (29-Apr-1988) · Dutch Kieffer
Critical Condition (16-Jan-1987)
The Cotton Club (14-Dec-1984) · Charles "Lucky" Luciano
Killer Nun (1978)
The Streetwalker (22-Sep-1976)
I Love You, I Don't (10-Mar-1976)
Black Moon (24-Sep-1975)
Flesh for Frankenstein (17-Mar-1974) · Nicholas
Andy Warhol's Dracula (1-Mar-1974) · Mario Balato
Heat (5-Oct-1972) · Joey Davis
Trash (5-Oct-1970) · Joe Smith
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