Thursday, February 5, 2015

Are You Ready to Jack It?

Today's tribute subject was born Giacomo Tomaso Tedesco on November 10th, 1950 in Brooklyn, New York. He believed his life would involve a career in professional baseball, but fate sent him careening in a new direction, first as a model, then an actor. You may know him better as Jack Scalia...

Born to an Italian father and a mother of Irish descent, his parents divorced while he was still young. Upon his mother's remarriage, his last name was changed to Scalia to match hers and the nickname “Jack” was a sort of outgrowth from “Giac,” thus Jack Scalia came to pass. Young Scalia had been restless and rather wayward, in school, always with energy to burn, until an interest in sports turned his life around. He excelled in basketball and baseball, an All-American in both sports, which led him through high school, college and to the Major League Baseball draft of 1971.

He was the third overall pick and the first draft choice for the Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals), selected as a pitcher for his eye-popping fastball. However, a pesky back injury led to issues with his throwing arm and, ultimately, a career-crushing injury that caused his premature retirement from the game. His dreams of glory on the baseball diamond now crushed, he floundered for a time.

Now residing in Sacramento, California and sustaining himself with factory work and manual labor, he found out that models could earn $30/hour (an amazing sum in the early-1970s) and on a whim he took some photos of himself to an agency to see what they'd say. Though he'd already been turned down once before as being too heavy for a male model, this time a series of connections (and the shearing of his then-shoulder-length hair) led to his first gig.

He posed to great effect in the JC Penney catalog, wearing cotton briefs and a t-shirt. (One wonders how many little gayboys took a close gander at him back in the day, while pretending to be perusing the toy section, never dreaming he would one day become a well-known actor. I'm laying odds that I did!)

He continued to seek work, first in California, then in New York City, even though his looks were extremely atypical of the slim, blond, chiseled type of model which was then prevalent. On the advice of a Ford Agency representative, he went to Italy to try his luck and expand his horizons. He turned expectations on their ears by representing an entirely different sort of male modeling look, the end result being a highly visible campaign for Sabra liqueur, an Israeli product that put him in high demand.

Here's an ad for Saks Fifth Avenue:
Scalia also became the, er, face of a brand of French underwear called Eminence, which was making inroads to an American market.
Do not fail to read the suggestive copy of this awesome Eminence ad...
He was a gorgeous, all-new type of model, setting trends with his full, wavy hair, piercing blue eyes and a sexy cleft in his chin.
However, the ad campaign that really put him over the top was the one for Jordache jeans. His butt-hugging photos for the brand, coming at a time when “designer jeans” were becoming all the rage, sent his modeling persona soaring. The brand embraced the 1970s sexual revolution with provocative states of undress, gender combinations and body positioning, as demonstrated here!

A Bruce Weber-photographed poster became a huge-selling beefcake item, showcasing his lean, sexy physique and beautifully proportioned face.

Things were not at all content for this top male model, however. Having earlier subverted personal insecurity into excellence in sports, only to see that come to an inglorious end, he found that the same demons reared their heads as he conquered the world of print advertising. He was more an object than a person and had begun to rely on alcohol and cocaine to mask his pain.

An engagement to fellow model Joan Rankin was temporarily broken and his work was adversely affected as he spiraled into personal despair. Eventually, he became suicidal, threatening to jump from a high ledge if he didn't receive some sort of help. A steadying agent and friend of his assisted his admittance to a rehab facility. The result was that he gave up ads for alcohol and underwear, rebuilt his relationship with Joan (they married) and proceeded through the rest of his life with a different outlook and sense of direction. He also recommitted to his previously lapsed Catholic faith (though many folks had thought his Jewish after that Sabra liqueur ad!)

His famous, fabulous face caught the eye of Hollywood casting directors and he earned his wings in a two-part 1981 TV-movie called The Star Maker. This project starred Rock Hudson and Suzanne Pleshette, along with Melanie Griffith, Teri Copley and Brenda Vaccaro, and Scalia played a cabbie who becomes the lover of Pleshette.

This first and single stint before the television camera led to his next project, a highly-publicized, yet ultimately failed, television series. It seems Scalia had also caught the eye of The Star Maker's leading man Hudson and thus Scalia was cast as his previously unknown son in a detective show called The Devlin Connection (1982.)
Photos of Hudson and Scalia were printed in every conceivable newspaper and magazine as the series was publicized mercilessly. Scalia was touted as Hudson's “find” and protegee and the show was highly anticipated as Hudson's return to series TV after not only the huge success of McMillan and Wife (1971-1977), but also a heart attack he'd suffered late in 1981.
Regardless of the blitz of promotion, the show failed to find its audience. This shot is from the 10th episode guest-starring Juliet Prowse, but the show only limped along for three more installments afterwards. Hudson would return once more to series TV in 1984 on Dynasty, but by then his illness was advanced to the point where he had to exit the show prematurely, dying in 1985.
Scalia was cast in a very short-lived show (at right, with Rick Edwards) called High Performance (1983) as a race car driver-turned-bodyguard, but it came and went within three weeks. Then in 1984 came the campfest TV-movie called Amazons, in which he played a police detective trying to thwart power-hungry females Tamara Dobson, Stella Stevens and others! More apt was his uncredited part as the Chicago Cubs pitcher in Robert Redford's The Natural (1984.)
His burgeoning career before the camera continued with 1984's Fear City, an exploitation-style movie concerning a psycho killer who is killing strippers. He and Berenger played co-strip club owners. It did, at least, costar known actors such as Tom Berenger, Billy Dee Williams, Melanie Griffith and Rossano Brazzi.

1985 had him performing in not one, but two more failed series. Berrenger's, a mid-season replacement prime-time soap, had him hobnobbing with Ben Murphy, Sam Wanamaker, Yvette Mimieux, Anita Morris and others in a high-priced department store. Debuting in January, it was gone before March. Then came Hollywood Beat, that fall, in which he costarred with Jay Acovone as policemen in Tinseltown.
The alternately gritty-glamorous show, modeled somewhat on Miami Vice, 1984-1990, (and which allegedly included burly, ex-football star John Matuszak as a gay sports bar owner!) only lasted for 14 episodes before having the rug pulled out from under it. He rounded out 1985 with the TV-movie The Other Lover, as the title character to Lindsay Wagner's married character.
His sole acting gig in 1986 was in another TV-movie, opposite Linda Hamilton, called Club Med, all about the shenanigans at a beachfront resort. He then was added to the abbreviated fifth and final season of Remington Steele in 1987, which consisted of three two-hour movies in which he was touted as a rival love interest for star Stephanie Zimbalist against Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan was less than pleased at returning to the show which had first been cancelled, then saved by viewer outcry, because it cost him (temporarily at least) the role of James Bond in The Living Daylights (1987.) That same year, Scalia appeared in the highly-rated Valerie Bertinelli miniseries I'll Take Manhattan.

Having been divorced from first wife Joan, Scalia remarried in 1987 to a Canadian beauty queen named Karen Baldwin. Baldwin had won Miss Canada in 1982 and proceeded to capture the crown of Miss Universe later that year. She and Scalia were wed from 1987 to 1996 and had two daughters together.

He also popped up on the long-running primetime soap Dallas in 1987 as one of Linda Gray's love interests. Sporting long, feathered hair which had been popularized by Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon (1987), he stayed on the show for one season until his character was tossed over a balcony in a struggle with Larry “J.R.” Hagman, though he did pop up in the series finale in 1991 as part of a fantasy sequence.

He headlined yet another unsuccessful series in 1988-1989 called Wolf. Once more he was played a detective. This time out, he was a cop who was wrongly accused of corruption and left to become a fisherman and part-time private investigator.

As a CBS TV star, he was (thankfully!) called upon to take part in one of the legendary Battle of the Network Stars specials, which always placed the men, in shape or not, into figure-hugging Speedo swimsuits for the swimming relay, kayaking and dunking booth events.
1990 brought a pair of telefilms, After the Shock, concerning the various heroics from the real life San Francisco earthquake of 1989, and Donor, about the mysterious goings on at a hospital. The latter film starred Melissa Gilbert.

More of the same followed in 1991 such as Deadly Desire, an erotic thriller with Kathryn Harrold, Ring of Scorpio, about three women (one of who was Catherine Oxenberg) out to plot revenge against a drug kingpin (played by him, shown here), and Runaway Father, about Donna Mills' efforts to pin down estranged husband Scalia for back child support owed to their three daughters.

Having played almost every variety of cop, he now took a slightly new tack when he headlined the series Tequila and Bonneti (1992.) Here, instead of a gunslinging costar, he shared screen time with a “talking” dog (the canine's thoughts were heard in voiceover!) Inspired by (read: ripped off from) a small wave of similar movies of the time (K-9 and Turner & Hooch, both 1989), it was gone before a dozen episodes were completed.

Straight-to-video fare like Illicit Behavior (1992) and more TV-movies such as With a Vengeance (again with Melissa Gilbert) and Lady Boss (with Kim Delaney, shown here), both in 1992, were his bread and butter during this period. 1993 did bring forth two somewhat more prominent projects in the arena, though.

There was Casualties of Love: The Long Island Lolita Story, which was one of three (yes, three!) versions of the Amy Fisher-Joey Buttafuoco attempted murder scandal, with each network taking a shot at the saga. His costar was previously squeaky-clean Alyssa Milano.

Other versions included Amy Fisher: My Story (1992) with Ed Marinaro and Noelle Parker and The Amy Fisher Story (1993) with Tony Denison and Drew Barrymore. All three were ratings winners even though two of them aired on the same night at the same time! (How in the hell did we ever become interested in these people?)

Another high-profile role came in Torch Song (1993), in which he costarred with Raquel Welch who was staging a three-pronged TV comeback after four years of inactivity (and cosmetic surgery?) Here, he played an alcoholic fireman who meets a legendary superstar actress while in rehab and winds up falling in love with her.

Though based on a Judith Krantz novel, the entire enterprise from page to screen, was inspired by Elizabeth Taylor's rehab-romance and subsequent marriage to construction worker Larry Fortensky. The copy in this old TV advertisement capitalizes on the real-life set-up. (Fortensky and Taylor were married five years, which is how long his pre-nup specified he must remain her husband if he were to receive any settlement... The two did remain friendly, however, and he was left $800K in her will.)

Scalia remained a go-to guy costar for females who were working on romantic or thriller-oriented projects, as with Bo Derek in Shattered Image (1994), Veronica Hamel in Stalker: Shadow of Obsession (1994) and Stepfanie Kramer in Beyond Suspicion (1994) among others. Occasional straight-to-video movies like Amore! (1993) and T-Force (which he produced, 1994) gave him starring, if not prestigious, roles.
The newly-formed Prime Time Entertainment Network (later replaced by The WB and UPN) offered Scalia the chance at still another series, this one called Pointman, about an ex-con living in Florida who works at helping various people in need. Though it only aired one 22 episode season in 1995, it is fondly remembered by a small base of fans.
Now Scalia worked more on producing his own films, including The Silencers (1996), Dark Breed (1996), Follow Your Heart (1999) and others. Ever busy, he balanced these projects with acting gigs in other folks' projects. He's seen here with Harry Hamlin and Shannon Sturges in 1999's Silent Predators, all about a rattlesnake invasion. In a rare situation, he found himself in Italy in 2000 acting in a revised version of his old series Tequlia and Bonneti, the original have been a surprise hit there previously.

In 2002, he joined the cast of the long-running daytime soap All My Children as one of Susan Lucci's endless string of conquests. He was not just another hunk on the treadmill, however, as he not only won over Lucci's approval, but was also nominated for a Daytime Emmy as Best Leading Actor in a Drama Series. The statuette, however, went to Peter Bergman of The Young and the Restless (as it had for him twice before over the course of many years.) after one year, he moved on so that Lucci's character could reunite with a former love.
2003 also brought what will likely go down in history as a camp riot, should it ever be seen by more than two dozen people. Hollywood Wives: The New Generation had Farrah Fawcett (in her last role) as a pop icon, utilizing Scalia to investigate her unfaithful husband and taking comfort from her pals Melissa Gilbert and Robin Givens, who have their own issues.

Jack Scalia still produces projects for himself and remains a busy actor at age sixty-four (and very, very fine-looking sixty-four, it must be said!) Occasionally, he guests on network series such as Parks and Recreation (in 2012) and The Neighbors (in 2013.) He enjoys the company of his two grown daughters, Olivia and Jacqueline, seen with him above in 2005 at the premiere of Red Eye, in which he had a supporting role (seen below.)
Physically active always, he turned to cycling, triathlons and then marathon running once his career in competitive sports ended. Recently, an interest in spinning has led to him becoming an instructor. A couple of attempts to create charitable organizations and events aimed at relief for wounded veterans failed to take hold or reach their goals and became entangled in tax issues, though he steadfastly claims no misconduct. (Shot above left is from Deadly Desire, 1991.)

We are always happy to find Mr. Scalia on our screen and applaud his dedication to what is now a more than three-decade-long career in a business not known for its loyalty and devotion to former hunks (though he really doesn't fall into the category of “former” with the way he's taken care of himself!) 

The End:


angelman66 said...

Hi Poseidon - Before this glorious post, I thought I "knew Jack" but now I really know Jack! Gawd, but that man was and is handsome...I LOVE men who are willing to shuck off their clothes at the slightest provocation, just to entertain the folks!!

Have not thought of the comely Mr. Scalia in a long time, but now I can't get him off my mind...this is my thirs visit to this post before getting my hormones under control enough to comment...

You rock!

joel65913 said...

An absolute knockout of a man who really has aged well.

Not a great actor but a good journeyman one. As I said in your post on the Joan Crawford Torch Song (where you dropped a hint about this upcoming post) I remember the Raquel Welch TV movie. I recall more about Raquel from it than Jack but I'm sure he prettied it up. I also remember the I'll Take Manhattan miniseries! More for the egregious miscasting of Valerie Bertinelli in the lead, an actress I love in comedy but was ridiculously cast in this. Also for the presence of a baby Julianne Moore just starting out as model India West. What a hoot!

Maybe that's Jack's problem. He's beautiful but not a standout. If he'd been working in the 40's or 50's he'd be one of those interchangeable leading men like David Brian, John Lund or John Ireland who blandly fill the male role while a star like Crawford, Stanwyck or Davis rode right over them.

Bless the producers of Battle of the Network Stars for including all those competitions that require the wearing of speedos and the actors willing to wear them. Nowadays the actors would wear board shorts or something equally baggy and disappointing. How we've regressed!!!

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

Looking over this list, I don't believe I've seen Jack Scalia in a single thing. Sorry Jack!

If those stills are any indication, I would have liked Hollywood Beat quite a lot. :-)

A said...

This is a totally weird thing (and only) thing I remember about that Torch Song movie. Watching it, I was thinking how great Raquel Welch looked, specifically in scene in a limo when she is wearing a backless sun dress. Jack kisses her and puts his open hand on her back. His hand plunges in to backfat like marshmallow. She looked thirty five, but this betrayed the 53 or so that she really was. Creepy.

Love Jack Scalia though.

Anonymous said...

Jack Scalia in tight briefs, and pictured with Rick Edwards and Pierce Brosnan...what a treat!
I didn't know much about him until this post, and it's good to see he hasn't lost his good looks.
Leafing through the Sears and JC Penney catalogs for the toy section was like reading Playboy for the articles, I guess.

NotFelixUnger said...

Thank you so very much. I am one of those people that l-o-v-e-d "Remington Steele's" first season and, though I kept watching, totally lost interest until Jack showed up. After that first appearance it was, "Pierce who?" I've followed him every since.

Every TV movie of the week he was in I somehow made time to see. He never stopped working. Today I catch him all the time on Sy Fy, Hallmark, et al... He looks totally amazing (and hot!) for his age today. "Jack it?" Hmmm-hmmm.

One thing: I was totally surprised and find it very interesting he was a Rock-discovery. Maybe I am just a tad jaded but it does make me wonder about the audition process he went through.

Gregory said...

Looking at photos of Jack Scalia at the peak of his beauty, it's almost impossible to imagine a more handsome man than he was. We're talking world-class, all-time, emeritus STUNNINGLY handsome! The only one who could hold a candle to him during his heyday was, perhaps, Ted McGinley. I've often wondered, myself, about whether horndog Rock made a play for the stunning Jack. It would almost surprise me MORE to find out that Rock DIDN'T pounce! Who could blame him, in this case. THANKS, for a tribute to a truly gorgeous man. And he's rather the textbook example of how to age gracefully, too (though he had a head start on the rest of us mere mortals....).

KP Knapp said...

I fell in lust for Jack after the Jordache ad campaign then I saw him in some early 80's HBO special about male models and he came across very sexist and even homophobic. This was before his television career and his work with Rock Hudson and possibly before his stint in rehab, so maybe he evolved but his comments really turned me off.

Gingerguy said...

Almost fell off my chair Poseidon. What a way to start a Monday. Glorious Jack, never knew he did a show with Rick Edwards. Those two and Jeff Aqualon were the trifecta of male models at the time. I never missed an issue of GQ (or International Male). Thanks for a great trip down memory lane and will look out for "Amazons"

Poseidon3 said...

Greetings, everyone! Wow! Lots of feedback about Mr. S.

Angelman/Chris, I'm so glad you enjoyed this post (apparently quite a bit!)

Joel, as much as I enjoy Jack's looks, I do have to agree that often it's been the ladies who managed to stay the focus of many of his projects. It fascinates me that Julianne Moore was playing second fiddle to Bertinelli in that miniseries and now she is in line for an Oscar (after several nominations) while Bertinelli is still on TV (albeit in a fairly successful show - thanks in no small part to the indefatigable Betty White!)

Dave, to be honest, I hadn't/haven't seen a tremendous amount of Jack's movies and shows either! But I have enjoyed seeing HIM through the years. :-)

A, that is a HILARIOUS recollection from "Torch Song!" It's amazing the strange little things that stick in our minds...

Armando, glad you liked the pics! I can remember acting like I was looking through catalogs for toys or other items, but fixating on the underwear sections! Gave me a daddy fixation that I still haven't fully outgrown...

NotFelix, I don't know any more about the Rock/Jack connection, but it's definitely a curiosity. I should think that no matter what, Rock had his eye on Jack, that's almost a given!

Gregory, I agree, obviously. (And I LOVE Ted McGinley... if you haven't visited HIS tribute here, I suggest you do since he was and is equally to die for. And I have a few snaps of him in little grey briefs!)

KP, let's hope that he did evolve from that. I'd love to get a look at that special and see his remarks for myself. Perhaps he was defensively overcompensating for the notion that many male models were/are gay... who knows. Also, I imagine he wouldn't have been such a go-to guy for female stars if he'd consistently exhibited sexist attitudes, so he's hoping!

Gingerguy, I'm happy I could get your week off to a great start! ;-) "Amazons" would surely be a hoot to see!!

Everyone, in case you haven't seen it, here is a link to the 1988 "Battle of the Network Stars" swimming relay with Jack and his teammate Lorenzo Lamas. Decent views of them both after the 2:00 mark. By this stage, some stars were already eschewing the Speedo, but thankfully not these guys! --