Interview with Michael Dante

Frank) Deb) Welcome back folks. I want to share today a piece of an interview that I did a few months ago at the Wild West Fest out in Dodge City, when I got to meet and interview Michael Dante. And you may not recognize his name, some of you will, but you will all recognize his face if you are a fan of old TV westerns, he even guest starred in “Get Smart.” What was so cool is I had seen an episode, a rerun of “Bonanza”, the week before I interviewed him and then I’m sitting there talking to him. And so we’re gonna talk a little bit about his life and career. First generation Italian American, professional baseball player. (Frank) Yea. (Deb) So, we started talking about his baseball career, Frank you’re gonna love this, he played for the Washington Senators. And what became of the Washington Senators? (Frank) Well, they kind of went away. Now, I mean there’s another baseball team in D.C. now but I can’t even think of their name, sorry. (Deb) Yea, who is it? (Frank) But the Senators yea, they had a lot of good players. (Deb) They had some tremendous players. So, he and I started visiting then about Yogi Berra because Heather and I happened to be in St. Louis the day Yogi Berra died, eating dinner in the neighborhood – The Hill, where Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola and those guys grew up. So, we went by his house. I got out and spoke to his niece and expressed our condolences. So, Michael Dante knew Yogi Berra very well and DiMaggio and it was like all those Italian players had their own little clique or club or support group or whatever you want to call it. They were all very close friends and supporters of one another. And they, I think Yogi was living in New Jersey I think when he passed away. So Michael talked about visiting Yogi’s home in New Jersey and how they would all get together. It was just an amazing connection. Just amazing. (Frank) Yea. I’ll share a book with you that I’ve got. It’s called “Yogisms.” (Deb) Oh my gosh. (Frank) And it is an entire book of course of what, of course the most famous one is, “It ain’t over til it’s over.” (Deb) “Nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded.” (Frank) Yea, “Nobody goes there anymore cause it’s too crowded.” And so, it’s too bad Yogi’s not from Kansas. We could do a year on the guy. (Deb) But you know, my friend Shelby Smith, used to be Lieutenant Governor of Kansas, knew Yogi. They played baseball against each other when Shelby grew up in St. Joe, even though his career was made in Kansas, he grew up in St. Joe. So, they played the State Championship against each other. Garagiola and Berra and of course, their team won, as Shelby points out. But anyway back to Michael’s career and hopefully we’re going to get to share more of him as time goes on because he was an amazing man and you’re going to love getting to know him better. (Michael) When I went to Warner Brothers, that’s where I really learned my craft. I did about three Cheyenne’s, Colt .45, a Sugarfoot, Maverick, and I went from one Western to another and I was a good type. But at Warner Brothers, I went from one show to another and that gave me the versatility to play the good guy and the bad guy. Though very few actors had my physical attributes to play the good guy and the bad guy, usually with my good looks, my stature and my presence I would play the good guy. But I also had the strength and the power and the passion to play the bad guy. So that kept me alive. And when I was freelancing and left Warner Brothers I was able to play the heavies and guest star in the other shows. So I was able to play the villain, and play it well, and a lot of them were Westerns, and I really loved and enjoyed playing Westerns, because I always wanted to be a cowboy. My dad came from Italy and he didn’t know the language, he assimilated, was a businessman, free enterprise, and all of his brothers were in business, he had six brothers and one sister. The six brothers they were all in business for themselves, and Dad spoke English as good as we did. And the emphasis was on education and all the opportunities you have in America, and we support you and we love you. Because my Dad was in the produce business, so when we traveled we traveled on the truck. And we were seven people, so we all couldn’t fit in the front cab, so the boys had to get in the back and they managed with three or four up front. But I was so thrilled when I was able to buy an automobile for my family. And that was such a thrill. And young people, if you don’t take advantageous of the opportunities that America, the greatest country in the world, shame on you! I took it, advantage of them, and I worked hard and I was blessed with so much, so much rewards and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be an American.