thomas calabro's(long)autobiography
worked a full weekend day.  I started by selling the daily rags and making change, through grade school I learned how to
make sodas (mix syrup and seltzer in those days), milkshakes and malteds, egg creams and coffee and tea.  I was taught
to add quickly in my in my head, make change and work the cash register fast for our mostly working class customers.  I
also washed a lot of dishes, cleaned out the back storage room periodically, and restocked the candy display (by far my
favorite task).  By the time I was thirteen I was working the grill and doing all chores necessary to run the daily
business – with the exception of doing the books or accounting.  I worked at this family business full time for entire
summers starting after my first year in high school through the time until my mother sold it sometime during my college
years.  I was never paid.  It was a family business, and as the oldest son I was expected to do the work as my
contribution – the way my sisters were expected to make the beds at home.   I did get to keep my tips, which amounted to
a whopping couple of dollars every day. .

1969          First Man on Moon – A Giant Step for Mankind (Age 10)

I was working on the Saturday this momentous event occurred.  I know because my dad had just decided to close on
Sundays, and I remember him sending me out to get a New York Times so he could read about it.

1970-73       Holy Child Jesus Elementary School (Age 11-14)
First Play - Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Age 11)

This was my first acting job ever.  It was done in the school auditorium.  I thought it was a good way to get girls.   I
didn’t get paid, this was community theatre.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get girls, either.  My part was as one of the
townspeople.  My biggest moment was beating up on Joseph with other townspeople.  I was later told my punching looked
very fake.

Fiddler on the Roof (Age 12)

A year later.  Second acting job.  Still no pay and no girls.   Still a townsperson.

On TV with Boy Scout Troop - Dames at Sea, Captain Kangaroo (Age 12)

These were my first television appearances.  We had a pretty good marching band in our scout troop, and I was one of
three snare drummers.  We were asked to appear on a television song and dance special put on by NBC, I think. We got to
meet famous people in person.  They were Ann Miller and Fred Gwynn , and we were impressed, though none of us actually
knew who Ann Miller was.  During taping we were told not to touch our drums, but to fake it.  I was very good at that, I
was told later.

Start working full summers at "the store” (Age 12)

What happened here I will never forget.  I wanted to go to a one week Boy Scout Camp which took place in July.  Dad said
fine, but I would have to earn money to do it.  What he meant was that I would now be working Mon-Fri at the “store”
(that’s what we called dad’s luncheonette) in addition to the Saturday I was already working.   So, I did. 6 AM to 6
PM.  For three weeks of this my father paid me $33 bucks for camp. I went.  The following Monday morning he wakes me up
to go to work.  I say “Dad, I don’t have to work anymore – I made my money to go to camp”.  And he says, “You think you’
re gonna start something and not finish it?  You’re working the whole summer”.  And that’s what I did.  Not only that
summer, but for every one subsequent to that until college (when he died – otherwise I might still be working there).  
No pay.  Just tips.

1973-77      Stuyvesant High School (Ages 15-18)

My father now had me going to work during the school year for a couple of hours before my first class. I learned how to
work the grill during the summer, and I guess I did too good a job.

1974          Drive Cross country with Scout Leader (Age 15)

I got this to take this vacation with one of the troop leaders because dad valued it as an educational experience.  Can’
t say it wasn’t.  I still love the outdoors and the hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon at fifteen years old was
something nobody else could talk about at school the next year.

1975           Jesus Christ Superstar (Age 16)

Here I am with my third appearance in the auditorium stage at Holy Child Jesus Elementary School.  Still no pay and no
girls, BUT I do get a featured role as “King Herod”, and my number brings down the house and attracts much attention
from my friends and most from my father, though not directly.  He wasn’t the complimenting sort, but my Mom told me
later she had never seen Dad’s jaw hang so low as when I was singing and dancing on stage.

1977-78        Fordham University, Bronx Campus, Influential Teacher (Age 18)

As I entered my first year of college I had no idea in what direction my career I was going..  At first, I wanted to
play football.  Then, I thought I might follow my sister’s path and become a surgeon.  My dad wanted me to be a lawyer,
but none of that interested me.  I certainly wasn’t go into the restaurant business.   I took a variety of classes, but
the one that struck me most was “Introduction to Theatre” taught by a man who smelled of pee and for whom it took twenty
minutes to walk with his cane down the long school hallway to get to the classroom.  Some  ten years later Denzel
Washington and I would speak of this old vaudevillian with reverence during a pick-up basketball game in West
Hollywood.  I remember his first name was Ed, and he loved theatre so much that endured the pain and incontinence his
eighty-seven year old body served him to come to class twice a week to teach it.

1978         Fort Salem Theatre, NY - summer stock  (Age 19)

I looked for summer courses after my freshman year of college and lo and behold they actually offered four credits if
you did summer stock.  It was the one and only year this occurred.  The program had been put together by the theatre
department from the Lincoln Center Campus of Fordham.  I was the LAST person to audition and don’t you know I did my
King Herod number and I got in.  Not as a paid member of the company, but as an unpaid apprentice.  Didn’t matter to
me.  I was going.  I took another restaurant job to earn some money to hold me over for the two months and five shows
that constituted the season and for which I would be living in Fort Salem, New York.  That summer, despite losing twenty
some pounds, and working every conceivable grunt job in that theatre, I fell in love with it.  I got some good little
roles and fudged my way through singing and dancing with people who had been studying and doing it since they could
walk.  I knew what I wanted to do for my life’s work.  I came away that summer determined to catch up in skills with my
peers and be the best actor I could be.  And one of the first things I had to do was get rid off my Brooklyn accent.  At
the time, I had no idea how soon and how painfully that process would begin..

1978-81       Fordham University, Lincoln Center Campus (Age 19-21)

I transferred to the Lincoln Center campus right after returning from the stock season and auditioned for the first
production of the year on the Liberal Arts Campus.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream - I understudy Denzel Washington (Age 20)
Speech classes with Fay Van Saal

Right off, I got to do a great role in this classic comedy by Shakespeare.  I was cast in a smaller role but also
understudied Denzel’s much bigger part as Oberon, the King of the Fairies.  Just a week into rehearsal he was called
away for other work, and I was the King.  Because of my Brooklynese, the head of the theatre department put me to work
with one of the preeminent speech therapists of the time.  Fay Van Saal had me go through every single word of my
character’s dialogue, every line, every speech, sound by sound, consonant by consonant, vowel by vowel, over and over
again. And  she made me do it while sitting with a straight spine to allow the flow the energy (or something) while
doing it.  And I had some long, long speeches to give in that play.  But, I did it.  Often while Fay drifted off for a
snooze. My first year at Fordham at Lincoln Center (sophomore year of college) I also had good roles in Tea and
Sympathy, Blood Wedding, and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

1980        Old Bellport Playhouse (summer stock theatre) (Age 21)
Dad dies in July

This was my first paid gig as an actor.  My paltry salary also included work as a director and teacher.  And I taught
speech (not a joke) to a children’s group that would come in and study acting and related skills from Monday to Friday.  
I also directed them in productions of Annie and Peter Pan.  Oh, did I mention I was getting girls, by now?

My dad died during the season, and I took a break to attend the funeral.  After returning, my oldest sister made a
surprise visit, and asked what I was going to do with my life.  She assumed my current dedication was a dalliance of
which my father would never approve and it was time I moved on.  I told her just what I had told my dad when he brought
up the subject the year before.  All those thousands of hours at my father’s store had taught me independence - and
neither he dead,  nor she alive,  would deter me from my decision.  Now, would she kindly leave the premises as I had a
rehearsal to go to.  This fifteen minute period was the one and only time I had anything but one-hundred-ten percent of
my family’s support behind my professional acting career.

1981     Renaissance Festival (Age 22)
New School Conservatory Theatre (run by female Yale graduate)
Covenant House on 42nd Street (Charity Work)

Another summer stock season, but more importantly, I determined this senior year of college that I needed to raise the
level of my study.  I’d done all I could do in college.  I had already fulfilled my theatre major and English major
classes and was working on a psychology minor.  I had to branch out.  I knew I needed to work with more dedicated, more
talented, and more demanding teachers and actors.  Thus, The New School Conservatory Theatre became my second school.  
Also in my mind was graduation and the question of “what then?”  My course was clear.  Two new goals consumed me:  one,
get out of mom’s house and be on my own, and two, buy a clue on how to make a living on this acting deal that I loved.  
The school had offered no classes on that.

For a year, I also contributed a few hours a week to just be with, talk to, or feed the runaways who had sheltered
themselves temporarily at Covenant House.  I enjoyed those kids.  They were smart, but unfortunately felt unappreciated
and unloved by their families. The ways they learned to cope was amazing and inspirational.  Being with those kids was
an acting lesson unto itself.

1981-82      So. Carolina Shakespeare Tour (Age 22-23)
First Agent - Hesseltine-Baker and Associates
Relying on waiting tables, odd jobs, to make a living between jobs

The clue I bought was a book called “Acting Professionally”.  And it was my bible.  I followed it word for word.  I had
my first set of headshots done.  I made up a very impressive resume to attach to it.  I bought a reference book with
talent agent’s names and addresses and mailed out one hundred twenty five pictures and resumes to them.  After a month,
I got four responses and two meetings and ended up with a guy who didn’t send me out for a meeting or audition for six
months but was very interested in us having dinner together.  I had two hundred postcards made up and started a campaign
of monthly mailing to procure a better agent than the guy who never called me but probably wanted to sleep with me.  I
focused on twenty agents (like the book said) and wrote what I thought was witty and eye-catching every month.  I mailed
in my pic/resume or attended cattle call auditions for every item remotely close to my age and gender in the actor’s
rags, “Back Stage” and “Show Business”.  This resulted in a number of acting roles in NYU grad films (one as a “sperm”)
and the above mentioned. Shakespeare Tour of “Scenes and Soliloquies” with the South Carolina Theatre Company.    
Throughout this time, I studied and tried out different acting classes. I did everything there was to do.  And finally
after three postcards, one meeting, two monologues, two scenes and two months, a reputable agent at a reputable agency
signed me as their client for theatrical work.  I was happiest, most exhausted actor in New York.

To pay the bills I worked at various restaurants waiting tables.  I did odd jobs, usually creative ones like an artists
assistant, photographer’s assistant, I was once commissioned to make some poster board signs and charts for a business.  
That same guy asked me to be a receptionist for a week.  This is apparently the maximum amount of time I could hold a
nine-to-five position, because he had me back doing graphs the following week.  And I’m not just telling you this cause
a vocational counselor is reading this.  It’s the sad truth!

1982      I get my first commercial agent (Age 23)
Saturday Night Schmutz - commercial for Zest

I continued my postcard crusade and much the same was as before, but with less auditions, got a commercial agent.  Just
a week later I had performed my first SAG job, a Zest Commercial in which I promised consumers everywhere would never
leave you feeling “schmutzy” – you know, that sticky soap film feeling?

1983     Study Acting with Ed Kovens  (Age 24)
Open Admissions at the Long Wharf Theatre in CT
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park
Making a living!

Now, my studying is getting serious and so is the work I’m getting.  I’m starting to do regional theatre around the
country.  My life at this time goes like this: audition, work out of town at some theatre for six weeks, come back and
collect unemployment while I study, audition, get another theatre gig out of town, come back and collect unemployment
while I study, etc. etc. “Open Admissions” was a pre-trial to go to Broadway…didn’t…but still…exciting stuff for me.  I
no longer need to work “money” jobs to support my career, the holy grail of the struggling actor in NY!

I had tried many acting classes, but I finally settled down with one when I came upon Ed Kovens. He studied directly
under Lee Strassberg (who taught Brando and other “method” people). But more importantly, we spoke the same language and
he didn’t let me get away with bull%^&.  He was a great teacher for me.  I continued studying with him for 7-8 years –
whenever I was in town.  He a got a book published with his teaching before he died about one year ago.  

1984      Kingman-Ganz Agency (Age 25)
“Snacks” a play by Leonard Gershe - toured from Maine to Denver
Exterminator II – first movie role
Pound Puppies commercial, et al

Switched agencies when my agent, Jo Ganz, at Hesseltine-Baker formed her own office.   Two weeks later she quit the
business and I ended up with the best agent a man could hope for as a performer who hadn’t broken into the mainstream
yet.  His name was Michael Kingman, and he was a maniac.  But, he was my maniac.  And he gave me precious more
opportunities for gainful employment within my chosen profession.  He got me readings for things other than soap operas,
commercials, and theatre.  With so much competition, success relies on “number of opportunities”.  Gotta get your
chances.  If you do and you were doing well, I remember the law of averages then dicated you’d book one out of fourteen

1985     Out of the Darkness - TV Movie with Martin Sheen and Hector Elizondo

Small role, but awesome experience.  Watching those two guys work was worth a hundred acting lessons.

1986     Cunningham, Escott and Dipine – new commercial agent
Start Voice-over career (Age 27)

I left my first commercial agent after the third time she held back my checks for a suspiciously long time and through
techniques explained earlier got a new one.  This agent turned out to be a gold mine.  Not only in that they were one of
the top commercial agencies in the city, but they had a voice-over department.  After I was with them for a while, done
a couple of commercials and was in good stead, I asked one of the owners what “those people on the other side of the
partition did that I never hear from”?  She said they book actors on radio and for voices on television commercials.  I
asked how I might get a piece of that.  She told me I had some homework to do.  I did.  One list of dialects, funny
voices, a meeting, a professional demo reel and six weeks later I was being sent out on voice-over auditions.  I had
expanded my opportunities to work as a professional actor.  Yah!

1987        Wild Blue - a play I did Off Broadway, Perry St. Theatre, NYC  (Age 28)

This show was big for me.  I played 7 characters in a night of eight one-act plays that ranged from heavy drama to
farce.  I got a lot of press and a lot of attention.  Legit (movies, television, theatre) auditions were coming more
readily now.   The studying, the unemployment, the work, the studying – it all paid off with this show.  If I hadn’t put
the time in there is no way I could have pulled it off.  This show got extended four times and moved into a bigger
theater for the last one.  Damn, I really felt like a professional now.

1988       Women and Football, Manhattan Punch Line,  NYC (Age 29)
Dreamstreet pilot and series for NBC

More work.  Another NYC show performed on Theatre Row on 42nd Street.  And then I got my biggest paying job to date when
I booked a series regular role on “Dreamstreet”.  The show only went six episodes but was seen by everyone at every
network and was highly revered for its quality.  I was so damn proud cause I thought almost every actor I got to be in
it with was awesome.

1989-1991    Ladykillers – TV Movie
Start play directing career with “Orphans”, EST project, Circle Rep
Vendetta: Secrets of a Mafia Bride (shot in Italy)
Father Dowling Mysteries, Law and Order

Now, here’s the rub of the acting profession.  Acting giveth and acting taketh away! After Dreamstreet and for the
following two years, I hit a major dry spell in terms of income.  (Thank god I saved my money).  I started getting non-
paying jobs directing off-off Broadway plays and because of my dedication to this  turned down some work.  I was flush
with cash from the series and didn’t worry about getting jobs too much, so knew I could afford it.  In these days, art
took precedence over money (obviously, I didn’t have kids yet)   I did some television guest appearances, but still was
draining the savings.  And here’s the thing – during these two years I was flown out television networks FOURTEEN times
to test for shows (the final audition of a series of them that locks the job) and DIDN”T  get ANY of them.  All I got
was over 100,000 frequent flier credits on a major airline.  Ohhh, I was hurtin’ with rejection, racked with self
doubt.  Bloody actor’s life!  But, I wasn’t totally knocked out, I was still fightin’.

1990       Become a member of The Actor’s Studio (Age 30)
Become member of Circle Rep Lab

Two reasons I was still swinging despite the economic downturn was because these two esteemed theatre companies took me
as member. In the former I was an actor, in the latter, a director.

1990-91    “Stealing Souls: Bring Your Camera” produce and direct over a year’s time

I pretty much spent any money I had left directing this wild and wacky performance art piece that included coordination
of a full band, twenty-two cast members, and was performed inside and outside a church in the funky East Village section
of New York City.  When this project was over I knew I had to make a drastic move.  Not only no-pay, it cost me a few
thousand.  In addition, my long term advocate, agent, and maniac friend, Michael Kingman had died in April of AIDS, and
it looked like I had to make a change in representation, as well.

1991        Columbo: No Time to Die (Age32)

Because of the recession at the time, networks didn’t want to spend the extra money to fly actors out to LA for guest
role like I had done on “Father Dowling Mysteries” and there wasn’t enough TV shot in NY for the all important
opportunities, so I decided to pack a bag and go out to LA for six months. I figured I’d make a bag load of money, and
then come back and direct some more.  It didn’t work out that way.  I got the Columbo gig within a month of coming out,
and decided to stay for pilot season.  I hooked up with the Judy Schoen Agency and had no problems during pilot season
getting tons of auditions.  I was with this chain-smoking, fast talking list of health problems for only two months,
when I struck gold in TV land.

1992-1999    Melrose Place Television Series (Age 33-40)
TV Movies- Sleep Baby Sleep, Stolen Innocence, LA Johns
Gravity Shoes – a play at the Hudson Guild Theatre
1996         Direct my first Melrose Place episode
1993ish –    get LA Voice Over Agent – Sandie Schnarr talent

How blessed was I!  I was actually doing a commercial when the day they wanted to  test me on this show and I told them
I wouldn’t miss the paying gig for the “maybe I’ll get it” audition.  They were very nice to arrange the audition for
the network during my lunch hour of the commercial shoot.  And I got it.  I was a series regular again and showed my
appreciation by becoming the only one to stay with the show beginning to end.  I knew a good ride when I was on it.  A
female reporter asked me when the show first came out how it felt to be an overnight success.  I said it was a very long
night – about fourteen years.  For some reason, she didn’t find that funny.  I found it extremely entertaining going to
work on average 3 out of 8 shooting days and having a regular acting gig for the first time in my life that went more
than four months.  And the pay wasn’too bad either.  

During these years I got married.  Did a number of television movies, a play, and basically handled my own renegotiation
of my MP acting contract. There's a book in that story alone.

I also switched agents in 1996, I think it was. Went with Adam Levine of Metropolitan Talent Agency.  Had my wife phone
up a bunch of agents to ask if they were interested and Adam was most enthusiastic.  It turned out great.  Three years
later he became a manager and I went with him as he agreed to keep his commission at 10% (not the usual managerial fee
of 15%) and work for me without an agent involved.  (I don’t believe in double representation).  Our relationship lasted
ten years - until 2005.

2000        Ice Angel, Best Actress, They Nest! (Age 41)
2001        Hard Knox- Pilot for Television, Taught Yoga for ~8 mos.

These three years after the show were a fairly busy time with some close calls on booking series regular jobs.  I tested
(got to the final audition) a handful of times for both one hour and half hour comedies.  The one I did get, Hard Knox,
was a heart breaker as it appeared we were going to series until the 11th hour, when financing overseas evaporated and
that was the end of that.

The yoga teaching went like this.  I practiced regularly at the same studio, Angel City Yoga, in Studio City, for about
four years.  One day, the teacher didn’t show up, and the manager asked me to sub.  Shortly thereafter, they asked me to
occasionally take over a class when someone couldn’t make it and when they lost a slew of teacher’s in a short time,
asked me to teach a regular class.  I’m not certified and have no formal “teacher” training, which is usually required
for such a position. However, my experience, good practice, personal relationships with the staff, and my love of
sharing such a wonderful life enhancing activity led me to do this for about eight months until my meager student
attendance and more time spent creating, producing, and writing put an end to this act of love.  I should also note that
being a yoga instructor never precluded or took priority over my ongoing acting career.

2002       Face to Face (aka Italian Ties) - low budget feature (met Scott Baio)

In retrospect, the most significant occurrence work-wise was that I met Scott Baio doing “Face to Face”, (a film he
wrote) and we talked about the work we would like to be doing.  In short order, we decided to pool our skills and
resources and starting creating, developing, and pitching ideas for ourselves to the both the major and cable networks.

2002-2005                Producing Work

Brothers In Law – with Scott Baio and Neil Goldberg
Idea and Story optioned by Warner Bros. Studio and paid to write script
Peter and Paul– with Baio
Ventura Blvd. – with Baio (a revised version of BIL)
Sisters In Law – with Baio/Goldberg
The Belmont-Stakes –half hour comedy with Baio
Idea and Story optioned by Paramount Pictures Television
Look at Hollywood’s Privates Uncut – with Baio & Ken Lipman
Bad Neighbors – with Baio
Ted and Alice are Getting Divorced - with Baio and Ron Zimmerman
What a Life! – with Baio/Lipman
Executive producer, created, developed, wrote and starred in for E! Television
Shot the pilot episode
Cooking Outside the Box - with NY restaurateur – John Accardi

I have scripts, story notes and breakdowns, character breakdowns, pitch notes, video files (we created a DVD with to
sell Belmont-Stakes to Paramount), etal used to develop and sell our projects.

That said – here’s the short story.  When Scott and I attended our initial meetings with the development departments of
the various networks – the look on their faces told me they did not expect much.  But, after our pitch, and especially
after they read our work, those dubious looks flipped to ones of impression - we had open invitations to return even if
the particular project we were in for was not “what they were looking for right now”.  And nothing we did ever pardoned
us from never having done it before (translation: we had no experience).  

2003        Touched by an Angel - Guest Star        (Age 44)
2004        Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus, The Perfect Husband, Starjackers
2005        Nip Tuck, Cold Case, Cake
2006        Chill, Till Lies Do Us Part, Ice Spiders

2007        “It’s Just Sex” a theatrical comedy at the Zephyr Theatre in LA
Safehouse  – independent feature (Age 48)

"Green Health Live Interactive Internet TV Show”

In January, Marc Ryan a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Practitioner came to me with Fran Battaglia, a
videologist and editor, asking if I would be interested in producing (helping them develop and sell) a show they thought
they could make distributable through phones, ipods, and the web.  We had a few meetings and many phone conversations
trying to work the idea out.  They didn’t seem to have anything to sell specifically that could earn them income.  In a
few weeks, we determined instead of show, perhaps a website for our idea of promoting alternative Medicine could work.  
We immediately started researching the needs of this kind of business, related expenses, income potential, if there was
a market for it, etc…in short - we were basically putting together a bloody business plan- a first for all of us!!  Six
to eight weeks later, we still hadn’t figured out how the heck we were going to make money on this thing – and that was
really bugging me.  The problem was, we had no product to sell – we were brokers.  After some research I found some
percentages we could work with in terms of directing traffic to sales sites, etc…  I took those figures and combined
them with the kinds of goods and services our site would promote, less the cost of moderating, sustaining, updating the
site, and it turned out to be a big bust as I saw it.  No upside.  I told Marc I had to focus on my career and getting
work and was done with it.  About three weeks later he had a meeting with Brian Gramo, the creator and executive
producer of an online network ( and he offered Marc a spot on the schedule for $25 bucker per show.     
This became The Green Health Live Interactive Internet TV Show, or for short, “Green Health Live”. My producing duties
thus far on the show have been limited to being an on-air personality and fielder of instant messages.

2008       see resume, reels, etc for everything from here on out!

Well, there’s my work life in a nutshell: just the average roller coaster acting career with a big cash cow in the
middle for which I am eternally thankful.  Hope I made it informative and fun!  I really enjoyed going back over it
while writing this bio.

2008-2013  I just haven't gotten to this yet.  But, I am still alive.