Joe Dallesandro  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Joseph Angelo (Joe) Dallesandro (born December 31, 1948) in Pensacola, Florida) is an American actor.

Dallesandro was known for his voluptuous physical beauty, flesh-baring film appearances, and openness about his bisexuality. Although he never became a major mainstream star, Dallesandro is generally considered to be the most famous male sex symbol of American underground films of the 20th century. According to biographer Michael Ferguson, Dallesandro was "the first openly eroticized male sex symbol of the movies to walk naked across the screen". As well as beauty, his on-screen presence has a compelling enigmatic quality. This derives from what often seems (especially in his appearance in several Warhol films) a bored or surly withholding, and almost comical physical inertia.


As a teenager, Dallesandro 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 also appeared in at least one gay pornography film. Interviewed in later life, Dallesandro said: "My hustling days were more about trying to take care of myself. Having met those people kind of calmed me down. They showed me a different part of life. My attitude was that it widened my life experience... I realized later that I was looking for a father figure and someone to love me." It has been suggested that the young hustler 'Ned' who appears in Martin Duberman's memoir Cures is Dallesandro.

Dallesandro met Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey in 1967 while they were in the midst of shooting The Loves of Ondine, 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 was the obvious choice for the part of a hustler in his third Warhol film Flesh (1970), where he had several nude scenes. To a large extent, it was because of him that Flesh became a crossover hit with mainstream audiences and an internationally successful film. 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."

He quickly drew a devoted cult following that savored his long sandy hair, distinctively muscular physique, large, thick penis (which is often directly alluded to in the Warhol films), and his utter unselfconsciousness in baring these attributes on camera. In fact Dallesandro's most renowned attribute, his spectacular backside, was prominently featured in all of his films from this peroid.

As Dallesandro's underground cult fame began to crossover into the popular culture, he graced the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in April, 1971. He was also photographed by some of the top celebrity photographers of the time: Francesco Scavullo, Jack Robinson, Richard Avedon.

Dallesandro also appeared in Lonesome Cowboys (1968), Trash (1968), Heat (1972), Andy Warhol's Frankenstein and Andy Warhol's Dracula (both 1974) also directed by Morrissey. These last two films were shot in Europe, and, after the films were completed, 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 movies without Warhol and Morrissey, and is known for his portrayal of 1920s gangster Lucky Luciano in Francis Coppola's The Cotton Club. He also appeared as a religious zealot in Cry-Baby by John Waters.

Dallesandro has a famous tattoo on his upper right arm that reads "Little Joe", and was portrayed as the hustler "Little Joe" 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 large 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.

John Waters has praised him as "A wonderful actor who forever changed male sexuality on the screen." He is considered an underground film and gay culture icon, and still has a large cult following.

Dallesandro has been married three times and has two sons. He currently manages a hotel in the heart of Hollywood, where he lives with his cat Booky. He has said: "I've lived such a full life. I've had such great things. There were some hardships, but overall everything has been great."


Katell Keineg's third album, High July, features a song written about Dallesandro called "Little Joe."


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Joe Dallesandro" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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