Sedona Film Festival, the moderator may look familiar to TV fans. Glenn Scarpelli, the Sedona-based entrepreneur who owns the Sedona NOW station in the scenic Red Rock community, is the same guy who starred as Alex in the latter seasons of the hit sitcom, One Day at a Time (dust off your Tiger Beat magazines if you don’t believe me). He went on to play Audrey Hepburn’s son in Bogdanovich’s 1981 film They All Laughed, which will screen at the Festival. Scarpelli also famously came out of the closet in 2005 in a VH1 countdown show of Awesome Child Stars after having left acting at eighteen to avoid living a double life.
I reached Scarpelli in Los Angeles and he related his latest news, and why you shouldn’t hesitate to say hello when you see him.
NC: First things first, thank you for coming out publicly. It is so cool to learn that the kid from One Day at a Time owns a TV station with his husband in Sedona! I understand you have another business that Movie Dearest readers would like to check out. Tell me about Green Love Lube, how it came about and something funny about the journey bringing it to market.
GS: It seems it's time for a catch up. (My husband) Jude (Belanger) and I are in the process of a divorce after 14 years. We are still great friends and still own the TV station together but we have grown apart on a personal level. We were legally married in California before the whole Prop 8 debacle and now have to get legally divorced. I am still a great supporter of LGBT rights and Marriage Equality, but one thing we need to know in our community is "Marriage Equality" can also mean "Divorce Equality". All's fair in love and war. I have been the type to always remain friends with my exes and Jude is no exception. We've shared so much and no one can ever take that away from us! We will always love each other but I am embracing the single life again... and loving it!
Having said all of that, Green Love Lube has been absorbed by a larger company and is now branded as Aloe Cadabra. We loved being on the ground floor of creating an organic Aloe Vera based personal lubricant and enjoyed all the 'testing" of the product along the way... (Laughing)
GS: I am so excited that Patrick Schweiss has invited They All Laughed to be screened at this year's Sedona International Film Festival with Peter Bogdanovich joining us as recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. Shooting that film was certainly one of the greatest experiences of my life. Working with the names you mentioned holds a place of deep gratitude in my heart. When we wrapped on the film, Audrey gave me a present: tapes of her favorite classical music. She really introduced me to an appreciation of such pieces. Her note said, "To my only movie son". I am thrilled to have held that title. Audrey never played a mom in any other feature film.
We also lost John a few years back, but nothing was as sad and shocking as the horrific murder of Dorothy Stratten three weeks after we wrapped. I, along with the entire company, was distraught. She was the sweetest person with such a vital and successful career to look forward to. I don't even know how Peter edited the film after that. Her death created an ominous energy to this lighthearted comedy. I wonder what this film would have been had Dorothy lived. I guess we'll never know.
GS: When I was cast on One Day at a Time it felt like I won the lottery. The show had been on the air five years (it ran a total of nine) and I was a huge fan. Being able to go to work day in and day out on the set of such a great sitcom was a dream! Yes, there were the teen mags and teen idol stuff that came with it but as girls "swooned" all I could think was: “Do any of you have cute brothers?” (Laughing)
I had never been with a guy at that point but for sure knew that day would be apparent. At 18 (shortly after the show ended) I fell madly in love with Gary Scalzo, a talent manager from New York City. I was in no way, shape or form going to lie about who I was just for my career. Back in those days (the 80's) being an "out" actor just didn't happen. So I left acting officially, moved back to New York and wet to NYU Film School. So basically I left my thriving career because I was gay. I refused to play the games. I was out in my personal life for decades before I came out publicly on VH1 in 2005. I'm so happy to live a free and honest life. If anyone out there is afraid to 'come out', don't be. Do it! It's a true expression of our self love, and we deserve it!
Lately I have been throwing my hat back in the ring regarding acting and just shot a comedy pilot for Comedy Central called The Gregory Brothers. I'll let you know if it gets picked up. I'm just so thrilled I can be out and an actor! Times are changing and I like what I see.
NC: You own Sedona Now Network and live amongst the Red Rocks. What inspires you both about the town and the people that live there? Why start a TV station? What causes are you passionate about?
GS: My first partner died of AIDS in 1992. I nursed him until his last breath. I was 26. The week after his passing I moved to Sedona for the first time! Sedona nurtured me during a very tough time of mourning. Sedona has played a very important role in my life through the years. It offers me centering, healing, peace and rejuvenation.
I have been back and forth between LA and Sedona for two decades. I officially moved to Sedona with Jude in 1999. I wasn't sure what I would do for a career. It's not like there's a lot of TV jobs available. So I decided to create one for myself. Sedona NOW TV, Channel 18 in Sedona, first aired on April 4, 2002. We will have been on the air 10 years this April. I'm very proud of the station and the work we do. I'm also very proud to have been a Sedona Internationall Film Festival Media Sponsor for a full decade. The station has also been nominated for four Rocky Mountain Emmys for our documentary work and one for me as interviewer (interviewing Nick Nolte at a Film Festival Event).
I (and the station) have always been very supportive of Equality Arizona (I emceed their Gala a few years back) and the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS in Phoenix (I have emceed their Night for Life gala too). Two amazing organizations that Arizona should be very proud of.
NC: I think people will be surprised to know that you started your career as a child on Broadway with Anne Bancroft and then Al Pacino before One Day at a Time, and that you have also stayed close with Bonnie Franklin, your "Mom". Who really affected your life the most among the people, Peter Bogdanovich included, with whom you worked?
GS: Working on Broadway with Anne Bancroft in Golda (directed by the late great Arthur Penn) and then with Al Pacino in Shakespeare's Richard III were beyond anything I could have dreamed of. Golda was my Broadway debut at age nine. I look back and see how the universe was putting me through acting school by giving me the opportunity to work with the industry's greats. I carry to this day lessons of professionalism I learned from these legends. No college course could ever teach me more. I also had the pleasure of working not only with Peter but Martin Scorsese as well. He directed me in an episode of an NBC anthology series called Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories. He taught me to never underestimate your audience. He said that audiences are very smart and subtleties go a long way. I've never forgotten that.
And yes, Bonnie! She has been a close friend and adopted family member for over thirty years. The One Day at a Time creative work experience was special. Bonnie and the cast were very much a part of the writing and re-writing of each episode. Bonnie really took the lead responsibilities. She included me, even at age fourteen, to partake in these writers meetings. She said, "I want you to come in with notes about Alex" (my character). She said, "Even if you don't know what to say keep asking yourself the question: would Alex do these things and why?" I learned so much from those writers meetings. I am forever grateful to Bonnie for that. By the way, Mackenzie Phillips will be at this year's Film Festival too.
NC: How has time treated They All Laughed? I didn't know that Wes Anderson led the commentary with Peter Bogdanovich for the film's DVD release. Can you give us a sneak peek of something you'll talk about when you do the Q & A with Mr. Bogdanovich at the Festival?
GS: They All Laughed, which didn't do much box office 30 years ago, has certainly gained legs over time. Funny story: I was at the TV Land Awards back in 2006-ish and Quentin Tarantino was also a presenter. I am a huge fan so I went over to him to introduce myself. I said, "Mr. Tarantino, my name is Glenn Scarpelli". He stopped and looked at me and said, "Glenn Scarpelli from They All Laughed?" I was friggin floored. What? No way! He then explained that They All Laughed was one of the main reasons he is a director today. Peter is his idol. He studied that film and even did an homage to it in Kill Bill: Vol. 2. I was blown away.
I've been getting a lot of that lately about this film. Peter has said that it certainly is his most personal piece and favorite movie he ever made. Again I am so happy to have been a part of it. The Sedona International Film Festival will also be screening the 40th Anniversary of The Last Picture Show on Saturday, February 18th followed by Peter's Lifetime Achievement award. They All Laughed will be screened on Sunday, February 19th followed be a Bogdanovich Q & A which I will moderate. We will discuss of course Audrey Hepburn! I know it was a dream of Peter's to have directed her. We will also discuss some of the unique ways the film was shot. For instance, there is a whole sequence shot on New York's 5th Ave that involved hidden cameras and all natural background talent. No extras! How Peter pulled this off was remarkable.
NC: What was the most challenging thing about deciding to come out? Were your parents and family supportive, or did that contribute to your decision to stay in the closet? Knowing what you went through, how do you feel about what kids are going through today, trying to come out and sometimes being bullied?
GS: I have already addressed some of my "coming out stuff" but let me say in regards to bullying. We must always walk our truth and be kind and loving to ourselves. We don't need any one else's approval or opinions about who we are! It's true that when I came out to my family it certainly was a journey, specifically with my parents, but over time they came to understand and accept me. They have shown their love for me over the years and I'm grateful for that. As the campaign says, it does get better.
But I think the most important lesson in coming out is to have self acceptance, self awareness and self love. It's really not about anyone else. We, in the LGBT community, deserve happy, fulfilled and passionate lives. We are loved, no matter what books or Dogma might say. We are loved! We can be beacons of light to help wake up those around us that carry ignorance and fear, but coming out is something we do for ourselves. Remember, the truth sets us free. I am so happy to have shared my truth today with all of you! If any of you make it to the Sedona International Film Festival, make sure you find me and say "hi". Especially if you’re cute and single... (Laughing)
The Sedona International Film Festival celebrates its 18th birthday on February 18th, so it is safe to say that it is finally legal. This year features over 145 films, documentaries and animated films, some of which specifically address LGBT issues, and many others that are just amazing films that the LGBT community will also love. For more information, visit their website.
Interview by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.