Frank Stallone is a name that has always been in the public eye for decades. Despite being an extremely talented performer that has worked in a number of fields, his fame is usually attached to his brother, Sylvester. The upcoming documentary Stallone: Frank, That is sets out to show that Frank has done enough to be recognized for his own accomplishments. Frank recently spoke with AIPT about his life in show business.
AIPT: You are extremely open during Stallone: Frank, That Is. Were you ever scared about being too open?
Frank Stallone: No, I just basically in my everyday life, I’m fairly open. I’m not really that closed because I don’t really have that much to be closed about. I’m not really hiding anything or stuff like that. So, I figured if they’re going to do a documentary, I owe it to the filmmakers and myself and whoever knows me to be as honest and open as I can.
AIPT: How important was it for you to get your work ethic across to the audience?
Stallone: Well, I guess what I was trying to get across to the audience was the idea of perseverance and sticking to it. I mean, I’m not lying. There were times I was, you know, I was so poor. I was like, trying to find coins in my couch, to get something to eat. There were many times when I was homeless. Not homeless, like standing on the corner, but I’d play a coffee house, and I’d say, “Where am I going to stay tonight?” And usually, you know, most of them, there’s always a fellow musician, “Hey man, you can crash in my place,” or whatever. So there was a point where everything was somewhat desolate. You know what I mean? Where I said, “Wow…” And when I think back on it now, I go, “Oh my God.”
I was really riding by the seat of my pants. I mean, I really had no education to speak of, barely got out of high school. But I had a belief in myself. I think I just knew I had something to say or something to do because… And then as time went on, you know, there was no turning back. I mean, at that point, you know, you get to a certain age, it’s like you’re not going to start your whole career over in physics or something like that, you know?
AIPT: And how did you manage to stay positive through it?
Stallone: When I was younger, I didn’t smoke or drink or anything. I was not a per se drug user considering I grew up in the Summer of Love. I remember one time I was at someone’s party in Philadelphia and I did have some drinks and I was a little loopy. And I remember going into a bathroom there and looking in the mirror, looking at myself, I didn’t have two peas in a pod to call my own. I had a guitar and a duffel bag. That was it. And I looked at myself and I said, “Do you have what it takes you have? Can you do it? Can you compete on the world level?” And I said, “Yes. I swear to God.”
That’s over 50 years ago and I still remember it. It was a time when I’ve just looked in the mirror and I knew I had something to say and something to go because I knew I was a little different. Because every band I was in, you know, we won the battle of the bands. We did this. So I knew I had something, but I was maybe too young to kind of like… You know what I mean?
I was all over the place. You know, I was playing folk music, I was playing a rock band, doing things. I had a few things in my sack, you know what I mean? It wasn’t like I was Johnny One Note. So that’s probably what kept me going. And you know, when I went through serious periods of anxiety and panic attacks, which I suffered for many years at a young age, and I didn’t really know what it was, I thought it was actually losing my mind.
But again, what saved me always was the music and the thought of something coming around the corner, something new coming up. That’s what saved me. Not like I, like I said before, I was going to like to jump off a building or anything like that. But I mean, it was just a very, very, very, very lonely existence. I mean, I was sitting on a Greyhound bus, you know, maybe $5 in my pocket. Or I’d just be traveling by train. A plane was absolutely out of the question
AIPT: We’ve talked a lot about music and you’ve done a lot in your career, especially musically, What would you consider your career highlight?
Stallone: Probably Staying Alive. Because it was the first time that… I mean, look, “Take You Back” was great in Rocky , you know, that was awesome. But Staying Alive was the first time I really got to show what I could do, you know, because I wrote so many songs in the movie and that was the first time I really could show that I could be on the world stage at that level. I mean, the sequel, Saturday Night Fever, that’s a pretty big deal. That was the biggest selling album of all time at that point. And so that was big for me. I mean, the whole thing, being the Grammy nominated and Golden Globe nominated, going overseas, doing all the big TV shows I thought I’d never ever get on, like Dick Clark and stuff like that. So that was a pretty amazing time for me.
AIPT: By the end of the documentary, it talks about how you’re performing to sold out crowds. How did you adjust to the pandemic?
Stallone: Well, it just stopped. I mean, it was kind of a perfect storm. Well, I don’t want to say perfect, but in January was the last time we played. And on February 22nd, all of a sudden my back gave out, my lower back, and I was crippled. I was basically crawling on my hands and knees through my house. I couldn’t stand up. I was paralyzed almost, I don’t know what happened. But then I’ve found that, you know, I had some injections and everything, I thought it’d go away. And it was my L4 and L5. It was the worst pain I’ve ever been in my life. I mean, it’s indescribable, the pain. I couldn’t stand up, it just was shooting my sciatica. So on top of that, then I had two back operations.
And then all of a sudden along with that comes the pandemic. So it was a dragon, a few of my really good friends, you know, passed away this year. My mother passed away. A lot of… my manager, my agent passed away. Some of my friends in the movie passed away. So it’s kind of weird. And now with the lockdown, it’s just like, I think I survive it because I’m used to being alone by myself a lot.
And so I can kind of entertain myself and I’ve got thousands of books at home and I got my guitars everywhere. But for other people it’s devastating. I mean, think about it. After you have a hard day, you want to go out to lunch in the afternoon, you can’t do anything. It’s like you’re in a prison. And so, it’s like anything, like a prize fighter or anything, you got to keep your machine oiled. So, I mean, I haven’t been on stage basically almost in eight months. So I’m trying to keep a band together, keep them happy. And hopefully other things will come to fruition, but it’s tough for everybody. For everybody.
AIPT: My next question, I want to preface it by saying that most actors, the majority of actors would trade resumes with you in a heartbeat, but throughout the documentary, people are wondering why you didn’t make it bigger. Some people say, it’s the last name holding you back. There’s talk of management. Some people just, they have no idea. Why do you think you weren’t a bigger star?
Stallone: I think it was a lack of mentorship. I mean, I really had no one to talk to. I didn’t really didn’t have any plan basically. I don’t think I had… You know, they were my good friends. I don’t think I had the strongest management team. They were great guys. They’re my friends. One of my managers was my drummer. But you know, when it came time to get on the big stage, I don’t think it happened.
When Rocky came about, I mean, there’s just no handbook. I mean, I lived in an $80 a month apartment in Trenton, New Jersey, like, bad neighborhood. And so there was no handbook out there to say, “Okay, unemployable actor overnight becomes the biggest actor in the world.” And the movie gets nominated for 10 Academy Awards and you’re playing for $125 a night with your whole band.
So you can imagine how much we were making. 160 minutes of music at night, four sets, for $125 split five ways. And I’m talking about my manager taking 20 percent. So basically we’re working for a pittance. So I wasn’t prepared. I mean, not that anyone could have been prepared. I mean, it was just like a perfect storm coming in with Rocky.
At that point, I’d been in bands for 12 years at that point. So I’ve been playing in bars for almost 65 years. And it was all of a sudden, it’s just like, I don’t know, people turned on me. It was like all of a sudden, no one took me seriously. They thought I was, you know, I was like a guy that just picked up the guitar the day the movie came out, not knowing that all the trials and tribulations, the starvations, the desolation, the loneliness. You know, stuff like that, they just discounted.
I felt at that point, when I started doing all the big TV shows like Midnight Special, but the talk just… I would go on, they go, “Frank that’s song was really great. So what’s it like being Rocky’s brother?” So that’s where it went. I was there to be the information for my brother. And after a while, it just got a little… You know, I said, “Geez, what do I need to do?”
So I thought when Staying Alive came out that would be the end of it with all the records. I mean, I have no problem being my brother’s brother. I’m very proud of him, what he’s done and stuff like that. But it’s just frustrating. It’s just frustrating that all of a sudden people can’t… There’s not enough room to have two people in a family that have some form of talent or success, which is kind of ridiculous, but no one got hammered as bad as me. Nobody. I mean, because he was so big at that point, you have to understand. It was a phenom. It was a $900,000 movie. It got nominated for 10 Academy awards. Pretty amazing.
AIPT: That was one of the most interesting parts of the documentary, that you had spent so long working so hard and then just overnight, it was kind of all taken away.
Stallone: Yeah. It was taken away. My brother felt bad. I mean, you know… But it wasn’t like, again, there are some people out there, you know, they have a team. You know, Taylor Swift, her mother and father (watch over her) career and investments. I didn’t have any of that. You know, my father was a hairdresser. You know? My mother was interesting, God rest her soul. So I didn’t really have that family group thing around me to say, “Okay, Frank, you know what? This might be a great move. This might be this or this.” I didn’t have any of it. I was just flying by the seat of my pants.
AIPT: How do you want to be remembered?
Stallone: What’s really important to me are the fans, and what’s really important is that is having the respect of my peers. Because again, I never did this for the money. I never got into it to say, “Hey, man, I’m going to write this and make all this money and do this and when I make all this money I’m going to quit.” No. That was never me. I just like to be remembered for a guy that stuck it out, that did some good music in his time. And just to be acknowledged for, you know, the stuff I have done. And you know, that’s not too much to ask. I mean, basically it’s really nice to be… I have really great fans.
I don’t know why I’m stuck at 160,000 on Instagram, I mean, all these days it hasn’t moved. It hasn’t moved. And I told my nieces, what the hell is going on with this? How do you have a million followers? I got a movie coming out. I got all these people saying wonderful things, and it’s stuck. Is there a ghost in the machine? I have no idea.
But I have really good fans. I have really loyal fans and I have fans because of social media, that go, “Hey, we used to see you in 1973 or this.” And that’s just wonderful. And the most wonderful thing about this movie was I had no idea what anyone was going to say. I was not in on any of the interviews. And I also made it explicit, let them say whatever they want.
They think I’m an idiot or whatever, they can do it. And it was very emotional for me because so many people that I didn’t think they thought that of me said such kind and wonderful things about me, you know, and some of these people hadn’t seen me for 50 years. And that kind of really made it worth it because it made like, okay, I was doing the right thing for me. I was doing… I wasn’t just an empty sleeve flapping in the wind. I really had a purpose to do something.
Stallone: Frank, That Is comes to digital and VOD January 19
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