At 14, Staten Island-born Glenn Scarpelli achieved official teen hearthrob status as Alex on the long-running sitcom One Day at a Time. He had already performed on Broadway; had an Archie comic strip character named after him; starred in an independent horror flick; and been a part of the Bloodhound Gang on PBS’s educational show 3-2-1 Contact by the time posters bearing his likeness began to adorn the bedroom walls of enthusiastic female fans.
Burning under the surface of that heatwave, though, were the embers of another fire waiting to be unleashed. Knowing he was gay, but stuck in the politically stifling confines of ’80s showbiz, Glenn had to find a way to come to terms with his personal priorities — even if it meant giving up the lofty rewards of being a successful actor.
He disappeared from the public eye, went to college, and forged a new path as an entrepreneur. Along with his longtime partner, Jude, he now runs a TV station in Sedona, Arizona and an organic personal lubricant company. Justin Kantor caught up with Glenn recently to learn about his many entertainment and business exploits — past and present.
How’s your day going?
Crazy-busy, like usual; but all is good in the world.
That’s good to hear. You always seem to have a positive outlook, which certainly helps things.
For the most part [laughs].
True, you can’t control everything.
Sometimes our emotions get the best of us!
That’s what makes it life, I guess. Well, I’m real happy that you had the time to call and chat. Let’s start from the beginning. You’re from Staten Island, right?
Yes, born and raised.
From what I understand, you went to Catholic school most of your childhood?
Yes, I went to St. Joseph Hill Academy through grammar school. I guess I got my first professional acting job when I was eight. I was in a Celeste frozen pizza commercial. I ate 27 pieces of pizza, and I puked all night!
That would do you in!
Exactly! But I was a kid and having so much fun, I thought it was cool. And then I realized, “Oh, damn—that’s a lot of fucking pizza!”
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So you learned early on the sacrifices you make to be an actor. Now, your dad was a comic writer?
Yeah, Dad has been an illustrator for Archie comics for over 40 years. We lost my dad this year, on Easter morning.
I thought I had read that. I’m sorry to hear that. That’s gotta be really difficult.
Thank you. Yeah, life—what can you say? Everyone goes through loves and losses, that’s something thing we can’t get out of no matter what. So of course, it’s been difficult, but I’m so proud of my dad’s legacy and the work that he did. I was actually just asked to write the forward for one of the new Archie books called The Americana Series: The Best of the Eighties. One of the things I talk about in the forward is, when I was a kid, my dad and the executive team up at Archie included me in the comics.
Yeah, and they called the stories “Glenn Scarpelli in Hollywood.” My character would visit Riverdale High and sing songs from the album, and create all kinds of havoc with Archie, Betty, and Veronica. That was a really cool experience as a kid.
Was he involved in Archie when it transitioned to the TV cartoons, or did he strictly do the newsprint cartoons?
He stayed in the print; he didn’t get into the animation aspect of Archie, although he was with the company so long they would always consult and get his ideas. But he drew so many of the comic books. And then later on in his life, to kind of be a little easier on him and his schedule, he did the daily comic strip for many years.
His name is Henry?
With him doing the Archie comics, and your character in the comics, would you say that you were prepped to be a showbiz kid?
I really wasn’t. When I was in kindergarten and we did the school play, I set foot onstage and I felt like I came home. That was it. I begged my parents, “Please, please, I want to get into show business.” At that point, they were really hoping to have more children. And so much of getting started in show business when you’re a kid is your parents’ intention to make it happen: you have to go on auditions; if you book roles they have to be there all day. Well, it turned out my mom couldn’t have any more children. So, she came to me and said, “Hey, do you still want to be in show business?” And I was like, “Hell, yeah!” I got introduced to a theatrical manager in Manhattan, and I started going to auditions. The first audition I ever went on was that pizza commercial — and I booked it. Then, I did two Broadway shows. I debuted on Broadway when I was nine.