Little Joe never once gave it away
everybody had to pay and pay
A hustle here and a hustle there
New York City is the place where they said
Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
I said, hey Joe, take a walk on the wild side
Lou Reed - "Walk on the Wild Side" - Transformer - (1972)
Lou Reed's "Little Joe" is Joe Dallesandro. He started out in the 60's as a male pin-up model. He has been an actor for over 30 years and appeared in a few somewhat famous films, but still he remains almost totally unknown to the general public. He gained his first fame as part of Andy Warhol's Factory where he began as an actor. He has been directed by Paul Morrissey, Louis Malle, Francis Ford Coppola and John Waters. He has worked with Candy Darling, Holly Woodlawn, Joey Heatherton, Andy Griffith, and Drew Barrymore. Joe portrayed homosexual, bisexual, and straight characters in his films and he is a sex symbol for both males and females alike. Director John Waters proclaims, "He forever changed male sexuality in the cinema."
His full name is Joseph Angelo D’Allessandro III -- born December 31, 1948 in Pensacola, Florida to a 16-year old mother. His mother was soon arrested for interstate auto theft and sentenced to five years in a federal penitentiary. Joe and his older brother were sent to a foster family in Brooklyn, NY. When Joe turned 16 he followed in his mother's footsteps and was himself incarcerated for stealing cars. While in prison in the Catskills Joe tattooed himself with the words, "Little Joe".
In 1965, Joe hitchhikes with a friend to California and soon begins doing artistic male nude "modeling" for a number of studios, most notably the Athletic Model Guild. Studios like this were purportedly printing men's "health and fitness" magazines, but in reality they were primarily being purchased by the still mostly underground homosexual community. These early photographs are now the most sought after Joe memorabilia on the market with originals selling for hundreds to thousands of dollars. Soon Joe is arrested again on an assault charge and a Judge orders him back to New York.
In 1967, the 18-year old Joe walked off the streets and into film history when Paul Morrissey, a director for Warhol's Factory asked the good-looking teenager who stopped by to step into a scene in The Loves of Ondine. Joe steals the film by stripping down to his jockey shorts and wrestling speed-freak Ondine in a Greenwich Village apartment.
He performed in a few other films before getting his big break -- when in 1968 the film Flesh, which cost about $4000 to make, ended up making over $2 million. He moved in with director Morrissey and got married after getting his girlfriend Theresa "Terry" pregant. Later he completed the famed Warhol trilogy of films with Trash (in 1970), and Heat (in 1972). The other two notable films in this era were the big-budget Warhol "underground" classics Flesh for Frankenstein (a movie in 3-D) and Blood for Dracula (in 1974). Completely comfortable in his role as a naked screen star, Dallesandro delighted fans worldwide, including a large homosexual following that acknowledged his bisexual characters and erotic image as important expressions of male sexuality.
In 1974 Joe ended his relationship with Warhol and moved to Europe. Joe made a string of some 16 films over the next 6 years while in Europe. Most of them featured foreign language dubs over his own voice. These films did not get released in the U.S. until much later in his career.
Joe returned to the states in 1980 and worked various odd jobs and struggled with alcohol and drug dependency while attempting to make a comeback in the U.S. The closest he came was in 1983 when Francis Ford Cappola cast him as Charles 'Lucky' Luciano in The Cotton Club. Unfortunately this was still just another bit part. He has spent most of the last 20 years in a string of these small rolls in mainly independent films. Part of his problem is that Joe's performances often seem wooden as he rarely smiles and shows very little other emotion -- some reviewers even calling his work "zombie-like".
Dallesandro now lives in California. His two sons -- one 30, the other 29 -—live on the East Coast.
IMDb.com -- for a more or less complete filmography
www.joedallesandro.com -- tons of information and photos (including the famous early nude photos).
http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/22/dallesandro.html -- review of the new Joe biography