Glenn Scarpelli is one of those rare individuals who has done it all. Best remembered for playing Alex Handris in the classic television sit-com One Day at a Time, Glenn has dipped his foot into every possible form of media including stage, film, television, music, comic books and television production. Whether in front of the camera, or behind the scenes, Glenn has really done a little bit of everything.
Originally from Staten Island, Glenn got bit by the acting bug very young, and quickly found his way onto Broadway where he worked with Hollywood legends like Anne Bancroft and Al Pacino. This led to a role in Peter Bagdonavich’s 1981 film They All Laughed, where he played the son of Audrey Hepburn before heading off to Hollywood to bigger fame on One Day at a Time. Popular with fans, Glenn became a teen heart throb, appearing in many of the teen publications of the day.
However, by the early 1990’s, Glenn had pulled back from the public eye. After appearing in thirteen episodes of the highly promoted, but short-lived sitcom Jennifer Slept Here starring Ann Jillian, and making guest appearances on The Love Boat, 3-2-1 Contact, MacGuyver and a special episode of Amazing Stories written by Steven Spielberg and directed by Martin Scorsese, Glenn left acting behind. He moved back to New York and enrolled into film school. But behind the scenes, Glenn had revealed to his friends and family that he was gay, and at nineteen years old wanted to have time out of the public eye to explore that aspect of his life..
Personally, I’ll admit that Glenn first found his way on my personal pop culture radar when his father, comic book artist Henry Scarpelli, drew Glenn in a number of issues of Archie, in which he got his own spin-off comic called Glenn Scarpelli in Hollywood. Appearing in Archie Comics throughout the early 1980’s, Glenn Scarpelli in Hollywood would be a comic book oddity which captured my imagination and made me aware of this wonderful personality. For years I have followed Glenn via social media where he has become one of my favorite individuals in entertainment.
Currently running his own television station in Sedona, Arizona, and producing travel segments aired throughout the country via ABC affiliates, Glenn Scarpelli is back in the public eye again. With a big personality, a warm demeanor and a positive social media presence, Glenn is continuing to connect with old fans and make new ones.
It was via his involvement in the Hollywood Squares on-line series being ran to support the Hollywood Museum that I was able to finally connect with Glenn Scarpelli (for full details on the Hollywood Museum Squares visit http://samtweedle.com/?p=1216 and you can order tickets here). Having wanted to interview Glenn for a long time, I had so much to talk to him about, and I was so glad to find out that not only was Glenn open enough to talk to me about all the aspects of his career, but was as warm and kind as I hoped he would be.
Sam: You are currently on The Hollywood Museum Squares event. The money being raised is going to charity. Tell me about the event!
Glenn: Well, basically its for the Hollywood Museum. It’s such a wonderful building. It holds so much Hollywood history and is on the corner of Hollywood and Highland in the old Max Factor Building. Its an incredible experience to go there. But because of COVID museums have taken such a hit that there was a time that we thought we might lose the museum. They have to have revenue and it’s been hit hard. With the amount of Hollywood history in that building, it would be such a shame to see it go. I’ve been to the museum many times. I have a personal connection to supporting the museum when it was in its conception. They dedicated an entire floor to LGBTQ+ and I did a reading for that exhibit of a script about a trans character named Georgia. So, my heart is with the museum even before all of this.
Sam: The Hollywood Museum is one of my very favorite places in all of Hollywood. I have gone to the museum every time I’ve visited Los Angeles. There are so many things in there that just give me goosebumps to see up close. It’s like seeing real treasures. What is your favorite thing in the museum?
Glenn: There is so much, but some of the Marilyn Monroe wardrobe is pretty exciting to me. I’m such a Marilyn fan. Just the fact that she wore those dresses is incredible.
Sam: An amazing group of people were brought together to create this series and due to current technology, everyone is featured from your homes which is pretty neat.. Has the series begun yet?
Glenn: Yes. It debut on May 6 and is a limited engagement online until July 10th. So, thank you for supporting it. I’m in episode three with Loni Anderson and Erin Murphy and Jeremy Miller and Wesley Eure and other great people and it’s a wonderful episode. John Davidson and Tom Bergeron are back hosting it, and Marc Summers hosted the one I’m on.
Sam: How did you get involved with this project?
Glenn: Well, the two guys who directed the original Hollywood Squares, Bob Louden and Steve Grant, are lifelong friends of mine, and they directed a daytime show I did in the 1980’s called Fantasy. Well, I get on the Hollywood Museum Squares and I end up picking up a new boyfriend on the show. I’m now dating the producer, John Ricci. We met doing the Hollywood Museum Squares, which became sort of a love connection.
Sam: That’s great. And you don’t mind if I publish that?
Glenn: Well, just make sure I tell everyone first. There are still a few people that I should probably tell before you do..
Sam: So, I’m going to be totally transparent with you Glenn. The reason that I became a fan of yours, and when you first really popped up on my pop culture radar in a big way, is because I’m a huge fan of Archie Comics, and through collecting Archie I came across the strip Glenn Scarpelli in Hollywood which was written and drawn by your dad. When I looked you up, I realized that I remember watching you on One Day at a Time. I’ve gone and found all of your appearances guest staring with the Riverdale gang. What was it like to have your father drawing you in Archie Comics? Was that strange for you?
Glenn: You know, it was actually very special. First of all, I love talking about my dad. I lost him in 2010 so any recognition of my dad means so much to me. I didn’t have one of those dad’s that said “Get a real job” or looked at me because I had three heads because I wanted to be an actor. He was so glad that I wanted to be a creative person. But even before I wanted to get in the business, he was drawing Archie. So, Archie and the gang felt like they were members of our family. I’m an only child, so on some level I felt they were my brother’s and sisters. So, when I got on One Day at a Time, and the folks up at Archie asked my dad about putting me in the comics, it was excited for me. I always had it in my head that they were my fantasy family, so to see myself pop into those comic books with them the fantasy became reality.
Sam: So, I need to ask this Glenn. Betty and Veronica were always swooning over you on the comic covers. Which one was it? Betty or Veronica, or perhaps Archie or Reggie?
Glenn: Yeah. I was going to say.
Sam: Well, I am a Veronica guy.
Glenn: My dad was a Veronica guy, so you and he have that in common. Because I’m gay perhaps I would say that I’m more of a Reggie guy, but as you probably know, they did bring in a gay character in the Archie Comics named Kevin Keller. It was actually at my dad’s funeral that they told me about the Kevin Keller character coming to Archie Comics. All the brass from Archie came, of course, to pay respects to my dad, and Victor Gorelick, who was the vice president of Archie Comics and one of my dad’s good friends, took me aside and said “Glenn, I know your dad knew this, but I don’t know if he ever told you that we’re adding a gay character to Archie.” I said “Oh my god. That’s incredible.” It was very special.
Sam: You started your career as a Broadway kid. How did you start on that path?
Glenn: It was so exciting! Those were such incredible days. I just loved being on Broadway! I begged my parents to be an actor from the time I was five. I stepped foot on a kindergarten stage, and I was just at home. I just knew this was my path. I begged for about three years and my parents caved when I was about eight. We lived in New York, so that helped. My parents got me a theatrical manager and I booked some commercials, and I booked a pilot called You’re Gonna Love It Here starring Ethel Merman. Then I auditioned for the production of Golda starring Anne Bancroft and I got the role playing her son. She was absolutely incredible to me. In fact, Norman Lear, who was my old boss on One Day at a Time, recently invited me to a screening about him that Modern Masters did, and we sat with Mel Brooks. Well, Mel was married to Anne at the time she was doing Golda and I said, “I don’t remember if you remember me, but I played Anne’s son back on Broadway” and he just started crying. He just said “I can’t, I can’t. I’m just going to burst into tears.” But it was nice to reconnect with him. I got to know Golda Meir very well as well. She was really involved of the creation of the play, and she’d take all the kids very often out to dinner. One time Golda said to me “Be the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.”
Sam: Wow. What a powerful piece of advice.
Glenn: A powerful piece of advice. Well, if you look this up, she’s said this to many people. But it was one of those things that stuck with me. When you’re nine years old you hear it through a nine-year-old filter, and when your twenty years old you hear that through a twenty-year-old filter and here I am at age fifty-four and it means a lot of different things these days, but it’s a profound statement. I had so many incredible experiences like that.
Sam: That’s very profound, yes.
Glenn: Than my second Broadway show was Richard III starring Al Pacino. So, I’m doing Shakespeare on Broadway with Pacino, and I’m Italian so that’s literally like working with the Godfather. I was blown away. He was so kind and wonderful with me. Then, after we closed Richard III, we shot the film They All Laughed, and then I went right into One Day at a Time.
Sam: I was just watching They All Laughed before talking to you.
Glenn: What a great memory I have when I hear They All Laughed. Its one of the highlights of my life.
Sam: I find it strange that I had never seen it before now because Audrey Hepburn is one of my very favorite actresses. Its not a film that had ever been on my radar.
Glenn: I get that a lot. A lot of people say that to me. It’s interesting because I live in Sedona, Arizona where I own a small TV station. I am also involved in the Sedona Film Festival, where I am a volunteer and sponsor. I bring a lot of my celebrity friends out to the Sedona Film Festival. One year we brought Peter Bogdanovich out and we screened They All Laughed and did a Q and A afterwards, and it was so great to catch up with Peter and see They All Laughed. Peter said it was one of his favorite movies he ever made, but one of the ones that fewest people have seen. So, its just one of those little special jewels that I was so happy to be a part of, and to get to know Audrey was just one of the thrills of my life.
Sam: Was Audrey Hepburn as wonderful as they say she was?
Glenn: Oh my god. She was all that and more. Audrey was, in my opinion, one of the greatest stars the world has ever seen, and she was down to earth and kind and wonderful and knew everyone’s name on the set. She knew the guy who brought the coffee and called everyone by name and said good morning to all of them. Can I share with you my favorite Audrey Hepburn story since we’re talking about her?
Sam: I’d love that.
Glenn: So, there’s this sequence in the film where Audrey goes down to Rockefeller Center to get me from my dad, because they are having marital problems, and he’s going to leave and we’re going to stay in New York. The whole sequence, from the moment we leave Rockefeller center to the time when get back to the Plaza Hotel was shot with hidden cameras so they didn’t have to close the streets or stop traffic. Peter wanted a real New York neighborhood feel with whatever was going on in New York. We would shoot very short sequences from one block to the next, and then they’d hide Audrey and I in stores along 5th Avenue. It was just the two of us. There were no star wagons or entourage. They just had it low key as possible so nobody would know we were shooting a movie. She’s holding my hand, and we’d walk from one block to the next, and there would be some people who would go “Oh my god. I think I just saw Audrey Hepburn.” But its New York, and New Yorkers don’t get too flustered with stars, so we’d be able to pull this off. I worked with Audrey for six weeks on that film, but this particular week we were the closest because I literally spent all day with her. So, we were whisked into these stores, and sometimes it’d be a shoe store, or it’d be a clothing store. Well, one day they took us into a music store. Well, she said, “Sit down” and I sat down next to her, and she said, “Do you know a lot about music?” I said “Well, I love music.” She said, “What kind of music do you like?” I told her rock and roll and show tunes and all the different kinds of music I’d been exposed to. Well, she says, “My favorite music is classical music. Let me teach you about it.” Well, we went around the store, and she pulled out all these cassettes of composers she loved, like Brahms and Mozart and all these iconic classical artists, and she’d tell me stories about what it touched her heart, and how it had these different types of movements and how she felt when she had heard it. It was a really beautiful explanation of classical music. Well, now we cut to the final day of the film, and they throw a wrap party. Well Audrey comes to me, and she says “Come here. I want to tell you something” and she pulls me to the corner of the room. She says, “I got you something” and she pulled out this gift and I opened it in front of her, and it was all the cassettes that she showed me when we walked through the store that day. She bought all of them for me. This was the kind of woman she was.
Sam: I watched the entirety of One Day at a Time in a very compact period of time during the first big COVID lockdown of 2020 for the first time as an adult, and your cast mates on that show are so endearing to me. Pat Harrington Jr. is one of my favorite character actors, I’d be a liar if I didn’t say I have a crush on Valerie Bertinelli and Bonnie Franklin is just such a wonderful actress. As a kid coming into such a well-oiled ensemble, did you fit immediately, or did you have to work into it?
Glenn: I fit in almost immediately. First of all, I loved the show growing up, so when I got the role of Alex, I knew exactly what I had got. I felt like I had won the lottery because it was such an iconic show for me, and I loved all these people too. Now I had met Valerie prior. She’s actually the one who got me the audition because she had seen me in Richard III. She had been a conversation with Bonnie about bringing on another character, because that is, of course, when Mackenzie had been fired because of the problem she had with drugs at that time. So Bonnie, who had casting approval, said “I really want a kid who has theatre credits. I really need a theatre kid.” Well Valerie said, “I saw this kid on Richard III and think you need to meet him.” That’s how that happened. I have Valerie to thank for that, but she says she did nothing but get me the audition. I had to get the part myself.
Sam: One thing that is interesting about the series is how many actors who were hired to be regulars were written in, and then written out, very quickly, as the series progressed. One Day at a Time really had a massive revolving door of displaced characters, and it was a constant folly for the series. Many of these characters seem to be forgettable because they didn’t work out within the existing main ensemble. But what I find interesting about your role as Alex Handris is that, despite only doing three seasons, you fit in to the show to the point that your character has maintained an imprint into the viewers memories. Alex really resonated with viewers. Why do you think that is?
Glenn: Well, that’s interesting. When I got into the show the storyline was that Alex’s father, Nick Handris, played by Ron Rifkin, was a love interest for Ann Romano. The reason that story ended after only one season was that they were getting a lot of negative feedback from viewers about Bonnie Franklin’s character having a love interest because the show was about a single Mom raising children. So basically, CBS stepped in and said, “We don’t want Ann Romano to have a boyfriend.” I thought I was going to be written off the show as well, but CBS said, “Keep the kid and somehow make a shift from the boyfriend to the kid.” The producers said “Well, how do we do that?’ CBS said “We don’t know. That’s your problem.” So basically, they kill off Nick off camera and Alex moves in in the first episode of Season 7. I think that was my lucky day. Julie was much older and Barbara was gone, so Ann was not raising children anymore. Since the show was supposed to be about Ann as a single mom raising children, I just fit into the series so well to help that story continue.
Sam: I think your character did. It added a life to the series after six seasons. Alex is a likeable character. He can, in one moment, want to make someone strangle him, but then he turns around and flashes those doe eyes at the camera and the audience’s heart would melt.
Glenn: Thank you so much for that. Many people called One Day at a Time a dramedy than a comedy. I never cried more than I did on that show, and they called it a comedy. They had me crying every third week.
Sam: So, you basically came in to replace Mackenzie Phillips in a way, but you were in the episode when Mackenzie came back to the series. It was a two parter in your second season on the show. Was it tense? What was the mood, and how did you feel knowing this character that the audience loved, that you replaced, was coming back on the show?
Glenn: I was nervous! I was. I thought “Oh my god! Is she going to like me? What’s this going to be like?” My studio teacher Gladys, had been her and Valerie’s studio teacher, and all she did was brag about Mackenzie. She kept saying “Oh my god you’re going to lover her!” Okay. Well maybe I was going to lover her, but is she going to love me? What’s that going to look like? So, I walked into the rehearsal hall that morning to do the read through and she comes running up to me and hugs me and says “Oh my god Glenn, you are so good on this show. I’m so proud of you. I’ve watched everything. You’re just so great and I’m so happy to meet you.” She couldn’t have been more wonderful, and to this day we are like brother and sister. I just had lunch with her yesterday and I’m having dinner with her tomorrow night. We text and talk nearly every day. We did a project together in 2016 actually. It was a pilot that I produced, but it didn’t get picked up as a series, but you can still watch it on Amazon Prime. It’s called Sacred Journeys.
Sam: I do want to ask you about Pat Harrington. Growing up he was a larger-than-life pop culture entity touch stone that I could identify as a small child. But when reworking through the series as an adult, I began to really love, and often relate to, his character Schneider as I began to see the multi-layers of the character as the series progressed. I think the character is remembered as being this macho bumbling guy, but if you watch the show very fast you see a different sensitivity to the character. He is a very proud man who puts so much pride into his work, and he is so protective towards the Romano women that he becomes part of the family, even walking Julie down the aisle when she gets married. He becomes the crazy uncle in the beginning.
Glenn: Yes, you’re right. I think what happens is audiences remember how Schneider was introduced in the first season, but it changed in the second season. In Season Two Pat came in with a character bible. He said that the character was a one note character, and he couldn’t play that one note anymore. Bonnie didn’t want it either. Remember, they got rid of Richard Mauser’s character David, so Bonnie and Pat said if they were going to keep Schneider, they had to change the dynamic. So, Pat had this character bible that he wrote, and it had hundreds of pages of who Schneider was, what his relationship with his parents was like, his years in the navy, some of the wounds he had as a child which he carries to this day and Pat said he saw Schneider as this very lonely middle-aged guy who wore his bravado as a role, but that was not who he was.
Sam: Being on One Day at a Time brought you to the public attention in a much larger way and you began appearing in the teen magazines and had a healthy fanbase of young girls. You were about fifteen and had all these girls who were putting your pictures on their wall, and you had to play that part. What was it like to be a young gay man, figuring out who you were, and having this teen idol thing thrown on you? Was that problematic?
Glenn: Well, I was obviously so in the closet in those days, so I certainly played along. It still felt good to be accepted. But many times, I’d be at events and girls would be screaming and, in my head, I’d be thinking “So, do you have any cute brothers?” As far as I was concerned, I knew I was gay all along. I was just never to express that, and it took a long time to do it after I came out. It was ironic, I guess you could say, that girls were screaming for me.
Sam: Did you know if you had any male fans?
Glenn: I found out now that I did, but nobody told me back then. I get so many messages from guys on Facebook and Instagram that say, “I realized I was gay because of you.” Its funny to hear those stories now. I’m very out and very comfortable about it, so more guys are comfortable to tell me about it. In fact, I’ve made friends that way. You know, One Day at a Time had a big gay following, but I didn’t know it at the time.
Sam: That’s really great. It’s too bad that it took so much time for you to know these stories.
Glenn: Well, one of the reasons I left acting when I did was that I fell in love with this wonderful man in New York named Gary, who became my lover, boyfriend, life partner and I was madly in love with him, and I needed to do that with much privacy. I had such a magnifying glass on me, and I wasn’t ready to do that and be out. I came out to my friends, and I came out to my parents when I was about 20. But I met Gary when I was 19 and that’s when I took a break from it all. I moved back to New York and when to NY Film School. I stayed in a realm of creativity because I loved film. I thought it would be great to go and learn about film, but also be alone with him. So that was an obvious chapter for me. But Gary ended up being HIV positive and he died when he was 36. I was 25 when I buried him, so it was a deep and life changing experience.
Sam: That is such a heavy experience to go through when you were still such a young man.
Glenn: Well, I’ve always said that showbusiness saved my life because I grew up in a very worldly environment. I grew up in an environment where I was surrounded by a lot of gay people, and people of all races. Because I knew I was gay, I paid attention to this thing that was out there. Before it was even called AIDS it was called ‘the gay cancer.’ I was privy to it, because I was on Broadway, and I knew a lot of the gay dancers and they started dying. I knew I was gay, and I knew someday I’d be acting on that, so I knew that I had better start paying attention to what was happening. Because I did, I attribute that to why I’m alive today. Gary was eleven years older than I was, and his generation just didn’t know. They were the ones that hit the hardest because they were sexually active and didn’t even know what this thing was. It was a big life changing experience for me.
Sam: Now I hope you don’t mind, but I’m curious to talk about your next TV series, Jennifer Slept Here. Although it only lasted thirteen episodes, I know that a lot of people remember the show. Is it true that you left One Day at a Time to be on Jennifer Slept Here?
Glenn: Yes. It is true. What happened is that we knew One Day at a Time was coming to a close. I was going to hang in there for one more year of One Day at a Time. But I had a heart to heart with Bonnie who said, “I think we’re going to be wrapping up the show really soon.” What they were really going to do in the last season was to spin off Valerie and Mackenzie, but Mac tested positive for drugs and got fired again so that ended that. But I was only going to be in six episodes in Season 9. Meanwhile, I’d been offered the main role on Jennifer Slept Here originally, and I turned it down.
Sam: Okay. So, it always mystified me how you got stuck playing the best friend on that show. I mean, who was that other kid anyways? I had to look him up. I still don’t remember his name. You were much more visible in the entertainment industry than he was.
Glenn: John P Navin was his name. We never kept in touch, although I have looked for him over the years, but he’s nowhere to be found. He was a great guy. Well, I was originally offered his role, but I turned it down because One Day at a Time was coming back for another season. When I found out I was only going to be on six episodes, I began to wonder if maybe I should have taken Jennifer Slept Here. It was picked up for thirteen episodes, and it could be on for years. So, we went back to NBC, and they said “We are shooting in days, and we can’t replace John Navin, but we can add a character. Let’s write in a best friend.“ My character wasn’t even in the original script. So, they ended up writing in my character Marc, and hence I made it into the shows. I have kept in touch with Ann Jillian. I just spoke to her this year on her birthday.
Sam: It’s strange but I clearly remember watching Jennifer Slept Here, and really liking it, when I was a kid. I was about seven years old when it was on and I probably saw every episode. It was on Friday nights, right?
Glenn: Yes, it was!
Sam: Right. I saw a full episode sometime over the past year on YouTube and it wasn’t great, but it was okay. I wouldn’t call it terrible. I mean it had a great premise.
Glenn: It was alright. It did have a great premise. It got a bit silly at times but we all loved working on the show. The thing was, I just finished working on a show filmed before a live studio audience. Jennifer was not because of the nature of how much green screen, so we couldn’t. So, it was all canned laughter and that took a bit of the energy that was needed for it to work. But I have no complaints. I loved doing it and I’m glad I went on the show. I loved working at NBC, and on top of Jennifer they also put me on a show called Fantasy, which I hosted with Peter Marshall and Leslie Uggams.
Sam: Which was the show you said that was directed by the directors of Hollywood Squares, bringing us full circle, minus about three decades or so.
Glenn: That’s right.
Sam: You did mention that you’ve owned your own TV station in Arizona for nearly twenty years, and I know that you’ve become successful filming travel segments. Tell me a bit about that.
Glenn: The story is I’ve owned my local TV station Sedona NOW TV in Northern AZ for 19 years. That has spun off into travel segments on Scripps network stations throughout our country. They are seen in different markets promoting travel to wonderful places.
Sam: I’ve taken a look at some of your segments and I think they’re great. They are fast, friendly, high energy and beautifully produced. I’m really hoping that I’ll be able to start travelling again once the borders reopen but I haven’t figured out if I’m going to be heading back to Los Angeles again or if I’m going to be heading to New Orleans.
Glenn: Yes. I’m visiting John in Los Angeles right now. I haven’t been here since the beginning of COVID, but it feels so good to be back in LA, seeing so many friends and starting this new chapter in my life as well.
One last personal story about my personal connection with Glenn Scarpelli. In 1983, just as he was exiting One Day at a Time, Glenn recorded a pop album via Estate Record Corporation. Being primarily a record collector, when I learnt about this it was a record I really wanted. However, like many things, records can often be regional and when some records are sold in certain regions and countries, others are not. Being in Canada, I not only couldn’t locate a copy of Glenn’s album, but when talking to shop owners and collectors, I never knew anyone who had ever seen a copy or had even heard of it. So, fed up with the search, I went on Discogs and purchased a copy from a shop in Texas for $7.99, but paid $35 in shipping just to get my copy. Telling Glenn this, he laughed and said “That’s hilarious Sam, but I’m never going to see a nickle from it.”
Glenn Scarpelli is just a delightful man. Fun, friendly, high energy and truly kind, he is a gem of a human being, which has obviously led to his success in his journey through pop culture and entertainment. Make sure to visit Glenn at the Sedona Now Network at http://www.sedonanow.net/ and look for his Traveler TV segments via ABC stations nationwide.
And don’t forget to see Glenn through the month of June and on The Hollywood Museum Squares. For tickets visit https://www.stellartickets.com/o/the-hollywood-museum/events/the-hollywood-museum-squares-all-star-benefit-performance/occurrences/45a63f80-27eb-40ee-bc9f-0e07007c9a95.