Rocky’s Burt Young is a Busy Person (Original 1977 Interview)

Dec 21, 1977 | Articles

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By Dick Kleiner | Waycross Journal-Herald

Hollywood’s stars come from all places, all social strata, all types of backgrounds. But seldom has one come along like Burt Young, whose history is so checkered they should print his biography on a checker board.

In fact, Burt’s early life is still pretty much clouded in mystery. He simply won’t talk about it very much, and it comes out only in a mixture of hints and euphemisms.

Whatever the past, the present is good and the future promises to be even better. Burt Young really struck it big in “Rocky”, playing Talia Shire’s brother and, since then, everything he touches seems to turn to myrrh.

He has always written, or at least he’s been writing for a long time. And, suddenly, his writing is in demand. There is a CBS movie, “Daddy, I Don’t Like It Like This,” which he wrote and co-stars in with Talia Shire. No air date yet, but it will be seen probably sometime this winter.

Then he’s written a movie script, “Uncle Joe Shannon,” about a down-and-out trumpet player. He has an office now in the Chartoff-Winkler suite at MGM, and they’re going to make that one soon. Young (with a broad wink) says he’s going to star in this one, too, and is even learning to play the trumpet to get ready for the part.

He is literally swamped with offers to act. And he keeps turning down changes to star in his own television series. He says he’s always turned a deaf ear to the series bids – “even when I was hungry.”

“I’ve done a few Barettas, ’cause I like Blake,” he says. “But that’s about all the TV I’ve done – I can count them on the fingers of one hand.”

Still, he keeps working. He’s had juicy character parts in pictures like “Chinatown,” “Killar Elite,” “Cinderella LIberty,” and “Twilight’s Last Gleaming,” and he’s big in the soon-to-be-released “The Choirboys.”

It must be nice for the kid from New York, whose early years were hardly simple.

Burt Young – that isn’t his real name – is the son of a New York iceman who, at 40, decided he’d rather be a teacher, so quit delivering ice, went to school and became a teacher. Burt started out in school like a teacher’s son – smart.

“It was OK at first, ” he says. “But then I noticed that the tough kids in school got all the attention, so I became a tough kid, too. Pretty soon, I could hardly talk at all.”

He says he grew up with the determination to be a millionaire by the time he was 21. He was in the Marines for two years, while he was still a teenager. He says that was the last legitimate thing he did for about ten years.

“I did a lot of things I can’t talk about,” he says. “A lot of under-the-table businesses.”

But what they were, he won’t say. At any rate, at one point, he was forced to leave New York. For some reason, he picked Nantucket Island, off Massachusetts, to go to. While he was there, he did the next legitimate thing in his life. He started a silk screen plant, and even taught kids how to do the silk screen process.

He was 28 when he went back to New York. He was having trouble with his wife, and so he met a barmaid. And advertently, she changed his life.

“This barmaid was something,” he says. “I couldn’t get to first base with her.”


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