Let there be no doubt. Jack O’Halloran, at six foot six, is an imposing figure who no right minded human should consider stepping into a boxing ring with, even just to spar.
There is no mistaking him for anything but tough, tenacious, and driven. Let there also be no doubt that Jack O’Halloran, the kid who grew up in Philadelphia, is a class act. Thoughtful, smart, loyal, and generous are terms that easily come to mind when talking about him.
So far, Jack’s career has included 57 professional heavyweight fights as a boxer, with 17 wins by knockout. If that were not enough he played professional football for the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles. If that were not enough he’s got credits in some 25 films, including acting turns with Robert Mitchum, Marlon Brando, Chuck Norris, and Christopher Reeve to name a few. It was with the Superman franchise that he defined the signature role of Non, the mute tough guy. Oh, and did I mention he is the driving force behind creating Long Beach Studios, a world class motion picture studio complex at the former Boeing manufacturing plant.
Now, Jack has added novelist to his many accomplishments with the upcoming release of Family Legacy, a suspense thriller. Family Legacy, is a fictionalized version of his life and the things he was exposed to. It is expected to ship by mid-November and can be ordered now at Amazon.
Editor’s note: I met Jack about 7 years ago when he generously offered his assistance to me when I made a bid to convert the former Marine helicopter base at Tustin, CA into a teaching studio to produce commercial movies and provide a place for film school students to intern and learn their craft. When I made my first short, Remembrance, about a World War II veteran whose personal and family life fell apart due to his struggles with PTSD, Jack generously agreed to play the role of the lead character, looking back on a life unfulfilled.
SOCAL: Tell us about growing up.
Jack I was raised in Philadelphia by my mom, Mary, and step dad, Peter Paul Patrick O’Halloran, who died when I was 19. I have a brother Joe who lives in South Carolina, who was very successful in his business life, a sister who lives in Southern California, and two sisters who live in New Jersey; one is a Nurse Practitioner, who I am so proud of. She’s so dynamic, smart as hell. I also had a lot of ‘uncles’ around who were always teaching me a lot of things.
SOCAL: So around 16-17 you learned who your birth father was. How did that come about?
Jack: Some people came and sat me down after his death and told me his name was Albert Anastasia, the boss of one of New York's crime families, and gave me some papers, explained some things to me and gave me some people’s names that wanted to meet me in New York and New Jersey. I was living in Jersey at the time and I had mixed emotions. I was angry, I always knew there was something different about me, I wasn’t sure what it was.
SOCAL: Were your brothers and sisters ever involved with your other family?
Jack: Their father was Patrick and they were never involved in any of the work I did in my birth father’s business. They heard stories from time to time but I moved out at an early age and moved around a lot and never wrote cards or let anyone know where I was because the Feds always visited my mom trying to keep track of me and it was just the way we did things. Once I saw my brother and he said to me he heard from a friend of mine, a Philadelphia policeman. A lot of the kids in the neighborhood grew up to become cops. Anyway he said your brother’s a walking dead man and of course my brother wanted to know what that meant. I was so arrogant as a kid and I got in a lot of people's faces. There was only a couple of people in the world that I really listened to. I was very successful in helping the families on that side of my life and I was pretty successful in sports on the other side of my life.
SOCAL Did you ever meet your father?
Jack No. He came to see me play football in my freshman year at West Catholic High School in Philadelphia. I remember that. I remember seeing these guys in the stands. These three suits came to watch a game played on the freshman lots. Nobody ever came dressed up to these games and they stuck out like a sore thumb. I was told later he came to see me play just before he died.
In any event, I pursued my sports career during the day and my father’s profession at night. Of course, my mother wouldn’t verify anything with a yes or no, she never wanted to be put in that situation, but any time something happened in my teens she would say “you are just like your father,” because I had a ferocious temper. So it was weird until I was about 19 years old. I was out of school and had some offers to go to college. I went to New York and I went to work for a family out of Chicago who ran soft serve ice cream trucks across the country. I was taught to run depots during my summers and off times. I ran one in Newark. I ran one in Queens and I got to meet a lot of people in the New York area that were friends of my father and I started learning a lot of things. It was like living two lives. It was kind of strange, but I survived, I'm here. Then I was going to play professional football but I had to wait until my class graduated from college because I left school early so I redshirted with the Jets and then went to Philly and redshirted with the Eagles and was about to play in 1965 when they hired a guy named Joe Kuharich who was really bad. He traded away a championship team, and Ali had just won the title, so I said to a guy, “I can knock that guy out” and he said that’s a good idea, so they put me in a gym. I was 23. I was a really tough guy, so I decided to box. In those days you couldn’t do football and another sport. It worked out okay.
SOCAL: Tell us about your career as a boxer.
Jack I got backers from a syndication of investors. They put me in a gym for six months. I had to take all the football weight down, so I dropped from about 285 to 226 and wound up needing to put a little weight back on. It worked out terrifically. I won my first 15-16 fights. Then I had to go for physical because I was having problem with my jaw and my nose. I never told this to anyone. The doctor said I had a disease called acromegaly. I said what the hell is that? He said, well maybe you shouldn’t be fighting. It is a tumor of the pituitary, which causes growth, gigantism in people. I just laughed it off and went about my business. But acromegaly causes periods of depression, it saps your body strength, but I was always able to push myself. I pushed myself through anything, so I kept going.
SOCAL: How old were you at this point?
Jack: About 24. So I went on. I kept fighting and I went to fight Kenny Norton in California around 1972 and I went to this really sharp doctor, a general practitioner. My pictures had changed, my facial expressions changed, my jaw line had changed. They had sent some old boxing pictures of me for publicity and went into his office for my pre-fight physical and he looked at me and said you're an acromegalic kid. So I said, does that mean I can’t fight? No, he said, I'm just telling you something you should really look at because it's disease that one day will kill you. You need to do something about it. It's a rare, rare disease that most people don't know anything about and is more prevalent in women. So I had a great fight with Norton. I decided to stay in California since I had some legal problems on the east coast and I proceeded to win a lot of fights out here and won the California State Title (Heavyweight Championship). One day the doctor, who had become a good friend, said that if I didn’t go to Scripps to get a complete workup he would pull my license. So I went and they did this neurological workup on me. Sure enough, by this time it was blaring, and they wanted me to get it fixed right away. They had this surgical procedure, where they removed the tumor and you usually lose the gland and you went on hormones for the rest of your life, but I wasn’t up for that.
I found a doctor back in Boston, Dr Raymond Schomberg at Mass General that had a breakthrough procedure for this particular tumor. They had a machine at Harvard University with something called a cyclotron proton beam that destroys the tumor without burning the outside of the body. So I went to have the procedure. They drill holes in your head and screw this brace on your head and bolt it to the machine because you had to be perfectly still. I had the procedure done. I was in the hospital for a couple of days and checked myself out because I had a fight a week later in Baltimore, Maryland. When the doctor found out he told me I was a total maniac because my body was going through a serious transition. Of course he was right. I was often a madman, going the distance in a lot of fights, going through the motions, just because I could, and blew decisions to people I should have easily beaten. So after the Middleton fight I knew I had to move on. I never went back to the doctor for follow-up research. I then got into the movie business.
SOCAL: So your operation was a success?
Jack: Yes, but I didn’t know how big until years later when I had a back operation in about 1980 at USC. One of the endocrinologists there had worked for that doctor in Boston, and when he saw my name he came running into my room. He said “Where have you been, we’ve been looking for you?” He did a hormone tolerance test on me and came back and told me “You’re one in a thousand. The operation had worked perfectly.”
SOCAL: How did you get into the movie business?
Jack The families I worked for were the ones that wanted me in the movie business. They tried to get me in the movie business in 1968. I was in California and I knocked out the top-ranked heavyweight contender in the world, Manuel Ramos, at the Forum here in LA and two weeks later I get a call from Eddie Foy 3rd, and he wanted me to come to Hollywood to screen test for The Great White Hope, a boxing picture with James Earl Jones. I went in to speak to this producer and all I had to say was yes and I would be off to Spain for six weeks. I told him that I just knocked out the top ranked heavyweight contender and you want me to go to Spain for six weeks? I’m thinking about my street activities and he was going to pay me $1000-$1500 a week, which was a lot of money in those days for a first picture, but I told him “Not to be disrespectful, but I give that away in tips.” So I turned them down and Eddie was in the lobby sweating bullets and said it was all arranged back east to get you off the streets and they are going to kill me if you don’t do the picture. I told him not to worry, I would take care of it which I did. By the way, I had worked on a picture while I was in Boston, The Thomas Crown Affair with Steve McQueen. I took care of him and we became lifelong friends. Eventually he did a movie called the Towering Inferno and he called me and asked how did I like my name up on the screen because he named his character Capt. O'Halloran!
When I retired from boxing I was running a couple of companies back east. I got a call from a woman, Mary Crosby in California, for whom I did a lot of commercials when I was a California heavyweight champion. She knew about my day jobs but knew a lot of people out west and she said they wanted me to do a picture with Robert Mitchum called Farewell My Lovely and I think you should do it and they asked for you specifically and it’s a starring role. I was in a bar shooting pool, looked around and I said you know what, it's about time, set it up, what did we have to do? We had to go to New York and meet the producer, Elliot Kasner. So I was in Boston doing some work and had my driver take me to New York. I was wearing a white linen suit, looking like a real gangster-type (Jack chuckles) so I walk in to the Sherry Netherlands (Hotel) and walked into the lobby and there is Dick Butkus, Alex Karras, and all these big guys dying to get their hands on this role and the director, Dick Richards, comes out of the room and says “We want to see you right away,” and I had just walked in. He takes me in, I had a mustache at the time, he looked at me and said “You have a hat?” I said no, why? He said you're the guy. I need to get some pictures of you in a hat. (Jack engages in a lot of banter describing the conversation that was side-splittingly funny).
Three days later I get a call from Hollywood to arrange to fly me out to do a screen test. Who picks me up but Jerry Bruckheimer, in a Volkswagen! He was a producer on the picture, just starting out in the industry. He took me to Richard Widmark's house which Dick Richards bought in Mandeville Canyon. I did a screen test with Harry Dean Stanton. He was great. But it really didn’t matter. Robert Mitchum said about me," he does the picture." Basically, everyone was told they wanted me off the street – my father’s hand reaching from the grave to see I had a different life. So that was it, I stayed in Hollywood. I had studied my lines. I knew my lines, his lines, the leading actress’ lines, everybody’s lines. At 7 AM I was told my driver was at the hotel. I go down to the lobby and there’s Mitchum, standing with his sunglasses on, to pick me up to go to work. I had never really met him and he was a great actor so what do you say? He started with “this must be Jackie O, how are you doing kid?” So we got in the car and went to work. We became fast friends; he was like a father figure to me. He taught me everything I know about acting. He was brilliant. It was a great cast, a great movie. If I did a few things a young actor would have done, I might have gotten a nomination for a major award. For instance, I was told by Johnny Carson that if I did his show, he would get me a nomination for an Oscar as supporting actor. Ed McMahon was there who I knew from New Jersey where we had done some business together from before he ever got on the Carson show. I knew he was thinking please don’t tell anyone about what we did together. Carson’s show was live at the time and I didn’t think I could do it and Ed said why? I said I am going to come on the show and he is going to ask me something about my father, because Mitchum told him everything about me, and when I am asked about my father, I would ask where the men’s room is and that would be the end of the chatter. He said, you would just walk out? I said yes. He said we’ll give you the questions in advance. I said, you have Albert Anastasia’s son on your show and you’re not going to ask about that? I don’t think so. I don’t think I’m ready to talk about that stuff yet, so I turned them down. In my mind, it was just another click in my life. It just wasn’t the right time to talk about things like that so for me it was the right thing to turn down the show. Anyway I went on to do King Kong, Superman, establishing the iconic role of Non, and made Richard Kiel’s life by turning down the Bond movie, Moonraker where he played Jaws. So life was good. I was busy all the time. I got to work with Hackman, Catherine Deneuve, Jimmy Coburn, Omar Sharif, a lot of great people.
SOCAL: How did the book Family Legacy come about?
Jack: I was beginning to write this book back in the 80s when I married and my wife, Jackie Samuels, a Brit, encouraged me to do it. By the way, we had a great marriage for 20 years. Anyway, at some point I came back to the U.S. to produce a movie called The List with Wayne Brady, and got the Hollywood bug again. My wife didn’t like living here although she made a go of it for several years. I stayed.
SOCAL: Please talk more about what we can expect in the Family Legacy book and movie.
Jack: It’s a political conspiracy driven by the Mafia and this kid’s life, a fictionalized version of me, what I learned and saw. I watched the changes because of the rich political changes that were taking place as I grew up. How the Government was a partner of the crime families. I studied the Kennedys because they were the first ones that put a double cross down and because of television and the Kefauver Committee, they saw how much they could expose organized crime. Joe Kennedy was always looking to see how he could get out from under their thumb because he was involved with them from 1922 and on. He was always looking to backstab his partners. He had Bobby working on the Kefauver Committee just when television was bringing information about the Mafia, for the first time, to a wide audience. I was watching all this. And if anything went wrong in society, organized crime was blamed, even though they were partners with the government.
Going back to the early 1900s when Italian immigrants came to America, they were strategically very clever the way they set up. New York, Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Chicago, Kansas City, Florida, and Philadelphia. They had every port, every railroad crossing being covered to open this country up. And all the illicit monies they made in the beginning were pumped into legitimate companies. So they were part of that growth. And the unions, that was about to change in the 1960s. Anybody in his 50s or 60s that was from the East Coast or even out here on in California, can remember when the cities had streets that were safe. Kids could go out and play from morning ‘til night. People didn't lock their front doors or worry about their car being stolen. Neighborhoods were protected and that was all because of organized crime. Things kept changing. The lottery. When they started the lottery think what they took out of everyday life. Numbers were way of life with people. People would play a number for a nickel or dime and if they won a couple hundred dollars it got spent on birthday gifts, anniversary gifts and there was always a winner in the local neighborhood because the odds were a thousand to one.
There were housewives all across this country who would sit at home, and on the phone take numbers, write them on slips and a guy would come by and pick them up. For that a woman was getting about $150 per week, in cash, and that money was going back into the neighborhood. She spent it in the neighborhood. But with the lottery, if you are involved with numbers, that was a felony and a first offense you go to jail for six months. So when they made it a felony all that cash disappeared. In the 40s and 50s, $100 was a lot of money while you were at home watching the kids, raising your children.
The Dallas thing. Joe Kennedy had so many enemies around the world. They killed his first son Joe. Jack was dying from the many ailments he suffered from and probably would not have lived out his first term. He had diseases that he was dying of, he was in a brace and they used to shoot him up every day. He had Crohn's disease. His father would rather see him die heroically like that than of disease that would put a mar on the family. So the movie, it's not a Kennedy movie, but at the end of the movie the kid is in Dallas and will show the seven missing frames of the Zapruder film that will show who shot the shot who took Kennedy’s head off.
The entire Oswald theory is total bull. He was never even in the window. There was a prison right across the street from the Book Depository building window and they saw three guys in there, two with dark complexions and one white guy. Oswald wasn't even there. And the gun. It was a 1,000 foot shot, Any marksman will tell you it is impossible to do with a bolt action rifle, from that distance, three shots in 28 seconds. Anyway it's all bull. And the people bought it because they were sold a bill of goods. The first thing Johnson did was create that Warren commission with a whole bunch of guys from Yale, you know that bunch from the secret society. The Warren commission was total bull. [Editor’s note: Jack continues in great detail in the book revealing the many factions that were responsible for the assassination]
SOCAL: What’s next for Jack O’Halloran?
Jack We’re focusing on Long Beach Studios and I think we’re going to take a shot at getting Culver City Studios as well. Merge the two together. That will give us 54 sound stages out here and allow us to make a huge impact in the film industry. We'll put a lot of jobs back here in California and bring the film industry back where it belongs. I think we have a great way to do it. We have the Enterprise Zone in place so we will have a great tax advantage which will make us the most cost-effective place to shoot in the country and attract runaway productions back and a lot of people are looking forward to that. It'll be a great shot in the arm for the state and for the city of Long Beach. It will be phenomenal.
Also, we have the script for Family Legacy. We’re getting ready to launch that. And I’ve got some people that are hocking me for a television series, with a working title American Chronicles. It will be really dynamic going back to the year 1900 and show how modern America was given birth. It will show how things really worked, in the liquor Prohibition era. The drug prohibition of 1916 – we’ll have real conversations about. It will look at the Harrison Act of 1914 that created a lot of crime. It will show how organized crime, industry, government, and unions were all partners and how Asia and Europe were involved. It will be a compelling television show to watch. It’s time people became aware of what went on around them, why it happened the way it did, and the bill of goods that were sold to them by the institutions they trusted.
When I was a kid I was told the world consisted of two things, fear and money. Not fear of what I could do to you with violence, but fear of what I can do to you with my money.
SOCAL: If you could, please share some advice to kids growing up today.
Jack: Stop waiting to be given things. Take some initiative and get involved in sports and the arts. Get an education but understand that doesn’t guarantee anything, you still need to show initiative. Convince yourself that you are going to be the best you can at whatever you do. Pursue your dreams. Don’t let anyone take that away from you. In America, you have the freedom to succeed.
SOCAL: With your unique perspective on a poorly understood segment of American society and your unabashed patriotism, do you have some thoughts for us to consider?
Jack: Yes, we have a right to say no. The book Family Legacy and the movie will give the American public insights to the way things were and could be again. We need to be able to stand up and say no, to not tolerating when they are being sold bull. This is a great country. We have people who have gone to war and fought and died for our freedom and we’re looking down our nose at all that. It's time to stand up and be counted. We want our country back.