Sal Mineo

Sal Mineo

John Lennon once put up the reward money to find Mineo's killer.

Brother of actor Michael Mineo.

Directed and starred as Rocky, a hardcore prisoner, in the controversial homosexual prison drama "Fortune and Men's Eyes" in Los Angeles in 1969. It was a popular stage hit at the time and co-starring as Mineo's innocent young blond victim was pre-"Miami Vice" star Don Johnson.

Donated the drum he used in The Gene Krupa Story (1959) to another teen idol, David Cassidy, the day after a dinner with David and his father, Jack Cassidy. David was 13 at the time.

Grew up on East 213th Street in the Olinville section of the Bronx.

Had a long, on-and-off relationship with his young Exodus (1960) co-star Jill Haworth. She was 15 and he was 21 at the time. According to Michael Gregg Michaud's 2010 biography of Sal, she and Mineo agreed to her having an abortion at one point in 1969.

He was frequently cast as humorless, jittery youth whose loneliness turns violent when cornered, but in reality, he was known for his easy-going, extroverted ways and his ability to see the positive and the humor in almost any situation.

In 1957 he tried to start a career as a rock-and-roll singer. He released two singles. The first was "Start Movin' (In My Direction)", which stayed in the US top 40 for 13 weeks and reached the #9 position. The second was "Lasting Love", which stayed on the charts for three weeks and reached #27. The singles were followed up by an album on the Epic label. In the UK the records were released on the Philips label.

In 1957, at the height of his fame, Bob Hope announced on a TV special that all public schools in Brooklyn would be closed the following day in honor of Sal Mineo's birthday. Hope meant this as a joke, but many youngsters in Brooklyn took it seriously, and there was record absenteeism in the borough's public schools the following day. Hope ultimately issued a public retraction and urged kids to stay in school.

In early 1962, he posed nude in several sessions for Harold Stevenson, known for his large-scale homoerotic painting and drawings. Stevenson gave one of them to Mineo for his own. A huge painting of Sal was eventually exhibited at the Richard Feigen Gallery in New York and Chicago in 1964.

In the mid-1960s, he was engaged to British actress Jill Haworth.

Lionel Ray Williams was convicted of his murder in 1979 and sentenced to life in prison. He was paroled in 1990.

Many bizarre rumors floated around about his murder, but when his killer, Lionel Ray Williams, was caught, he turned out to be a drug-addled 17-year-old who had no idea who Mineo was and was only interested in the money he had on him.

Mineo bought his protégé Bobby Sherman a set of drums when he helped him break into the music industry in 1963-64. (Mineo had learned to play the drums for his role of Gene Krupa in The Gene Krupa Story (1959).) In 1970, when Mineo was broke and Sherman was riding high after appearing in the TV series "Here Come the Brides" (1968) and scoring big as a pop star, Mineo's lover Courtney Burr contacted Sherman and requested that he reimburse his former mentor for the drums. Sherman's manager sent Mineo $3,000 (approximately $17,000 in 2011 dollars, when adjusted for inflation).

Mineo longed to be a movie director, and he directed the 1969 Los Angeles production of the prison drama Fortune and Men's Eyes (1971). The play, which deals with homosexuality, had premiered in Ontario in 1965 and then opened in New York Off-Broadway in 1967 and had run for a year. In addition to directing, Mineo played the role of Rocky, a prison bully, who rapes a naive young prisoner, Smitty (played by Don Johnson in the L.A. production). Mineo's staging emphasized violence and sexuality. He added a scene to the play, staging Rocky's rape of Smitty in the prison shower, an event that had been kept off stage in earlier productions. The Los Angeles production, which was eventually moved to New York (without Mineo as an actor) featured full frontal nudity. Mineo also directed a subsequent San Francisco production. Although playwright John Herbert did not initially object to Mineo's alterations, he vociferously criticized Mineo's Los Angeles and New York stagings. (Being a convicted felon, the Canadian Herbert was unable to enter the U.S. to actually see the productions.) Herbert refused to sell him the film rights to his play, and the estrangement obviated any chance of Mineo being involved in the

Mineo, whose father Salvatore, Sr. was an immigrant from Sicily (his American-born mother Josephine was Neapolitan), coveted the role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather (1972).

Once hung out with the Hell's Angels motorcycle group.

Portrayed by Felix Quinonez in James Dean: Race with Destiny (1997) (TV) and by Paul Pantano in The Mystery of Natalie Wood (2004) (TV).

Suffered from a chronic right eye infection that was usually brought about by severe emotional stress. He often had to wear an eye patch or dark sunglasses in public until it healed.

Traded on his acting popularity to become a pop singer. He recorded several songs, including "Love Affair" (1957), "Lasting Love" (1957), "Party Time" (1957), "Seven Steps to Love" (1958), "Baby Face" (1958), "Make Believe Baby" (1959) and "Young as We Are" (1959).