Photo by Denise Truscello
One look at handsome actor/model Antonio Sabato Jr, and it’s evident that he’s the kind of guy who would gladly give you the shirt off his back.
And that’s exactly what he is doing seven times a week through June 5th as the host of the famed Chippendales show at the Rio. Fabric aside, however, Sabato Jr. is a man with much to get off his chest.
“Being part of the Chippendales has been an amazing ride so far,” he exclaims enthusiastically. “They are the biggest male revue show in the world and I take pride in being able to do this in my 40s – I’m 44. You have to be in shape and have charisma. It’s a test – it’s pretty scary to be surrounded by a screaming live audience performing for people from all over the world. It does build a stronger personality. You can either have a great time with it or you can wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into.”
Even though Sabato Jr. began his career as a Calvin Klein underwear model, it still took three weeks of seven shows a week to become comfortable on stage in the show. While he has always worked out, being in a show with 26- and 27-year-old guys has caused him to become stricter and to work out on a daily basis. However, he loves the camaraderie between himself and the cast both onstage and off and notes that they always have his back and are very supportive. And more than his back, it seems that they also have his neck.
“The other night when we were taking pictures after the show, a fan took a bite out of my neck,” Sabato Jr..relates, noting that this is the first live show of any kind in which he has performed in Las Vegas. “She started to do it again and I pulled away and all the guys stopped her. She then tried it again and they escorted her out. That was a first for me and it was kind of scary. The fans – they want you, man. I hadn’t been around to see it before. The show changes with the crowd and you never know what is going to happen.”
One of the tenets of Sabato Jr. is that he always tries to remember where he came from. Born in Rome, Italy, he and his father, Antonio Sabato Sr., and his mother and sister and their little Yorkie moved to California in 1985 when he was a teenager. He couldn’t speak a word of English and found himself alone most of the time as the new kid in school. But he took ESL (English Secondary Language) lessons and also learned English from watching movies, and even though it took him a good year to be able to make full conversations in English, he soon began to make friends.
With his father having been an actor in Europe, and always wanting to be an actor himself, Sabato Jr. began auditioning for anything he could at the age of 14-15. At the age of 17, he got a part in a Janet Jackson video and then packed up and moved to New York for a year and did some Italian and low-budget films, which he claims no one has ever seen, but he got himself an agent. At the age of 20, he auditioned for “General Hospital” (for the second time) and got the job and for the next two years, he found himself on top of the world acting in the famed soap opera, developing a huge fan base and becoming a fulltime actor in the United States subsequently doing movies and TV such as “Earth 2” and “Melrose Place.”
“I did a movie of the week called ‘If Looks Could Kill,’ on the Fox network,” Sabato Jr. remembers. “It was a disco movie with a Studio 54 tone and the man I portrayed was a real person who knew everyone in the fashion world. Calvin Klein, who was getting ready to do his next campaign, saw the movie and contacted my agent. I flew to New York and he hired me. I did three campaigns back to back and became the longest running celebrity in any Calvin Klein campaign. I was proud of working with him – he’s such a myth.”
Back to the future, what does Sabato Jr. want to do after his Chippendales gig now that his “Fix It and Finish It” reality show will be ending after October after two full years and 150 episodes on the air?
“There’s still so much that I want to do,” he expresses. “I’d like to do a true Formula One racing movie or a love story or a comedy or an 007 kind of thing. I’d also like to do a western and bring westerns back. I love this business so much. I don’t really know what’s next but I think I just have great faith. I don’t rely on what I see or on flesh – I rely on God. I’m very religious. When I worry, things go wrong. When I sit back and let God work his miracles, things happen.”
And, make no mistake about it, he’s ready to “shirt” the issue again anytime the Chippendales ask.