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“The Adventures Of Little Diego - Former Child Star” Chapter 1 - Part 2 of 2 - 'The Beginning'
My father is a man far more talented than his status in life would indicate. He's been an actor, a musician, a realtor, a songwriter, a welder, a railway operator, porter, an herbalist, a machinist, etc., etc. And everything he's done he's done quite well I might add. He seemed to know something about quite a few things and has had quite a number of different jobs over the course of his lifetime.
However, when friends would ask what it was my father did for a living I could never come up with an answer. I could never quite put my finger on what he was doing to earn a living in the present. I knew of a lot of things he had done in the past, but I could never figure out what it was he was doing at any particular time in the present to make a living. Though I do remember growing up in a middle class environment throughout my childhood, even before I was cast in "Julia" where income from the show allowed us to move into a middle class neighborhood in Beverly Hills. Yes, there is a middle class in Beverly Hills. Not everyone who lives there is filthy rich. That said, I never knew of my father to have an actual on going profession or regular job.
Jack Of All Trades
My father was also a bit of a clutter bug or pack rat as some would call it. He would spend hours looking for things because there was no sort of organization in all his clutter. We slept in the same bed until I was 13. Not because there was anything inappropriate going on, but because there was not enough room to fit another bed into any of the houses we lived in because he would always keep the rooms so full of junk there was no space for me to have my own living quarters. I didn't mind sleeping in the same bed with him up to a certain point. Falling asleep in my fathers arms while lying on his chest felt like the safest place to be in the whole world to me.
John Copage & Marc Copage
But when I reached the age of 10 or so I found myself needing my own space. Ever since I can remember I was always surrounded by junk in all my living environments growing up. I was never able to have friends over. It was too embarrassing as my friends had ‘normal’ households uncluttered by all this stuff. I never felt like I lived in a home. Just different houses filled with a lot of junk. Boxes filled with things, papers, and just a lot of clutter all around me. It was a bit like living with Fred Sanford.
My father would rarely complete things. He would begin all kinds of projects, but would never finish them. Home renovations were no exception. One day I can recall, my father randomly just started knocking down a wall in the living room with a sledgehammer. He wanted to make the room bigger. He just started breaking the wall down.
John Copage Demolition Expert
But he never finished. The duration of the time we lived in that house it remained in this unfinished condition. With a half broken wall.
Or he would hire contractors, but get rid of them before they finished the project. Whether he got rid of them because he couldn’t afford to continue paying them to complete the project, or got rid of them because for some odd reason he liked living in these kinds of conditions I do not know, but it was quite bizarre. To live in houses that were always under some kind of construction that would never get completed. By the time the properties were sold the new owners would have to tear the whole house down and start from scratch.
My father could also be rather short tempered. He spoke fluent spanish as well as english. Learning to speak spanish fluently was another one of the many things my father taught himself how to do. He tried his darndest to get me to learn to speak spanish too. I remember one day, I was probably around 3 or 4, as I know this happened before I got cast on the television show which happened at age 5. He had me pinned in this corner of a room and would not let me escape until I could count to ten in spanish. He had his belt out and would hit me with it each time I made a mistake.
Eventually I was able to do it, but I think it did some psychological damage as far as learning languages for me goes. I love the spanish language, not to mention the beautiful women from around the world whose native language it is and who I could not talk to unless I spoke it. As I got older, my desire to learn heightened. Just for the sake of being able to speak to these lovely ladies if nothing else. Not that I have any particular preference of ethnicity in the women I'm attracted to.
But in spite of multiple attempts to learn I still cannot speak fluently for the life of me after many, many, attempts over the course of my lifetime. My father would try to teach me in the car as well when I road with him and would become physically violent with me when I couldn’t remember the words or phrases he was trying to teach me. It’s as if he thought he could beat learning spanish into me. Perhaps this is the way things were done in the environment my father grew up in. My fathers father died when he was a small child and I had heard stories that my fathers mother was quite physically abusive to my father when he was growing up. Stories of him being beat with an iron and switches. I’m not saying that I grew up in a household with on-going physical abuse, but there were times when my father was unjustifiably physically as well as mentally abusive. I never did get beat with an iron. It was generally a belt, sometimes a hand or fist, but never an iron. My father also rescued me from my Uncle Bob and I am grateful for that. My father always made sure that I was fed and clothed properly.
As I said earlier, he's a good man but we all have our issues.
Our relationship began to take it’s toll around the time I reached puberty. I’ve always thought my father to be rather controlling, at least when it came to his relationship with me. Perhaps since he grew up without a father he thought this was the way fathers were supposed to be. As long as I did exactly as he said and did not question him about anything there was no problem. The minute I disagreed, or asked questions, then there would be a problem.
John Copage & Marc Copage
I guess puberty is about the time you start to question things and want to become your own man. I’ve never felt that I was brought up, encouraged, or taught to think for myself. My father never explained or taught me much about things I felt I should know. When I was on "Julia" he would give me line readings where I was instructed to read the lines back exactly as he would read them to me verbatim. I believe this is why my acting came off as stilted at times. I'm surprised it came off as natural as it did. I was never encouraged to find my own interpretation of the dialog. Later, as an adult, I looked myself up on the internet one day and came across a review and the reviewer had me on a list of worst child actors of all time. Ouch! Just one persons opinion, but painful to read none the less. I was nominated for an Image Award though. Even though I didn't win I guess my acting couldn't have come across as being too horrible.
Image Award Nomination Letter
Or maybe it was my cuteness and like-ability factor that compensated for my acting and won me the nomination.
The income I made as a child star was never discussed with me by my father, ever. And perhaps I was just as guilty in being complacent about it. Even as an adult. As long as I felt I was taken care of. As I looked back on it when I became much older, our relationship seemed like the stereotypical type of relationship that a husband and wife might have had in the 50’s or early 60’s before the women's movement began. Everything will be fine as long as you shut up and do as you are told!
The kind of relationship where the husband wants to keep his wife dependent on him for the rest of her life, never wanting her to gain independence, to become her own person. Needless to say, that mentality increasingly took its toll and ultimately resulted in the demise of our relationship. It’s sad that two people in the same family who can get along so well with so many other people could not get along with each other. It is only recently that I have broken free of my fathers influence completely.