May 1, 2003
(photo courtesy salmineo.com)
Residents of New York City's crime-ridden Hell's Kitchen neighborhood predicted that Salvatore Mineo Jr. would come to a bad end. The slight boy they called "Junior" in elementary school was a playground brawler, thief, and gang member, according to Marvin J. Wolf and Katherine Mader in Fallen Angels. The biographers wrote that acquaintances predicted he would wind up on the wrong end of a knife.
by Denise Noe
"He'll end up with a knife in him."
But questions cluster around the beginning of Sal Mineo's life as they do around the tragic end to it. John Seger, owner of Sal Mineo's official website (www.salmineo.com), says that "According to Sal's family, Mineo was never arrested. The entire juvenile-delinquent angle was something made up for publicity."
Mineo was born Jan. 10, 1939 to Salvatore Mineo Sr., a coffin maker from Sicily, and his wife Josephine. He was the third child and third son. His sister was born four years later.
Mineo took dancing classes as a prepubescent and the people who saw him dance then knew the boy had talent and that he loved dancing. But, according to biographer H. Paul Jeffers, there was a downside to being a dancer in his macho neighborhood. The other boys in his gang no longer wanted him with them and taunted him as a "sissy." Outraged, Junior fought the teasers with his fists.
The dancing lessons paid off, landing Mineo a gig on a local TV program called "The Ted Steele Show."
At 11 years old, Mineo won a part in The Rose Tattoo, a Tennessee Williams play appearing on Broadway that starred Eli Wallach and Maureen Stapleton. Mineo had a single line: "The goat is in the yard."