This interview originally appeared in the July 1, 1986 issue of Soap Opera Digest.
There’s hope for every gawky, geeky, goofy-looking kid in America who dreams of growing up into an Adonis — and it comes in the form of Don Diamont. While his die-hard admirers may find this hard to swallow, the latest YOUNG AND RESTLESS matinee idol claims it’s true.
“Oh, I looked pretty silly all right,” Diamont grimaces. “I had braces and a big space between my teeth. I wore this funny little haircut and I had big ears.” Even today, as he causes female hearts to palpitate without mercy, Don is still absolutely positive that his ears are only slightly smaller than Dumbo’s.
Rather than join the freak act in the circus, 10 year-old Donald turned his rather “unique” appearance into cold, hard cash on the home front. As the star of numerous kid fashion shows for the Bullock’s department store chain in Southern California, he proved a runway sensation. Diamont stashed his dough until age sixteen, whereupon he blew the works on a car stereo.
Things started looking up about this time. “I was a little bit promiscuous in high school,” Don says, blushing. “Well…promiscuous might not be the right word. My ego was more of an athlete’s ego — the kind of confidence you get from sports.” Whatever the source, Diamont momentarily entertained thoughts of becoming a superstar on the tennis courts. Chiseled features triumphed over his backhand, however, and the soon-to-be cover boy headed for Europe and big-time modeling.
While most money-making faces devote at least a year stockpiling Class A fashion magazine work, Don lasted a month. “I hated that atmosphere,” he remembers. “I didn’t like standing there for hours on end having my picture taken — not talking, not thinking, just standing. I didn’t like having to be around models all the time, either.” Despite sporting everything from million dollar furs to skimpy swimwear in locales like Paris and Milan, Diamont quickly decided to call the whole thing off. He returned to the States with no plans to step foot in front of a camera again.
Other people had other plans, though. His Parisian agent sent Don’s hunkiest looking 8×10 photo to powerhouse Los Angeles agent, Mary Webb Davis. She immediately went gaga over him and insisted on setting up a meeting. Not taking no for an answer, Webb convinced the reluctant mannequin to postpone throwing in the towel and give Hollywood modeling a try. Recalls Diamont, “I never thought I would wind up sitting behind a desk all my life.” Viewing this latest foray into modeling as just temporary, he decided, “What the heck, it’s a good way to make a living.”
Some of that living was spent on acting lessons, though not much. Just days after enrolling in a class taught by veteran actress Nina Foch, Don landed the role of lusty Carlo Forenza on DAYS OF OUR LIVES. Foch warned him that, “Your looks are going to be your biggest curse and your biggest asset.” While his quick rise to soap fame is hardly a sob story, the prediction has proved accurate. Diamont maintains he’s encountered several fragile egos along the way that couldn’t handle his appearance. “Sometimes, if you’re good looking, you’re going to lose jobs,” he notes.
Diamont is blasé about his mug. “There’s knowing that you’re a nice-looking person and there’s being in love with yourself. It’s no great feat. It’s your parents you owe it to,” he remarks.
Those who know Diamont’s clan claim that there are extraordinarily good genes aplenty in that family. And while his parents A.J. and Bette and sisters Bette and Elena could have been prize winners in their respective heydays, it’s his older brother Jack, who caused a stir when he visited Don on the Y&R set. In his best falsetto, Diamont delights in imitating the response of his squealing, gushing lady co-stars. “’Oh, Don, your brother looks just like James Caan!!!’”
Don didn’t score nearly as many points on his first day on the YOUNG AND RESTLESS set. Beth Maitland, who plays his on-screen wife Traci Abbott Carlton, recalls an all-around suspicion on the part of the cast members that Don’s talents were only skin-deep. “Isn’t that horrible?” she shrieks. “Actors should know better, wouldn’t you think? That’s a prejudice we’re all guilty of from time to time.”
Diamont quickly proved himself, not only with his castmates, but with letter-writing fans, as well. The slowly bubbling TV romance, in which the downtrodden, plump, generally neurotic Traci nabs the attentions of the combination Prince Charming/Chippendale’s dancer, has stuck a major fantasy-come-true chord with viewers. Of Emmy-winning Maitland, he says, “She’s so good, but if Beth wasn’t as sweet as she is, I suppose it could be a little intimidating working with her.” Modesty aside, he notes, “We have a great chemistry.”
Maitland may agree with that now, but she sure didn’t on the occasion of their first meeting. Nearly two years ago, when Don was on DAYS, the two met backstage at a concert. Drooling paparazzi asked the soap stars to pose together for some pictures. The always effervescent Maitland happily agreed but Diamont, who seemingly didn’t know Beth from a hole in the ground, responded with the aloofness of Joe Cool.
Months later, Maitland was still in a snit. When Don arrived at Y&R, she decided to give him a little of his own medicine. “I thought he was the biggest creep!” she laughs. “And I let him know it!” After several days of the cold-shoulder, Diamont (who hadn’t remembered the nasty incident or the actress) finally couldn’t stand it anymore. He confronted Beth, who remembers, “We had it out in my dressing room.” Once her bile was discharged, she says, “Everything was just great!”
According to Don’s friends, at the time of the backstage disaster, he didn’t know which end was up. Diamont was hopelessly in love with DAYS co-star Gloria Loring (Liz Curtis) and was working overtime to keep their off-screen romance as hush-hush as possible. “There’s a time and a place for everything,” he says, noting that Loring’s impending divorce from talk show host turned actor Alan Thicke and the welfare of the couple’s two young sons were deciding factors in the cover up. “It wasn’t the proper time to be unnecessarily public about our relationship.”
Still, for both of them, the closet affair was a little rough. “It’s not pleasant when you can’t go places and do things together,” Don admits. During the early stages, he lived at home with his parents. Once the duo was no longer afraid that the fur would fly, Diamont moved in with Gloria and her boys, Brennan and Robin.
And what of the chronological gap between Don, who is 23, and Gloria, 39? “It really doesn’t come into play,” Don claims. “We have a very stable, secure relationship in that respect.” In fact, after squiring many a teen queen around town, he breathes a sigh of relief over Gloria’s maturity. “It’s not like she worries about what color bow to put in her hair.”
Although he no longer has the pleasure of working side by side with Loring, Diamont is happy to have DAYS OF OUR LIVES out of his hair. The experience, by and large, was “nerve-wracking,” Diamont says and adds, “It was not a pleasant atmosphere to work in.”
Equally frustrating were the stupefying circumstances of his abrupt termination. Just as he was wining every Best Soap Newcomer award in the magazine polls — and emerging as a challenger to DAYS kings Peter Reckell (Bo Brady) and Michael Leon (Pete Jannings), Don was given the boot. “It was a very strange thing. I don’t know what the reasons were,” he states. “I don’t think I was ever given a straight answer.”
Now, Diamont couldn’t be happier. Well…except for one thing. Convinced that he’s a comic at heart, Don has embarked on a full-scale campaign to convince the producers likewise. At every opportunity, the ham will break into a Marx Brothers or Three Stooges routine. Producer Ed Scott has actually been known to run the other way when he sees Diamont heading toward him in the CBS halls. Eventually, the bosses buckled under and allowed Brad to use a little Larry, Moe and Curly to cheer up Traci.
For Don, the victory was just the tip of the iceberg. “A lot of actors are afraid to be seen as anything other than macho. They’re afraid to let themselves look silly or be a clown. That doesn’t bother me a bit.”
Giving his pumped up pecs a pat, he explains, “You see, there’s a Jerry Lewis in here wanting to get out!”