In 1961, Danny Trejo found himself in lock-up at he Los Angeles County Jail with a person he describes as “greasy, dirty, scrawny.” Charles Manson was, “so poor, he didn’t have a belt, and instead used a piece of string to keep his pants up.” The Machete star says he felt sorry at the time for Manson, who was so small, obviously needing protection. A few days after their first encounter, the infamous cult leader told Trejo and his cellies that he had hypnotic powers and “could get us high.”
“It was like a guided meditation,” The convict turn star recalls in his book, Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood. Charles Manson first suggested the group to think they were smoking weed and then heroin.
“By the time he described it hitting my bloodstream, I felt the warmth flowing through my body,” Trejo remembers. “If that white boy wasn’t a career criminal, he could have been a professional hypnotist.”
We are all familiar with the gruesome killings by Manson’s persuasion and the convictions of Manson and his crew. But the life or Danny Trejo is one that begs to be heard. He got hauled into a police station for the first time at age 10, he writes. From that point on, he spent years engaging in criminal mayhem in the San Fernando Valley and up and down the state, in and out of juvenile and state prisons and never expecting to come out alive.
Trejo got his break in the business after visiting a film shoot in 1985 to help someone on-set who was battling through addiction recovery. He’d done it himself. Decades earlier, deep in the hole at Soledad state prison, Trejo had promised God he’d help his fellow human every day if he could “die with dignity.” And he had gone sober.
An assistant director stopped him that day on the set. “You have a good look,” the crew member said. “Can you play a convict?” As an extra in Runaway Train that year, Trejo stood out so much that he got a scene built around him, using his boxing skills he’d learned in prison. In short order, he began appearing in myriad shows and films as an archetypical supporting figure: Prisoner, 2nd Inmate and Tough Prisoner No. 1 are some of the roles he’s played since.
“I didn’t know I was being stereotyped,” Trejo says. “I just knew I was working. And I think the fact that I was stereotyped for so long got a lot of people jobs, so we just opened the door.”
The ‘Hey, you look right,’ story has been told by many actors, but only a rare few can say it was the difference between life and death. Another interesting note is that longtime friend and actor, Donal Logue, co-authored the memoir. There are rave reviews from all walks of life and, of course his co-workers.
“Danny Trejo is an American Treasure… If you’re a fan like I am this is definitely the book for you.” -Pete Davidson, actor, producer, and cast member on Saturday Night Live
“From ex-con to icon. Danny’s incredible life story shows that even though we may fall down at some point in our lives, it’s what we do when we stand back up that really counts.” -Robert Rodriguez, creator of Spy Kids, Desperado, and Machete He even narrates the audiobook! Go check it out!
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