AFRH-W Resident Highlight – Joe Nesnow
As told to Christine Baldwin | Librarian
Photos by Jack Beck | Resident
Once upon a time…way back in the 1950’s (prior to the outbreak of the Korean War), a young Navy man read a notice in the ‘Plan of the Day,’ that said “BECOME A MEMBER OF A NEW THEATRICAL TROUPE BEING FORMED TO TAKE ALL-NAVY MUSICAL SHOW TO BASES AND SHIPS AROUND THE WORLD!! NO MESS COOKING, NO MIDNIGHT FIRE WATCHES, ETC., WHILE INVOLVED…” “Well”, thought I, “how can I lose? Get out of work, no nasty special duties…” To make a long story short, I violated the age-old rule of the military man – NEVER volunteer! I worked my tender buns off, putting in more hours than any mess cook; but in the end, “the acting bug didn’t bite – it DEVOURED!” The original show never made it past the performance point – the Korean War came along and our casts were depleted as men were taken to crew mothballed ships, as they were made ready for combat. However, as I was transferred from post to ship and back to post – wherever I could I joined a local community theater group to build up my resume: “Mr. Roberts,” “Stalag 17,” “Plaza Suite,” “Once Upon a Mattress” and “Wait Until Dark” were among them.
Once the Korean War was over, I chose to stay in the military, knowing that the “retired” monthly paycheck would come in handy. IT HAS! I retired from the Navy in 1975 and continued in Community Theater. I was nominated for acting awards for “Bell, Book & Candle” and “My Three Angels” and won for “All My Sons” and “Mr. Roberts.” I also appeared in San Diego’s famous Old Globe Theater in their production of “That Championship Season”, which swept the Atlas Awards that year.
I then made the plunge and moved to Hollywood, where I acquired an agent and appeared as mobster Mickey Cohen in “Hollywood’s Greatest Mysteries.” I worked in many top television shows: “L.A. Law,” “Murder, She Wrote” (twice), “Dallas” (twice), “Sisters,” “General Hospital” (twice), “Highway to Heaven” (twice), and “Gabriel’s Fire.” I also played all sorts of vile people in different episodes of “Days of Our Lives.” I co-starred or had a featured role in several TV movies: “Down, Out and Dangerous,” “I Married a Centerfold,” “Celebration Family,” “City Killer,” and “Starman.” Movie appearances included “Romancing the Stone,” “Thief of Hearts,” and “Welcome Home, Roxy Charmichael.” I am also the Admiral in the production of “At Sea” in the U.S. Navy Museum! Recently, AFRH-W showed the first movie I was in “Dogs” at their theater. Unfortunately, I will NOT be seen, at least in the U.S. in the Chinese production of “The Korean War” in which I play General George C. Marshall. I was also active in the local San Diego theatrical scene, where I appeared three times in “The Barbra Streisand Festival” among other productions.
I also took a stab at directing to include “The Lion in Winter,” “Stalag 17,” “Toad of Toad Hall” and “Witch’s Brew.” Lastly, I have a one-man play “Clarence Darrow – IN DEFENSE OF THE DAMNED”, based on the life of the famous lawyer; in which I received many accolades and good reviews. In fact, you may have seen my performance this past 2 months, as I have broken the play into four parts.
All of these wonderful accomplishments, I couldn’t have done if I hadn’t auditioned for the U.S. Navy’s “Bell Bottoms and Belles” back in the early 1950’s!