Personal detailsName: Steve Martin
Born: 14 August 1945 (Age: 69)
Where: Waco, Texas, USA
Height: 5' 11"
Awards: 5 Golden Globe nominations
All about this star
It's near impossible to think of a more talented character in Hollywood than Steve Martin. He's excelled in so many disciplines it's almost absurd. He's won an Emmy as a comedy writer: as a stand-up he drew crowds of over 20,000: his comedy albums sold millions: he had a million-selling disco single: he's written best-selling books and successful plays: he's penned hit screenplays and starred in many of the most memorable comedies of the last twenty years. The Jerk, All Of Me, The Man With Two Brains, Parenthood, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Roxanne and Planes, Trains And Automobiles - just some of the fabulous films that relied near-entirely up his extraordinary abilities. It's been a long and fascinating journey.
He was born Stephen Glenn Martin on the 14th of August, 1945, in Waco, Texas. When he was 5, the family (of English/Irish/Scottish descent) moved to Inglewood, California, where his father, Glenn, an aspiring actor, performed at the local playhouse, and sold real estate. One of Steve's earliest memories is of seeing his father, as an extra, serving drinks onstage at the Call Board Theatre on Melrose Place. During the war, in England, Glenn had appeared in a production of Our Town with Raymond Massey. Years later, he would write to Massey for help in Steve's fledgling career, but would receive no reply. Yet he was not always so helpful. Expressing his affection through gifts of cars, bikes etc, he was not emotionally open to his son. He was proud of the boy but extremely critical, Steve later recalling that in his teens his feelings for his dad were mostly ones of hatred. Martin's thus inflamed need to please and be loved must surely have fuelled his early career, if not all of it.
Steve's mother, Mary Lee, looked after the kids. It was in Inglewood that young Steve became interested in magic, buying books, learning tricks and performing them for his parents. It would serve him very well later. So would his gift for comedy. Watching the likes of the Red Skelton Show, Steve would learn the skits, then perform them for the kids at school next day.
After another 5 years, the family moved on to Garden Grove, near Anaheim. It was 1955 and, vitally, the year Disneyland opened nearby. From the age of 10 till 18, Steve would work there after school, at weekends and during the summers. First he sold guide-books at the gate, dressed in a straw boater and bow-tie. He'd take 2 cents per book sold, with the norm being 50 books a day. But, quickly learning the relentless cheeriness necessary (something else that would serve him well later), Steve far outdid the norm. One day he sold 625.
Then there was Wally Boag. Wally was an old vaudevillian entertainer plying his trade at Disneyland, telling (clean) jokes and making balloon animals. Steve watched his act every day, committing it all to memory.
At 15, Steve's education in magic intensified. Promoted to Merlin's Magic Shop, he sold plastic vomit, shrunken heads, silly disguises, nails-through-heads, all the greats. Joshing around with the staff, he learned all the tricks, and collected all the jokes, writing down the best of everything said. Now ready to face the public, he began performing magic shows at Kiwanis clubs.
And there was more learning to do. In his late teens, Steve first heard an Earl Scruggs record. Completely blown away by the finger-pickin' banjo, he was madly inspired. Playing the record at half-speed, he taught himself to pick along, soon becoming more than proficient. At night, so as not to wake the household, he'd practise in his '57 Chevy. Having graduated from Garden Grove High School in 1963, he took work at the Birdcage Theatre at Knott's Berry Farm, near Disneyland. Using all his talents, he did skits, magic tricks and played banjo - four shows a day, five days a week. Martin calls it his "basic training".
He could have continued his showbiz career, but that would have far too simple for a complex fellow like Martin, always keen to challenge himself, to learn more. At Knott's Berry Farm, he met a girl named Stormie Sherk, with whom he enjoyed a platonic romance (Steve has an intensely romantic side to him). She convinced him of the importance of academic schooling, got him reading - he recalls being taken by Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge - and encouraged him to enrol at college. Which he did, at Long Beach State University, where he majored in philosophy. Yet even this deep study couldn't quell his desire to make people laugh. In fact, it fed it. After a period immersed in philosophy and logic, Martin decided that there WAS no logic, and began to come up with truckloads of bizarre, hilarious non-sequiturs. Being Steve Martin - conscientious and organised - he wrote them all down, saved them for later.
He just couldn't leave showbiz alone. Transferring to UCLA in 1967, he changed his major to Theatre, and wrote comedy in his creative writing classes, quickly building up reams of material. At night, he'd work the LA clubs. And then came his first lucky break. His girlfriend at the time was a dancer on the very popular Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. She passed on some of Steve's material to the head writer, Mason Williams, who loved it and began to use Steve's stuff, at first paying him out of his own pocket. Soon, he was on the team. The series lasted for just one season, but it was riotously funny, winning the writers an Emmy. Not bad for your first job.
Massively encouraged, Steve kept writing, for Glen Campbell's show, and Sonny and Cher's, amongst many others, earning as much as $1,500 a week.