WHO IS LOUIS DI BIANCO?
The next question is, “Why should you listen to him?” Good questions. I won’t answer them with an academic resume. I’ll tell you my story.
I’m a guy from Bronx, N.Y. The Bronx is a huge story by itself. I’m glad I grew up there because it gave me material for a lifetime of great stories. And, it gave me everything I needed to launch my successful acting career. More on that later. Let’s not get ahead of the story.
The Bronx I grew up in was a colorful place. And tough. More concrete and steel than lakes and rolling green hills. That’s probably why I’m not a cottage country guy. Big city runs through my veins.
My Bronx was ruled by teenage gangs. The Young Sinners, The Red Devils, The Italian Berettas, and The Fordham Baldies. There were more. But these were the names that always made the news. The Baldies gang was like a finishing school for organized crime.
What do gangs have to do with storytelling? Everything. As a kid, I was in awe of these bad guys. They didn’t ask for what they wanted. They took it. To a kid, they were cool.
I was also afraid of them. The smart voice in my head told me that they were losers. Yeah, they were tough guys who controlled the streets. But most of them were on a dead-end street. If they didn’t get out of the gang, they’d die on that street. I know at least two who did.
So here’s the shot. I wanted to look like them, walk and talk like them, but I didn’t want to be them. In my heart, I wasn’t like them at all. I loved school and the life of imagination. That’s where storytelling kicks in.
I got good at expressing myself with words. So good that I could talk myself out of fights and other dangerous encounters with the street guys. And get this. The neighborhood toughs were impressed by my brain and silver tongue.
They liked me and respected me. They let me hangout with them when I wanted to without joining their crews. I got to live in two worlds – the dangerous street world and the world of study, creativity, and growth.
I became a storyteller to survive.
I graduated high school with honors. But I definitely wanted a break from school.
The next few years were an adventurous search for something that would light my fire and create an income. Three jobs stand out as landmarks of this journey.
The first one was a job as a door-to-door salesman in Brooklyn. We sold magazine subscriptions. I sucked at it because I took everything personally. A no was crushing – not recommended for a career in sales. Still need work on that, but I’ve come a long way since then. Today, I love sales.
Looking back, I’m so glad I knocked on doors for almost two years. I learned a lot about people’s hopes, dreams, fears, and craziness. Great material for a storyteller.
My next job was also in sales. I sold Singer sewing machines. Again, not a great income, but an awesome behind-the-scenes look at human beings and their drama.
I’m most grateful for the third job because I hated it the most. That’s a good thing. It drove me out of the job market to a new phase of growth and discovery.
I worked in a bank. Not with the public. I ran a Recordak check counting machine. I dropped stacks of paid checks into the machine, and it counted them. I did this from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. Worse than water torture for a guy with an active imagination.
A few months of this mind numbing work, and I felt that my brain would explode. I took so many breaks that they called me in for a sit-down. They gave me two great choices. Quit or get fired. Thank you! I quit. Liberation!
CLIMBING THE LADDER
I enrolled at City College of New York to get a degree and climb the elusive ladder of success. I didn’t know it, but this move was bringing me close to one of the most important crossroads of my life.
City College has two campuses. I was in the downtown campus, the Bernard Baruch School of Business and Public Administration. My left brain had drawn me there.
I studied accounting, marketing, and public speaking for two years. I excelled at public speaking.
As part of the program, I had to take a number of required courses to balance my education. I fell in love with literature and creative writing. At the end of year two, I had arrived at the crossroad. I had to choose my major.
I chose English literature and moved to the uptown liberal arts campus. This was rich fertile soil for the growth of a storyteller.
The chrysalis is the third stage of a caterpillar’s journey to butterfly. I had entered my chrysalis.
These were memorable exciting years. This is when I discovered my passion for dramatic literature. I devoured plays from all periods in history – the ancients, medieval, the Renaissance, Shakespeare, and modern drama.
The more I read plays, the more I wanted to perform them. The actor in me was born here with much fear and inner struggle. He survived and went on to thrive.
Still in university, I began my professional acting studies at night at the Herbert Berghof Studio in N.Y.C.
TEACHER AS STORYTELLER
One of my most brilliant profs at CCNY believed that great teaching is a dramatic performance. He proved it by the way he taught. I embraced his belief, and it enriched all my communication.
I graduated with my B.A. in English literature and immediately became a teacher. I taught 7th grade English for one semester and quit. I hated the inner city school where I was more of a cop and disciplinarian than a teacher.
My next teaching gig had a profound influence on my growth. And, it helped transform the lives of several students. I’m still in touch with two of them today.
This was an awesome teaching opportunity. I worked in a privately funded educational program for young adults from 18 to 27 years of age. They were high school dropouts, including a few ex-convicts, who had decided to turn their lives around. They tested all their teachers. If you didn’t make the grade, you were roadkill.
My time in the classroom with these smart demanding people was intense and richly alive. We constantly challenged each others’ world-views. Our values and emotions were on the line, and we all emerged from the experience as bigger people.
Man, did I learn a lot about the power of storytelling to transform lives!
I used jazz music in the classroom to arouse their emotions and trigger their creativity. It worked. They began to write and tell their authentic personal stories. One man went on to publish an anthology of Black literature. Another, who had served time in prison, entered a prestigious program at a university in New England. He graduated with a degree in history summa cum laude. He later became a teacher.
I continued to develop my talent as a professional actor at this time.
I listened to an inner voice that whispered, “Learn more about literature, and explore new places to learn.” I applied to three university masters programs. One of them was McGill University in Montreal.
McGill had a great reputation, and I had never been to Montreal. The acceptance letter came, and I had to make a decision.
I booked a flight to Montreal and a room in a dorm at McGill. I only slept in the room for two nights. Someone I met, offered me a spare room in her large apartment in a funky neighborhood known as The Plateau. I jumped at it.
I’ve grown to believe that there are no accidents. Was it chance that led me to this room in a stranger’s apartment? Was it chance that the house was a twenty minute walk from McGill? Was it chance that the tenants in the apartment next door were leaving Montreal in September for a freewheeling trip to Vancouver without material possessions? What about the fact that they were willing to sell me all their furniture and give me their apartment intact for less than $100?
I was facing an offer that I couldn’t refuse. I said goodbye to everything I knew in New York and moved into the unknown in Montreal. Was I scared? You bet! And excitedly alive!
My Montreal adventure is a standalone story. I’ll share the highlights. It was a twelve year journey of explosive personal and professional growth.
I got my M.A. in English literature and graduated with honors. I successfully auditioned for an acting job in a new theatre company. I used to pinch myself when I walked the wooded trail to rehearsals that summer. I was actually getting paid to act.
That gig led to others. The most challenging, exciting, and creative was my five years as an ensemble member of a theater company at Canada’s National Arts Centre. We performed award winning and groundbreaking shows. We were applauded by and met Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau. We toured our productions across Canada, to France, Belgium, and Scotland.
That experience took my understanding and mastery of storytelling to a whole other level.
During this period, I also landed two great teaching positions. One of them was at Montreal’s Concordia University where I taught dramatic literature and acting. I also discovered my strong talent for directing plays.
Stage To Film
I got my first shot at film acting in Montreal. The stage and the camera are two very different creatures. I found out the hard way. My first film performance, if you could call it that, was so bad that I never mention the name of the movie.
It’s all good. One of my mentors teaches this brilliant insight. Every master was once a disaster. I proudly embrace this.
MAJOR LEAGUE GAME
I was hooked on film acting even though I fell on my face the first time. In eastern Canada, the English film acting scene was in Toronto.
I applied for a position as an acting teacher at Toronto’s York University, got it, and moved.
I taught acting, directing, and script analysis at York for five years, and I directed two strong productions. Plus, I was able to step into the big league of film acting.
I had the honor to work with Norman Jewison in his Academy Award winning film, “Moonstruck.” I acted opposite a childhood idol, Tony Curtis, in the TV movie about Chicago mobster, Sam Giancanna, “Mafia Princess.”
The work hasn’t stopped. I’ve shared the screen with many stars, got nominated for a comedy award in a feature film with Tim Allen, “Who Is Cletis Tout?” And, I enjoyed three years as a regular on an award winning national Canadian sitcom, “Rent-A-Goalie.”
BACK TO DA’ BRONX
A lot of U.S. productions were shooting in Toronto. A lot of their scripts were crime stories. Actors who could authentically portray mob guys were in demand. My youth on the Bronx streets was my rite of passage onto the big screen. I built an entire acting career playing wiseguys.
Here’s the beauty of it. Remember, I told you that I admired and feared the street toughs I knew as a teen. Perfect!
Here was my chance to be one of them without being one of them. It was also a way of confronting the fear. By stepping into the criminal role, I was saying, “I’m at home in your skin. You don’t scare me.” This technique is so effective that I teach it to business people who learn storytelling from me. They use it to access and own a new sense of confidence and power. That translates into more sales and profit for them.
STORYTELLING – DRAMA & YOU
As I made my acting bones, I began the transition from disaster to master. I started teaching professional on-camera acting classes in Toronto and L.A. They were a huge hit. Many of my students stepped into their full talent and scored major roles and TV series.
I became friends with many of my students. One of them was a businessman who opened another door for me. He said that the skills I was teaching actors would help business people become better speakers and presenters. That was more than fifteen years ago.
Since then, I’ve taught workshops for salespeople and executives where they gained confidence, presence, and charisma. I’ve also coached many of them privately.
THE NEXT CHAPTER
Ive created Change Your Story, Change Your Life for you. Come here to learn how to tap into and harness your storytelling power to enrich your personal and business growth.
Listen to the podcasts. The people I interview offer golden insights that help you break through limiting beliefs. You will learn to truly step into your personal and financial power. You will be able to reinvent yourself on command.
I promise to offer you the most comprehensive, practical, and powerful training in the art and craft of storytelling. You’ll get better at some things that you already kind-of understand. You will learn new things that will blow your mind. You’ll become a bigger and better you. And, you will make more money.
TO BE CONTINUED…