Michael Damian became a household name with the 1989 chart-topper Rock On and 18-year stint on The Young And The Restless.
The entertainer, 46, recently celebrated his ten-year anniversary to wife Janeen, with whom he wrote the family flick Moondance Alexander, which is out on DVD now. It was inspired by his wife’s life growing up in Mississippi.
“It’s the story of a young, unpopular girl who finds this pinto pony who is a bit of a renegade and a down-and-out horse trainer,” he tells me. “These three come together to pursue their dreams of coming together to compete in elite horse competitions.”
Wait, his wife was unpopular?
“The misfit blossomed and she got a scholarship to New York School of Ballet, and from there moved out to L.A. Out of 2500 dancers, she was picked to be the next big Solid Gold dancer and went on to do music videos with Michael Jackson and Prince. It’s definitely an encouraging story to pursue your dreams. You can be the unpopular person, and in the end, have success.”
What attracted him to her?
“Her smile, and her beauty and energy,” he tells me. “She was shy when I first met her. She’s staring at me right now. She’s leaving the room now because I kicked her out. Actually, I met her at a telethon in Utah for the Children’s Miracle Network. She was there with her dad, which I didn’t know was her dad at the time, James Best, who is Rosco from The Dukes of Hazzard. I thought it was her boyfriend! Later, I found out from my brother that it was her dad. Yeah, I was like ‘God, she’s so pretty and sweet’ and I got this really good feeling when I met her. I was actually in shock when she said she was a Solid Gold dancer because I thought she’d be like ‘hey I’m really cool, I’m on TV all the time,’ but she was very shy and soft-spoken.”
He credits a good sense of humor, love, respect and kindness to their happy marriage. “You have to grow and work at it. You can’t take it for granted. You have to put in time and effort, and have patience.”
When they’re not working, Michael and Janeen like to watch The Food Network and try out recipes from Bobby Flay and Jamie Oliver. They enjoy dining on the terrace at their L.A. home.
“We try out the recipe of the day, and if it works, great. But usually she improvs. I’m the sous chef in the kitchen. I’m not really in charge. She says ‘here chop this,’ and I chop it. She’s a whiz in the kitchen. She loves cooking. She makes chicken provencal, amazing Italian dishes, she makes the best pesto ever – she learned from my aunt in Italy, she makes spaghetti pomodoro, spaghetti with clams.”
After dinner, Michael and Janeen tool around town in their vast array of sports cars including “a couple Ferraris, Porsches and Mercedes Benzes.”
Although they don’t have children now, Michael doesn’t rule it out in the future. (He has ten brothers and sisters!)
“We’re always open. Right now the last few years have been so difficult. We’ve been working so hard on getting our film company together that we wouldn’t have had time to do it, and we want to do it right. We just sort of have to see what unfolds. God-willing, we’ll see how it happens and if it does.”
What advice would Michael, who also appeared on Broadway in Joseph and The Technicolor Dreamcoat, give young stars?
“Get as much training in as possible, work hard, stay focused, try not to get discouraged,” he says. “Be kind to people as you work hard and try to climb that ladder, because you’ll run into them in all different phases of your career. If you really believe in what you’re doing, you’ve got to continue and persevere no matter how difficult the obstacles may seem at the time.”
He wants everyone to know his hair color is natural.
“I don’t dye my hair,” he tells me. “I don’t know what it is. I’ve been very fortunate. The gray won’t come in. I shouldn’t say that. I’m gonna knock on wood. I’m knocking on wood right now. Somebody said that to me, and I was like ‘no I don’t dye my hair!’ But who knows, it could come in this afternoon.”
Michael never tires of performing his megahit Rock On, and will include it on his forthcoming album, which is a compilation of old and new music.
“It’s one of those songs that I’m really proud of and thrilled that it was my #1 record. No, I even tag letters and e-mails a lot of times, people will write ‘Rock On MD’ or ‘Rock On Michael’ and I’ll write back. It’s cool. It’s become a slogan. You’ve seen it in movies where people say ‘rock on.’ I’m honored. I’m thrilled about that.”
He calls his gold records his most prized possession from his Rock On heyday.
“It was a childhood dream to have those big plaques with the big gold records and stuff. The record company presented them to me, and it’s really a thrill and an honor. It’s something I’ll cherish forever. They’re over at the recording studio. I don’t have any at the house, believe it or not. I have them at the recording studio, Studio City Sound, my brother owns it, and they’re up over there. We work there a lot. I had a Rock On jacket from the video, but I donated it to the Hard Rock Café in San Diego. It’s in a glass case.”
Michael fondly remembers “having a #1 record, being on a #1 TV show, and then having a #1 box office hit with Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. That was pretty exciting to have all that happening. I was very fortunate.”
For now, he’s touring and working on another screenplay called Christmas At Castlebury Hall.