DONALD F. GLUT was born on February, 19, 1944 at the Old Camp Hospital and baptized in the chapel at Pecos Army Air Field, in Pecos, Texas, to Julia B. and 1st Lieutenant Frank C. Glut — both very creative people when it came to music, art and writing. Don grew up in Chicago, his family’s home town, after his Dad, a baker by trade, was sent overseas to fight the Nazis. Frank died heroically (see also) while co-piloting a B24 “Liberator Bomber” during a raiding mission over Germany, almost at War’s end, just a month before his son’s first birthday. Sadly, “Donnie” never knew his Father other than from home movies, family photographs and remembrances by those who knew the man. His Mother, who became very active in the Gold Star Wives of America, did not remarry. The group photograph below is Don’s personal favorite family picture, being the only photo showing all three of the together. Although Julia did not necessarily encourage all of her son’s many interests and pursuits, no matter how “crazy” some of them may have sounded at the time, she — thankfully, as best as Don recalls — never discouraged any of them.
Donald Glut has had a prolific and enjoyable career, mostly as a professional writer, and later also a director and executive producer; but his evolution into those professions was long and gradual. As a very young child, Don loved to hear stories and he frequently pestered his Mom to tell him some, many of which she made up — these early experiences no doubt contributing to his later career as a professional writer. Most of his childhood and all of his teenage years were spent living with his family in a house on Magnolia Avenue in Chicago’s Lakeview (now Wrigleyville) district.
As a little kid, before seeing the old Flash Gordon serials on TV, Don wanted to be a cowboy, like his heroes Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger and, especially, Hopalong Cassidy. He was a big fan of Superman — whose adventures he thrilled to in movies and serials, on the radio, in comic books and television. For a while, too, he idolized Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier. His Mom made a lot of costumes back in those days, which he wore for Halloween, in special kindergarten and grammar school and Cub Scouts events and just for play.
Two important notes: For as long as he can remember, Don was influenced by taking movies and playing music, both having a big effect on two of his later careers. His parents owned a 16mm camera and projector and took many home movies, so when very young Don became familiar with cameras, splicers, etc. And there was always music, not only on records and heard on the radio, but also at family get-togethers, when his two uncles (his Dad’s brothers), and eventually also Don, “jammed” together on piano, accordion and guitar. In later years, Don always seemed to be surrounded by music, fortunately having friends who also played various instruments, doing so at parties or, after school, in each other’s basements just for the enjoyment. When very young, Don had found that he, like his Dad and his brothers, had a natural talent for music. When in St. Andrew School kindergarten, Don began taking piano lessons (the first of many musical instruments he would learn to play), soon discovering that he, like his Father and uncles, could play numerous instruments “by ear.”
Don’s teen years were spent as a Chicago street kid, doing most of the things such kids do. During that period he had a few “real” jobs, some part-time, non lasting more than a month and a half. These included delivering newspapers, working as a stock boy in factories, even cleaning up at a butcher shop. Over these early years (and although his family probably would have preferred a more practical goal, e.g., a doctor) while at various schools, he had dreams at times of becoming an artist, paleontologist, make-up artist, special-effects artist, cartoonist, cartoon animator, actor, stuntman, perhaps mostly a rock star. At St. Andrew Grammar School, he played clarinet in the band. He loved to draw, paint and sculpt and did quite well in his art classes.
While in grammar school, Don had also taken extracurricular art classes, with lessons in pencil, pastel, charcoal, oils and clay.
At St. Benedict High School, Don also took classes in science (biology, physics and chemistry), mathematics, Latin, art and creative writing, among the usual subjects like history and social science, and participated in extracurricular activities including science, band and drama. While an eighth grader in the St. Andrew school band, he had won a first place medal for clarinet soloing (“by heart”) the difficult piece “Adagio Tarantella” in the First Annual Elementary School Music Music Festival. In the sixth and seventh grade, Don had already played clarinet during the summer with the St. Benedict High School Band, performing at the Chicagoland Music Festival held at Soldier Field and in the Riverview Amusement Park Mardi Gras parade.
As a high school student, and officially in the St. Benedict concert band, he started off playing clarinet, then switched to trombone and finally baritone horn. Besides playing in the school bands, Don constantly figured out was of getting out of school classes, one was way by giving talks about prehistoric life, another was by learning how to run a Bell and Howell 16mm movie projector.
Back then Don had no clear idea of what he would do after completing his education, but of one thing he was certain, he did not want to spend his adult life working in a “normal” nine-to-five job! He liked to draw, write and play music. While still in grade school, he (and his future careers) was profoundly influenced by movies he’d seen in local theaters, and he liked to perform. The play (photos, below) are from The Dear Departed, wherein during his high school senior year, Don played “Ben,” a role for which he won an alternate college scholarship at a Chicago high school Drama Festival held at the Stutebaker Theater (third photo, below, from The New World newspaper).
Somehow, Don got away two years in a row making movies — The Age of Reptiles ( biology, 1960) and Time Is Just a Place (physics, 1961) — with dinosaurs for the school’s annual science fairs (showing off his fossil collection with the biology film; photo below, left, from school yearbook Benoit) … and graduated from St. Benedict in 1962 (graduation yearbook photo, three rows below).
As a kid, Don had myriad interests, some of which were trains, puppets, ventriloquism, animals, cowboys, drawing, movies, cartoons, astronomy, guns, rocket ships, prehistoric life, insects, magic. music, reptiles and skeletons.
He collected things (bubble gum trading cards, comic books, monster-movie magazines, fossils and minerals, movies, postcards, prehistoric-animal books and figures, old-time radio programs, even, for a short while, stamps). And he loved to make things, lots of them out of anything and everything, including robots, inspired by those he saw in movies, on TV and in comic books — a total of seven full-size mechanical men, several of which actually worked. One robot, named RX6. made while in grammar school, he brought to class one day for a demonstration (eating up some class time). It turned up in his 1959 amateur movie Dinosaur Destroyer. His last (and biggest) robot, RX7, was a featured “character” in his 1961 amateur film Monster Rumble.
As to writing, Don got an early start. In the early 1950s through very early ’60s, Don wrote (and illustrated) a seemingly endless stream of “books” (about dinosaurs and other things he was interested in), short stories and comic books, hoping to become a professional one day, but really having no idea as to how to accomplish that dream. Don’s published-writing career unofficially began — on a non-professional level — writing articles about science fiction for his St. Benedict High School newspaper The Scope. Many writers would inspire Don over the years, but the three having the strongest influence were Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert Bloch, Albert Feldstein and Stan Lee. Don wrote and drew an endless stream of his own amateur comic books in the late 1950s, most of the featuring dinosaurs and Frankenstein’s Monster. When a local shoe repairman saw one of these comics, he paid Don $5 to make a small color “For Sale” sign for his store window. In a sense, at about the age of 12, that was Don’s first “professional” job doing something created. The sign remained in that window for years until fading away in the sun.
In the mid-1950s, Don got interested in creative make-up, largely influenced by what he was seeing in horror and science -fiction movies, but mostly inspired by and article he had read in Collier’s magazine about Bud Westmore’s make-up shop at Universal-International studios, but mostly by Man of a Thousand Faces, a movie based on the life of silent screen star Lon Chaney. Don read all he could find on the subject and spent many hours making up himself and his friends as various horror creatures and sinister characters.
About the same time that Don was experimenting with character make-ups, he became a big fan of Terry Bennett, who, as the character “Marvin,” horror-hosted Chicago’s local Shock Theatre TV show (1957-8). One day Don and some brave friends rang Terry’s doorbell! Don also loved the live “spook shows” (like Dr. Silkini’s Asylum of Horrors) that were playing in movie houses at the time. So it may not be surprising that Don put on his own such shows in his home’s basement, yes, in the persona of “Marvin.”
One of Don’s long-time passions has always been movies, particularly horror, science fiction, Western and fantasy films. From 1953 to 1959, indulging in that passion, he made 41 amateur 16mm movies in the horror, SF and fantasy genres. Subject matter for these short films included dinosaurs, classic creatures such as Frankenstein’s Monster and Dracula, teenage horrors, plus superheroes like Spy Smasher, Captain Marvel and Spider-Man. As there were no books or other sources available back that told “how to do it,” Don learned a lot about making films via trial and error, having to figure things out as he went along, “wearing many hats” and just doing it – as producer, writer, actor, director, pyro-technician, cinematographer, set dresser, prop builder, make-up artist, stunt coordinator, editor and doing the special effects. Thanks to the publicity garnered for these films in magazines like Famous Monsters of Filmland, Castle of Frankenstein, Fantastic Monsters of the Films and Monsters and Heroes, these little productions garnered a modest degree of “cult” status among genre fans, with Don’s name becoming rather well known. And during the late 1960s, some of these “home movies” were shown in theatres and on TV stations; one of them, Spider-Man, even has its own Wikipedia entry. (In 2006, all 41 of these films were made available on a two-disc DVD set entitled I Was a Teenage Movie Maker; Don also wrote a book about his amateur movies and released a soundtrack CD of the same title, see below).
Don’s earliest involvement with a professional movie was in the summer of 1960. riding for two days on a float through the streets of Chicago promoting William Castle’s new movie 13 Ghosts. On the first day, Don made himself up as Dr. Zorba, a hideous character from the film. Because the putty tended to melt as the day went, Don wore a rubber mask, which he brought from home, one the second day. One of our stops was the Republican National Convention when Richard M. Nixon ran against JFK for the Presidency of the United States. In the first photo below, that’s Don on the far left.
Don had other passions growing up, including drawing. sculpting, magic and ventriloquism, but mostly playing music. He also loved to tell stories (he wrote his first story, which his Mom saved, at the age of six). In fact, most of Don’s varied careers have, one way or another, involved writing. Basically, Don has always enjoyed telling stories, which he still does today, whether that be in print fiction, movies, comics, radio drama or whatever other format a tale can be told. He has also always loved sharing his knowledge of various subjects in nonfiction articles and books. Finding writing both enjoyable and relatively easy. In the early 1960s Don began writing articles for numerous “fanzines” (i.e., amateur magazines published by fans) devoted to movies, comic books and other popular arts. From 1962 to 1964 he published, edited and wrote for (with Chicago friend Dick Andersen) the fanzine Shazam!, which lasted for three issues plus an annual (and decades later edited and wrote the one-shot fanzine Dinosaur Tracks Newsletter). It was in these early amateur publications that Don learned to write. Occasionally even now something written by Don will appear or be reprinted in one of these fan publications.
Don’s first two college years were spent attending DePaul University in Chicago. There he became a member of Alpha Chi fraternity and got most of his requirements out of the way.
But before starting classes at DePaul, 18 year-old Don had another life-changing experience. In summer, 1962, Don was vacationing in Los Angeles, where he showed some of his amateur movies in the home of Forrest J Ackerman, editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. Present was motion picture producer/director Bert I. Gordon (who also did his own special effects), one of Don’s heroes, who was genuinely impressed by the home-made efforts. At that screening. Don learned that there that the University of Southern California offered courses (and BA degrees) in cinema. Don also met Bob Burns, then a film editor at CBS television, who took Don under his wing and taught him a lot about film-making. It was during that vacation that — after learning that one could go to a college where your homework was making films, and also thanks to the inspiration and friendship of Bob Burns, that Don determined that, after completing most or all of his credits requirements at the Chicago university, whether USC accepted him or not. he was moving to Southern California. (That’s Mr. B.I.G. in the first photo, below, between myself and FJA, and Bob Burns at work at his CBS editing desk.}
Moving to Los Angeles in 1964 to attend the University of Southern California, majoring of course in Cinema, Don professionally entered show business that same year — as an uncredited (i.e.. “extra”) POW in the 20th Century Fox Frank Sinatra movie Von Ryan’s Express. Briefly, having done action scenes in his amateur films and inspired by Republic serials, Don had hopes of becoming a stuntman, even undergoing training by professional stuntman Iohn Hagner. He began his professional writing career (sometimes using pen names) in 1966, while still attending USC, writing articles and conducting interviews for and (eventually editing, although without full credit) the genre magazine Modern Monsters. That led to writing myriad articles for such magazines as Monsters of the Movies, Scary Monsters and the iconic Famous Monsters of Filmland.
While at USC (and shortly thereafter), Don, then having aspirations of being an actor, played a high-school dropout in The Adolescent Years (1965) a tTV documentary directed by Sherwood Omens, and in a number of student short including The Pursuit (1964), directed by Randy Epstein and starring Randal Kleiser and Debbie Burr, First Western (1970), directed by Rick Mitchell, starring Vickie Riskin, and Glut (1967), written by John Milius, directed by Basil Poledouris and edited by Randal Kleiser, a “dramatic documentary” in which Don played a fictionalized version of himself.
During his teen and early adult years, Don’s main ambition was to become a rock star, his first public performance being at his grammar school’s 1957 Christmas show. In 1967, after graduating that year from the University of Southern California with a BA degree (for Cinema) in Letters, Arts and Sciences, Don — who had already been in numerous rock bands over the years as lead and rhythm guitarist, in Chicago and LA — worked as a musician (bass guitar), singer and songwriter in the Wicks and then the Penny Arkade, the latter produced by “Monkee” Michael Nesmith. Subsequent to the Penny Arkade, Don played bass guitar and keyboards in the short-lived Armadillo, which was also produced by Nesmith. The Penny Arkade also performed in the background of Heather MacRae’s recording of “Hands of the Clock.” AFter the demise of the Armadillo, Mike Nesmith produced/recorded the never-released instrumental “A Walk in the Park,” written by Don and arranged by Shorty Rogers, featuring, as he recalled, Mike on guitar, Penny Arkade/Armadillo drummer Bobby Donaho, plus Shorty on trumpet, a clarinet player and Don on electric organ. For his own songs, Don has a publishing company, DinoDon Music (BMI).
Around the same time, Don wrote numerous short audio plays (acting in them as well) for Jim Harmon’s Mini-Drama series. Shortly after his rock band period ended in 1968 (during which time he almost became a rock star), Don briefly pursued an acting career, winning a speaking role in a national television commercial for Miss Breck hairspray starring Dick Clark. That commercial ran a couple years on Clark’s American Bandstand television show, bringing in some nice residuals money.
(Over the decades, Don made has small parts and made cameo appearances in numerous independent motion pictures; and in recent years, he performed voice-over acting in a couple dozen “anime” films, dubbing Japanese dialogue into English.)
But most of Don’s professional career has been as a freelance writer (click Don’s Writing Credits for resume). His body of published works includes, to date, approximately 80 books, both fiction and nonfiction, none of them self-published. Best known of these works is his novelization of the movie The Empire Strikes Back, which was Number One Best Seller for almost two months, has sold millions of copies, has gone through multiple American and foreign editions and remains in print. Additionally, that book won a Galaxy Award by the S.A.S.A.S. (South Australian Screen Awards). Don’s nonfiction books The Dinosaur Dictionary (establishing that format) and Dinosaurs: The Encyclopedia (which had seven Supplement volumes) were included by the American Library Association in their lists of best reference books of the year. His tomes The Dracula Book and The Frankenstein Catalog both won Ann Radcliffe Awards from the Count Dracula Society; he received a Golden Scroll Award of Merit for his overall writings from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films (then part of the Count Dracula Society); for his writings about Japanese “Kaiju” creatures, primarily in his book Classic Movie Monsters, he won a Mangled Skyscraper Award by The Godzilla Society of North America; and for his overall career in writing, film-making, etc., the Monster Kid Hall of Fame Rondo Award. For his writings on the TV series Dark Shadows, in Monsters of the Movies and also some of his books, Don was awarded a Collinwood by Shadowcon. For his overall comic book writing, Don won an Inkpot Award given out at the San Diego Comic Book Convention. In 2020, although his careers are far from over, “Marquis Who’s Who” gave him the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award.
During the 1970s, most of Don’s income came from writing comic books scripts for such mainstream companies as Marvel, Gold Key, Warren, DC and Charlton, and in numerous genres (horror, sword and sorcery, super-hero, science fiction, humor, jungle, mystery, etc.) Don’s comics writing was influenced largely by book he’d read as a kid, particularly Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein, Joe Kubert’s Tor, the EC horror comics, and later those written at Marvel by Stan Lee. His earliest comic-scripting career was for the Warren Publishing Company, usually writing many stories for a single title. Among his earliest comics credits, he wrote all but two stories in the premiere and classic issue of Warren’s Vampirella magazine. The comic book work was fun as well as profitable, as Don, via his writing, got to direct the lives of some of his old heroes, like Tarzan and Captain America. Most of his comic book writing was for Gold Key and Marvel. For Gold Key he created three comic book series — The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor, Dagar the Invincible and Tragg
and the Sky Gods. Currently, Don is a regular script writer for (and Associate Editor of ) for Shudder and Vampiress Carmilla, horror comics magazines.
When Don’s comics career mostly (not completely) ended — thanks to companies going out of business, titles being canceled and new regimes in the editorial departments, he segued into writing scripts for television, mostly animation but also live action (Shazam!, Land of the Lost). Again Don found himself writing dialogue and action for characters he had known as a fan – e.g., Spider-Man, Superman, Tarzan, Captains Marvel and America, and many others. Don wrote multiple episodes for a number of cartoon series including Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Dino-Riders and Transformers.
Don never lost his love for writing and playing music. In 1990, Don and Pete Von Sholly founded Fossil Records, which produced a half dozen cassette albums including Dinosaur Tracks, More Dinosaur Dinosaur Tracks Again, featuring paleontology-related rock music written mostly by Don (Dinodon Music/BMI) and performed by Don and Pete (as the Iridium Band). Some of those songs can be heard in various movies, documentaries and on TV shows. In 2006, with David “Spider” Price (a former Armadillo member), he co-wrote and recorded soundtrack music for his I Was a Teenage Movie Maker DVD project. Today Don still puts on a guitar or steps up to a keyboard when the opportunity arises.
Most of Don’s professional life has been as a writer and, more recently, also as a motion picture executive producer and a director (although he has also directed documentaries and music videos). Additionally he has worked as a consultant on other film-makers’ projects, such as being the “Dinosaur Consultant” (Don’s first on-screen motion picture credit), working with special-effects creator John Carl Buechler at his Magical Media Industries shop, on producer Roger Corman’s movie Carnosaur (1993) —
— and as prehistoric-animals consultant with the Chiodo Brothers for their series of prehistoric-themed Cup Noodles commercials made for Japanese TV.
In 1994, Donald F. Glut became president of the independent company Frontline Entertainment, Inc., for which he wrote, directed and co-produced and/or executive produced a series of independent horror and fantasy movies beginning with Dinosaur Valley Girls, his first professional, feature-length movie. That film was soon followed by Before La Brea, a dramatic documentary commissioned by the George C. Page Museum of La Brea Discoveries in Los Angeles, screening daily in the museum’s “Dinosaur Theater” for a decade. One of his movies Blood Scarab had its World Premiere at the Music Box theatre in Chicago, where Don saw his first movies as a child growing up just a few blocks away from his home. And there were other theatrical screenings of Don’s films.
Don found directing relatively easy, having learned through writing comic books and TV-animation scripts (which are basically directed on paper, calling all the angles, cuts, camera moves, etc. rather than writing master scenes) how to think visually and stage and break-down scenes. Five more Frontline feature-length movies followed, also calling upon what he had learned at USC and from making amateur films. In 2000, Don was hired by Irena Belle Productions to freelance-direct The Vampire Hunters Club, a short film featuring an all-star cast of genre actors; over a decade later, Don directed a few short scenes in Cinema Epoch’s feature-length film Darling Nikki.
In 2014 Don started his own new and ongoing independent film company Pecosborn Productions , (logo designed by Steve Kaplan) specializing in “traditional” horror movies and “classic monsters,” the company’s first project being Dances With Werewolves, followed shortly thereafter with Tales of Frankenstein (winner of the 17th Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award for best independent movie of 2018).
Aside from his work in entertainment and publishing, Don is known internationally for his involvement with dinosaurs and other things prehistoric, a subject he has been seriously interested in since the age of six. He has lectured on dinosaurs at museums, universities and other major institutions in the USA and Europe.
Don often has often been a guest on radio and TV shows (including The Dating Game, which he appeared on twice and won once) —
— been interviewed on numerous podcasts…
— is a popular guest at science-fiction, horror, comic-book and other sorts of shows and conventions —
— and is a familiar “talking head” in video and TV documentaries (some on YouTube, including his first Dinosaur Movies, which he also co-hosted) talking about dinosaurs, monster movies and other topics. Don sometimes speaks at seminars for actors and film-makers. Also, he is a familiar voice on DVD and Blu-ray commentary tracks for his own and other people’s movies.
In 1987 he co-produced and hosted a paleontology-related cable-TV talk show called Dinosaur Tracks, which features guests from both the worlds of paleontology, paleoart and media and went three episodes.
During the summer of 1985 Don was hired by Disney Studios for a month-long, cross-country tour publicizing the movie Baby, Secret of the Lost Legend, doing lectures at museums and schools, radio, TV and print interviews, and making personal appearances.In 1999 and 2000, respectively, he became a volunteer at both The Field Museum (Chicago, Photography Department) and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (Paleontology Department and Dinosaur Institute).
Don has been a guest instructor, teaching about writing, film history and movie making, at such institutions as St. Benedict High School (Chicago), The Field Museum, Harold Washington College and Columbia College (both Chicago). And he has done myriad signings (and continues to do them) at book, comic book and video stores, conventions, museums, libraries and other venues, autographing items he has written.
Professional organizations to which Don belongs include the American Federation of Television and Recording Artists (AFTRA, now joined with the Screen Actors Guild), the Writers Guild of America, West (WGA), the Animation Guild (Local 839) and the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP).
Among Don’s many ongoing interests are paleontology, movies (especially the older horror films, Westerns, serials and film noir), science fiction and fantasy, music, comic books, reptiles, motorcycles, stage magic, the Three Stooges, Jackie Gleason, old-fashioned amusement parks (with real roller coasters), side shows and “holy relics”; and Don never outgrew his love for electric trains. Currently, keeping busy and always seeking new challengers, Don is learning ASL — American Sign Language.