DONALD F. [Frank] 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 Eleanor Blasovits 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 (to see my Mom interviewed on TV about my Dad, with 16mm home movie footage of all three of us, click here; 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. While his Dad is stationed at the Army Air Force Base in El Paso, TX, Don gets his first award, winning the American Legion’s “Kiddie Karnival” baby contest.
Sadly, “Donnie” never knew his Father other than from home movies, family photographs and remembrances by those who knew the man. His Mother, a typist, who became very active in the Gold Star Wives of America and even put out a GSW newsletter, also became an active volunteer at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital, did not remarry. The group photograph below is Don’s personal all-time favorite family picture, being the only photo showing all three of them 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. Although money was tight, she gladly made sure that Don got private lessons in music and art.
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, and also to draw pictures, mostly of trains and Disney characters — these wonderful 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, Don had many heroes and role models. 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. And he loved listening to cowboy music, mostly tunes sung by Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Ernest Tubb and Eddie Arnold. When just four years old, in a novelty shop recording booth, Don sang four of his favorite songs — “Home on the Range,” “You’re Not My Darling Anymore,” “Hair of Gold” and “Love Somebody” — a record he still has. 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, also Medieval knights and dragons. 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.
Don learned a lot of things at home from his Mom. So, when in 1949 he officially started school in St. Andrew School Kindergarten, he already knew what the other students were being taught — like numbers and the ABCs. Fortunately, Don had a wonderful kindergarten teacher Sister Paul Marie, who loved her children and took a personal interest in Don and his abilities, especially when illness kept him in a hospital for a number of weeks. She was inspirational to all of us kids.
In the latter 1940s, Don had already been prepping for his various later professional careers in the entertainment world. At age two he appeared in a long-forgotten show in which, his Mom remembered, he crawled under the curtain of a circus. He took elocution lessons from a private teacher, was enrolled in a “school” that taught acrobatics, drama, singing, etc., and in 1950 belonged to Mrs. Maloney’s” neighborhood “school”where she, in her basement, taught us kids basically the same things and also took us on outings to places like Lincoln Park Zoo.
One of Don’s earliest exposures to “show biz” and performing was in kindergarten playing Old King Cole in a “Mother Goose Party” staged in the original auditorium above the chapel of St. Andrew parish in Chicago. That’s Don holding court, first row center, wearing a costume made by his Mom.
At St. Andrew grade school, Don’s favorite instructor was probably charismatic physical education teacher Al Prislinger (sometimes spelled Preslinger). A former Golden Gloves fighter (1948-49), Prislinger was deeply concerned with fitness in youth. The daily workout routines Don practices to this day are basically the calisthenics exercises learned from this wonderful man back in St. Andrew Grade School gym class.
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, glue splicers, eventually tripods, lens filters and light meters, 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 Charles and William (his Dad’s brothers), and eventually also Don, “jammed” together on piano, accordion and guitar. His Uncle Charles Glut (photo, below left) taught Don some basic chords on an acoustic guitar and also how to play boogie woogie on the piano.
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. While attending St. Andrew School kindergarten, Don began taking piano lessons (the first of many musical instruments he would learn to play), first with a private teacher, then at Hoffman Studios, early on discovering that he, like his Father and two uncles, could play numerous instruments “by ear.” This discovery occurred upon seeing the 1949 movie The Third Man at the Music Box Theatre, a few blocks away from Don’s house. Throughout the film, Don heard and loved Anton Karas’ music, played on a zither, and it haunted him all during the walk back home. Upon returning home, Don walked up to the piano … and played “The Third Man Theme.” The experience was an “epiphany.” For the lifelong joy Don would subsequently have as a musician, The Third Man remains to date perhaps the most influential and important movie he would ever see. From an early age and to this date, his three favorite pieces of music are “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” “Rhapsody in Blue” and “You Got It.” Over the years Don would have many influences on his music — deciding upon what instruments to learn to play and how to play them, also on the types of songs he would write.
Never much fond of school, Don kept trying to figure out ways of getting out of classes, which he did by ways including playing in school bands, giving “show & tell” presentations, becoming an altar boy and learning how to operate a Bell and Howell 16mm sound movie projector.
As a young kid, Don was afraid of things like monster movies, ghosts, amusement park dark rides and darkness in general — until, in 1954, taunted by his braver little friends, he reluctantly went to see the new movie Creature from the Black Lagoon. To his surprise and delight, he loved the movie and the Creature! And he stopped being afraid. But the Creature got him into trouble. Before the movie opened in Chicago, Life magazine ran a full-page black and white photo of the Creature stalking out of the water carrying actress Julia Adams. Always the enterprising kid, Don clipped out that page, made it into a wanted poster and tacked it on a tree in his front lawn. His Mom got a lot of complaints from mothers of playmates who were scared, believing the Creature was going to emerge from nearby Lake Michigan and kill them all! When Don later read an article in a 1954 issue of Colliers magazine about how the character and other movie monsters were created, he officially became a “Monster Kid” and started getting notions of becoming a make-up artist when he grew up.
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 and/or stop-motion animator, actor, stuntman, but perhaps mostly a rock ‘n’ roll star. At St. Andrew Grammar School, starting in 1954, he played clarinet in the school band (below, left), under the directorship of Ralph Meltzer (1958 photo belo. In 1957, he and his clarinet participated in St. Gall School’s (below, middle) All-Star Band, comprising student musicians from various local parochial schools, conducted by Otto Nagle. This band performed a concert on April 8 of that year at Chicago’s Civic Opera House, then repeated it on May 10 in a hall in in St. Louis, Missouri. He also briefly sat in playing clarinet with the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) band which Meltzer conducted at St. Mel’s H. In March of 1958, he won first place for clarinet soloing (by heart) the difficult piece “Adagio Tarantella” in the First Annual Elementary School Music Festival competition, performed for an audience later on March 30 at the Civic Opera House.
In 1954, Don spent half his summer vacation attending former Chicago Bears running back Max Burnell’s day camp. Besides the sports, games and other activities, Don had two scary mishaps. One, in attempting to gain extra bonus points for his camp team — and not knowing how to swim — with a small inner tube around his waste, jumped off the diving board at the deep end of the swimming pool … and plunged straight to the bottom. Fortunately, his team’s captain — the adult to Don’s right in the photo below — dove in and brought him back to the surface. Memory of that terrifying experience is one reason Don still can’t swim! The other incident was when the camp went to a stables for horseback riding. Although Don had ridden ponies with Western saddles at “kiddie” amusement park, an adult horse with an English saddle was something new. Don was assigned to a horse called Apache (he’ll never forget that name). Instructed not to hold onto the saddle, obedient Don tumbled off and was promptly trampled by one of the horse’s hooves. To avoid ridicule, Don climbed back onto the horse — and was rewarded with an honorable mention ribbon, which he still has.
The St. Andrew school graduation photo: that’s Don in the top row, 11th from the left.
While attending grammar school, Don, who loved to draw, paint and sculpt, did quite well in his art classes. Also during those years, Don took extracurricular art classes, with lessons in pencil, pastel, charcoal, oils and clay. As a teenager, Don was a typical “street kid,” doing what was normal for such teens back in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
At St. Benedict High School, Don 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. He kept up his old tradition of getting out of classes. Earlier, in the sixth and seventh grade at St. Andrew, Don had 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 annual Mardi Gras parade. The band’s director was Edward J. Stark, from whom Don learned more about music and playing different instruments.
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.
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). Don learned a lot about acting from the school’s drama teacher Mrs. Laurette Kittler, who directed the play.
Somehow, Don got away two years in a row making movies — The Age of Reptiles ( biology, 1960, with an accompanying fossil exhibit) and Time Is Just a Place (physics, 1961; five photos below) — with dinosaurs for the school’s annual science fairs (showing off his fossil collection with the biology film). For The Age of Reptiles, Don phoned zoologist Marlin Perkins, then Director at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, who gave him permission to visit the zoo’s Reptile House and shoot footage, including from behind the displays (so as not to get reflections from the glass), of various lizards and snakes. Other live reptiles and amphibians in the movie were pets that Don purchased from Bernie Hoffman’s Animal Kingdom store (Hoffman often appeared with his supplied critters on the Super Circus TV show.) As the science fair was also a competition, The Age of Reptiles won a 2nd-place blue ribbon. Don’s biology teacher Sister M. Illuminata and physics teacher Miss Lois Zei were strong influences on his interest in science.
In senior year (1962), Don went to the school prom (left photo, below) and later that year graduated from St. Benedict (graduation yearbook photo, below). Years later, Don returned to St. Benedict — in the early 1980s, to speak about writing as a profession to the senior English classes, and in the mid-1990s, giving the (somewhat controversial) commencement speech to the senior graduating class.
As a young kid, Don had myriad interests, some of which were trains, puppets, ventriloquism (as a kid he once performed with a “Humphrey Higsby” dummy at a Gold Star Wives Christmas party), animals, cowboys, drawing, sculpting, movies, cartoons, astronomy, guns, rocket ships, performing, prehistoric life, voice impressions, insects, magic, music, skeletons and just all-around making things.
As a child, Don was interested in science, especially natural history and astronomy. Luckily his Uncle Charles and Charles’ brother William, plus Don’s older cousin Edward Schneider (“Uncle Eddie”), knew quite a bit about things relating to various branches of science.
Charles was especially knowledgeable about reptiles and raising tropical fish and, with his wife Marge, put that knowledge to good use with their Glut’s Pet Shop. Don learned a lot from these relatives, also from paleontologists he got to know in the Geology Department at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History. But he learned the most about science from “Uncle” Gordon Thomas, a research scientist who had started dating Don’s cousin Lucille, and who seemed to know everything. He seemed to know everything and had an answer for every question with which I bedeviled him. When Gordon and Lucile married, we had an actual scientist in the family! As “Uncle” Gordon wrote in his memoirs about his wedding reception: “I did not see much of Lucille at the reception because her cousin Julia’s son, Donald, aged eleven, wanted to discuss paleobiological issues with me! … I am very honored that Donald included me in the dedication of one of his books.”
Don also 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 even shorter time while at day camp, bottle caps). 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, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Feldstein and Stan Lee. Don learned a lot about writing from Jim Harmon and Ron Haydock, professional writers Don met along with Bob Burns (more on Bob later) at CBS during his 1963 summer vacation to Los Angeles, and became friends with after moving to that city in 1964, who encouraged him to pursue his writing career (photo below of Bob, Jim and Ron). Ron once gave him one of the best pieced of advice for succeeding as a writer. Ron said, “Don, you gotta hustle.” He had numerous things in common with Don (and on Don’s future careers), having emigrated from Chicago, having had a career as a rock ‘n’ roll singer and musician with a band called the Boppers, a writer of novels and editor of monster movie magazines, and a writer and actor for movies.
Don wrote and drew an endless stream of his own amateur comic books in the late 1950s, most of the featuring dinosaurs, King Kong 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 makeup, largely influenced by what he was seeing in horror and science -fiction movies, largely inspired by the article he had read in Collier’s magazine about Bud Westmore’s makeup 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. While still in grammar school he assisted a make-up artist on a local parish production of the popular play Cheaper by the Dozen. In grammar and high schools he went to annual costume dances as either the Wolf Man or Teenage Werewolf. In 1963, he found it was much easier, less time-consuming, more comfortable and much neater to simply slip on one of the new Don Post Wolf Man masks than to undergo a makeup to “transform” into that character (and also to remove it)
About the same time that Don was experimenting with character makeups, 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 Jack Baker’s 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 as a “Ghostmaster” in the persona of “Marvin,” the program including spooky magic tricks and live horror acts, a blackout with monsters invading the audience, ending with movies (Castle Films plus his own homemade monster films).
One of Don’s long-time passions has always been movies, particularly horror, science fiction, Western and fantasy films. From 1953 to 1969, 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. Don was just beginning to learn about theatrical makeup, so most of his early Frankenstein movies utilized a rubber Don Post Frankenstein Monster mask that he purchased at one of his favorite Downtown haunts, the Treasure Chest novelty and magic shop. The mask also came in handy on Halloween and when putting on his basement spook shows.
In the summer of 1961, Don worked one of the few “real jobs” he ever had — as a stock boy at American Paper Specialty, located near his home. He only worked there for a month and a half, just long enough to pay for a Bell & Howell 16mm 70-DR movie camera a photo shop was holding for him. With that 3-lensed camera Don could do things he could not before, like back-winding, single framing and shooting with a telescopic lens. Don loved that camera and filmed Monster Rumble and most of his subsequent amateur movies with it — until, during filming of Atom-Man vs. Martian Invaders, his second to last in 1967, it, along with props from the film, was stolen. The insurance company replaced it with a Bolex, which was arguably a better camera, but Don really missed the Bell & Howell.
Thanks to the publicity garnered for these films in magazines like Famous Monsters of Filmland, the original Castle of Frankenstein, Fantastic Monsters of the Films and Larry Ivie’s 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 theaters and on local TV stations, were available for rent or purchase in various catalogs, even shown on a traveling movie bus.
All 41 of Don’s old amateur films are available on a two-disc DVD set entitled I Was a Teenage Movie Maker, including a feature-length documentary on the making of them, plus lots of bonus features including behind the scenes footage; Don also wrote a book about his amateur movies and released a soundtrack CD of the same title, the latter written and recorded with David “Spider” Price (a former member with Don in the Armadillo rock band).
Somehow, during the 1960s when on summer vacation in and then relocating to California, Don managed to get some well-known professional actors to play roles in his amateur movies, including Glenn Strange, Roy Barcroft, Kenne Duncan, Bob Burns and Fred Stuthman, and future A-list movie director Randal Kleiser.
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 (above, right), which he brought from home, on the second day.
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 (uptown campus). There, in his freshman year (1962), he was required to take ROTC. Also that year, he became a member of Alpha Chi fraternity and got most of his requirements out of the way. In 1964 he made a short 8mm film This is Alpha Chi (presumed lost) intended to interest new potential members. He managed to make his classes go easier, especially when it came to writing term pepers and doing in-class presentations, by choosing subjects he enjoyed and already knew much about — without, of course, letting his professors know that was the case — including science fiction movies, Frankenstein and comic books, usually resulting in good grades.
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 (and Don’s future literary agent). 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 had a cinema department offered courses (and BA degrees) in making movie!
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 CBS with the silver-headed cane prop from The Wolf Man.}
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. A group of us cinema students, who went on to professional careers in the industry (including John Milius and Randal Kleiser, Don’s dormitory roommate for his year), came to be known as “The Dirty Dozen.” Don 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 (for months he also wrote, uncredited, the “Graveyard Examinar” section).
Don also played parts in or made props for some of his friends’ amateur movies.
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 TV 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 (actress Fay Wray’s daughter), and Glut (1967), written by John Milius, directed by Basil Poledouris and edited by assistant director Kleiser, a “dramatic documentary” in which Don played a fictionalized version of himself. A 16mm print of this film is preserved in USC’s Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive.
Also while at USC, Don had aspirations to be a movie stuntman, influenced largely by old movie serials. He already had some non-professional experience in action scenes in some of his amateur films, mostly those featuring super-heroes. Don trained for a short time with professional stuntman John “Johnny” Hagner, a stuntman, artist (self-portrait, below right), actor and founder of the Hollywood Stuntmen’s Hall of Fame in Moab, Utah. John had Don performing all kinds of stunts in preparation for a live wild west show in North Dakota. But Don never learned fast enough in time for the show, so Don focused his dreams on other, more practical pursuits. About that time Don established the International Tom Steele Fan Club for his favorite movie stuntman. That’s John’s self-portrait (below, left). During that time, Don also founded and started a fan club for legendary stuntman Tom Steele. Photo of Don with Tom Steele on location shooting the movie Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.
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 (at which time he joined the American Federation of Musicians, Local 47), and then the Penny Arkade (when he joined AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists),. the latter group 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 actress 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 jazz great Shorty Rogers, featuring, as he recalled, Mike on guitar, Penny Arkade/Armadillo drummer Bobby Donaho, plus Shorty on trumpet, a clarinet player of Mike and Don on electric organ. For his own songs, Don has a publishing company, DinoDon Music (BMI). Over the years, some of the songs Don wrote, performed and recorded have been featured in movies, TV Shows and video documentaries.
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 (CLICK to view) 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.
Don has always loved magic and started doing his own tricks about the age of six or seven, when his Mom bought him a Gilbert magic set. As a kid, Don learned some magic tricks from his Uncle Bill Glut. During the 1970s his interest got more serious, after having visited Hollywood’s Magic Castle on numerous occasions and also attending its annual It’s Magic shows. Don was particularly intrigued by close-up card magic. Thanks to Doubleday, one of his publishers, Don was able to score a complimentary copy of The Complete Illustrated Book of Card Magic by Walter B. Gibson, which he studied and put into practice. At one of the It’s Magic shows Don saw and was immensely impressed by a performance bymentalist Glenn Falkenstein. Glenn and Don subsequently became friends and, one evening at the Magic Castle, the former revealed some basic principles used in mental magic. Glenn also recommended the book Annemann’s Practical Mental Effects, which Don purchased from a magic shop on Hollywood Boulevard. Don got quite good with card manipulation and mental tricks, some of which actually convince some people that he really had psychic powers despite his protestations that he did not. But after a while Don only got “so good” in both branches of magic, and virtually everyone he knew eventually saw his “act.” And so, magic was put aside in favor of other creative pursuits.
Don’s love for things prehistoric has never gone away. In 1984 he joined the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP) and began attending their annual meetings, and subsequently attended various symposia relating to dinosaurs. Don learned a lot at these events and got to know personally and befriend many of the most preeminent scientists in the field.
In more recent years, Don performed voice-over acting in a couple dozen “anime” films, dubbing Japanese dialogue into English, English language versions written and directed by William Winckler.
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., and the Monster Kid Hall of Fame Rondo Award from the Classic Horror Film Board. 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 (back row, center, in group photo, below; recognize the other winners?). 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 SkyGods.
At Marvel, Don created the character Lady Lotus and the 1950s Avengers, with Roy Thomas the Super-Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and, in 1978, with artist Rick Hoberg, came up with the Jane Foster who inspired the female Thor character introduced decades later in Marvel Comics, which subsequently led to a major motion picture (and yes, we were thanked in the end credits) about the female Mighty Thor. Currently, Don is a regular script writer for (and Associate Editor of ) 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 Tracks and 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.
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. How this came about is a long story with a combination of many sources of inspiration. These sources, dating back to the early 1950s, include things his Mom told him, displays he marveled at in museums, what he read and pictures he saw in encyclopedias and science books, dinosaurs that appeared in comic books and magazine articles and on postcards, as miniature figures, in movies he saw featuring prehistoric animals, and TV space-hero shows with dinosaurs in their plots. For the full, detailed story about how Don got interested and also began collecting “prehistoric” items, told on another of Don’s websites, CLICK HERE. and also HERE. The images below illustrate just a modicum of those sources.
During the 1970s, Don gave slide talks on prehistoric life at various Southern California public libraries. Subsequently, he lectured on dinosaurs accompanied with motion-picture clips at museums, libraries, universities, elementary schools and other 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, Garfield Goose and Friends, Graveyard Theatre, The Cromie Circle and many more) —
— been interviewed on myriad podcasts and in publications …
— 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, movie and TV documentaries (some on YouTube, including his first Dinosaur Movies, which he also co-hosted) talking about dinosaurs, monster movies and other topics. For decades Don Don has spoken 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; been interviewed on countless radio and TV programs, in books, newspapers and magazines, and on line and on panels (click Don’s Links, above, to see and hear some of these interviews); and has made cameo appearances in a number of motion pictures (as in Schlock, Bikini Drive-In and The Boneyard Collection below).
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 (many of these posted on YouTube). 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, 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).
Don is also West Coast Representative of Las Vegas Talent Agency.
On December 30, 1972, Don married Linda Gray, an artist, in St. Andrew Church in Chicago, the same church his parents were married in back in 1942. The marriage lasted a little more than 10 years.
Aside from giving talks over the years in various schools about prehistoric animals, Don has been a guest teacher instructing about creative writing in schools including his Alma Mater St. Benedict High School (Chicago), acting at Los Angeles City College and film-making in institutions like Columbia College and Harold Washington College (both Chicago).
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 ason, 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.
Yes, Don still has the prized vintage 1962 original Gibson SG electric guitar he played in his early rock bands. Today Don still puts on a guitar or steps up to a keyboard and microphone when the opportunity arises.
And don’t worry, Don Glut still has a long way to go — and a lot more work to do — before that last date is added in
St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery in River Grove, a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. So, when he does depart this mortal coil, you know where to reach him!
This is definitely not … THE END!
For autographs, publications, photos and other items relating to Donald F. Glut, click on the STORE.