By MICHAEL OLDHAM | Special to the Palisadian-Post
Capri is a picturesque Italian island, located in the Bay of Naples, close to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. In the late 1970s, actor Sylvester Stallone purchased a Pacific Palisades house where Capri Drive, named after the island, and Amalfi Drive, named after the coast, intersect.
The Riviera property, which has gates opening on both Capri and Amalfi, but is officially listed by the county assessor as on Amalfi, is a stone’s throw west of Sorrento Drive, named after Italy’s serene Sorrento.
Unlike the island of Capri, the tough-guy actor Stallone’s expansive digs were not protected by bodies of water. By the mid-1980s, Stallone wanted to increase his privacy and fortify his 1.4-acre property. Instead of using water for the job, the actor used an 8-foot high fence to ward off peering lookie-loos.
The problem for the actor known as Sly was that the wall violated community height ordinances. After some legal wrangling, the actor took some of the red bricks off the top of the wall.
The chiseled-looking star, however, is most famous for fighting inside boxing rings rather than inside courtrooms. The actor’s boxing skills were displayed on movie screens. Indeed, Sly became rich and famous overnight from writing and starring in the 1976 film Rocky, where he played an underdog boxer named Rocky Balboa. Rocky would become a successful film series.
The late actor Burgess Meredith played Rocky Balboa’s trainer in the film, Mickey Goldmill. Meredith, who once lived in the Palisades, described the theme of the Rocky series in his memoir So Far, So Good.
“A poor guy wants a little touch of glory in his miserable life before he dies,” he wrote of the series. “He struggles for it and he gets it the hard way—against all odds.”
Meredith related the Rocky series to its star.
“Sly Stallone is made of the same rough, consequential stuff that motivated Rocky—he fights to the finish. On thåe first film, I sensed he was talented—that he had a kind of Marlon Brando flourish,” he wrote.
Stallone may have shared some traits with the character Rocky Balboa, but the New York-born actor insisted the movie was not about him personally.
“Rocky isn’t based on me,” Sly once said. “But we both went the distance.”
Indeed, relative to the career of an actor, Sly was not young when success came. He was 30 years old when Rocky premiered and a living a lifestyle far different from his soon-to-be Palisadian salad days on Amalfi.
At the time of the November 1976 release of Rocky, Sly was all but broke. “I’ve got $704 to my name,” he said in a January 1977 interview. “I borrowed most of that,” he added.
When he sold the Rocky screenplay in 1975, Sly was in even worse shape.
At the time, the actor was living in a shabby apartment in a bad part of Hollywood. Sly was sharing the 1.5 bedroom space with his brand new wife, Sasha. The future star of the Rocky and Rambo film series had no car, just over a hundred dollars in the bank and a dog he couldn’t afford to feed.
At this desperate juncture, Sly had only one starring film role to his name. It was in the low-budget 1974 film, The Lords of Flatbush. But Rocky would eliminate all of Sly and family’s financial dire straits. The film’s success would allow them to jump from renting an apartment to renting the former home of actor and comedian Ernie Kovacs in Coldwater Canyon. But this move proved to be a residential pit stop for Stallone and his now-growing family.
“I’ve gotta buy a house,” Sly told Kansas’ Salina Journal in 1977, while Rocky was crowding movie houses. “My son, Sage, is eight months old now and he’s never seen a blade of grass.”
The house Sly bought was the palatial French country home on Amalfi Drive. The eight-bedroom mansion would be up to snuff for the lifestyle of a newly-minted film superstar. Stallone’s 10,000-square-foot home had expansive lawns and a swimming pool. A small gym and a hanging punching bag helped keep up “The Italian Stallion” figure Sly displayed in Rocky. The masculine feature of a wolf skin lay on the floor of his den.
The movie star’s home had the requisite screening room, complete with sofas where he and family and friends could enjoy movies. Lots of sculptures were on display in Sly’s home, including an original Rodin inside his living room, all making great conversation starters for any of his visiting guests.
All this good fortune, Sly would admit to the Chicago Tribune in 1982, came as a result of his boxing screenplay.
“Everything I am and everything I have boils down to Rocky Balboa. I didn’t create Rocky,” he said. “Rocky created me.”
Ultimately, the personal life of Sylvester Stallone during his 10-year stay on Amalfi matched, in name, the famous film series that financially allowed him to buy the house—rocky. He divorced his photographer wife Sasha in 1985 and married that same year Danish actress and model Brigitte Nielsen. Stallone and Nielsen divorced just two years later in 1987, the same year the actor sold his home in the Palisades.
Today, Stallone is in a long-time marriage to former model and businesswoman Jennifer Flavin.
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