Michael Carmine, 1959–1989
Story & Recording by Timothy Dean Lee
My friend Michael Carmine (March 6, 1959 – October 14, 1989) was born in Flatbush, Brooklyn. His mother was the daughter of a Portuguese sales clerk at Tiffany’s on 5th Avenue and her mother was Jamaican. Michael’s father was a blond Northern Italian. He took on the stage name of Michael Carmine while he attended the High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan
Being light skinned, Michael found himself being cast as Puerto Rican. He became involved with the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater company. His big break was a national Levi’s commercial and then guest starred in shows such as MASH, Hill Street Blues and Miami Vice. He also appeared on screen in films including Scarface, Turk 182, Batteries Not Included and Leviathan.
Michael’s last appearance was in the film Longtime Companion, where he played Alberto, a home-bound AIDS patient. The film was completed not long before he passed. The interesting part about that scene was that it was rewritten to reflect the argument Michael and I had only the day before.
Michael and I had met right after he had completed Band in the Hand. We were introduced by Keith Haring at Paradise Garage. We hit it off immediately. Although I was a struggling artist, he hired me as his personal assistant, so that I could create and paint with a bit more ease. He got me involved with La Familia Theater Company, where I directed him in two plays.
We did a great deal of work with the late poet/playwright Miguel Pinero. In fact, Michael would be playing the narrator (a part based on Pinero) in Reinaldo Povod’s play Cuba and His Teddy Bear and playing opposite actors including Robert De Niro, Burt Young and Ralph Macchio. It was at this time, Michael Mann approached him and I about an idea and he wanted me to shadow Pinero for six months to write a script for a film. The project never came to fruition because of Michael’s deteriorating health.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you, my creative brother from another mother. Peace. You went too soon but you left a legacy.