Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

A Tribute to Actor Michael York

on November 5, 2021
Michael York as Pip in Great Expectations (1974)

Last night, I was thinking about the 1974 movie, Great Expectations, and wondering whatever happened to British actor Michael York. Was he still alive? An Internet search showed that he is 79 years old, living in West Hollywood, and still very much alive.

In 2011, my daughter, lyric soprano Ariel Pisturino, was a member of the cast in the Long Beach Opera production of Cherubini’s Medea. She had a singing role as one of Dirce’s handmaidens. One night, after the performance, an average looking elderly couple came up to her and expressed their admiration for her performance. The man was so sickly looking, he looked like he was in the last stages of cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, or cancer. His skin was yellow and dry, his hair limp and straw-like. He seemed very familiar to me, but I could not immediately place him. But the man had a very distinctive theatrical voice, and there it was — Michael York!

(Lyric soprano Ariel Pisturino in 2011 at the furniture warehouse converted to a theater for the LBO production, Medea. Photo by Dawn Pisturino. The production garnered a lot of media coverage because former director, Andreas Mitisek, had a reputation for staging innovative opera productions in unusual locations.)

Michael York and his long-time wife, American photographer Patricia McCallum, were so kind and gracious to my daughter! He encouraged her talent and career and wished her the best for all of her future endeavors. He did not come off as arrogant or condescending, but just a real, down-to-earth person. In other words, he is not one of those Hollywood snobs who thinks he’s better than everybody else. He is not an angry, loud, foul-mouthed creep like Alec Baldwin, who was forced to go to anger management therapy. He and his wife showed up in ordinary clothes. In fact, they were under-dressed. With his obvious health problems, it looked like he had fallen on hard times. But the reality is a little different.

In 2012, York was diagnosed with amyloidosis, a rare disease in which insoluble proteins invade parts of the body and internal organs, eventually causing the organs to shut down. It took three years to get the right diagnosis. He underwent autologous stem cell transplant therapy and has been doing well since. A classically trained Shakespearean actor, York now writes books, does voiceovers, and promotes fundraising and public awareness of amyloidosis.

It just goes to show that no matter how talented you are, how important you think you are, or how rich you are, bad things happen. And it’s how you handle those challenges which determines the kind of person you are.

(Ariel Pisturino [facing front] as one of Dirce’s handmaidens in the LBO production of Medea.)

I will always have the greatest respect for Michael York for encouraging my daughter in her career. His humility and graciousness touched both our hearts. And I wish him and his wife all the best. We never know how our lives are going to end up, but we can never go wrong with being kind to others, supporting others with positive affirmations, and encouraging their hopes and dreams.

Michael York’s website: http://www.michaelyork.net

Long Beach Opera website: http://www.longbeachopera.org

Ariel Pisturino website: http://www.arielpisturino.com

Dawn Pisturino

November 4, 2021

Copyright 2011-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.


10 responses to “A Tribute to Actor Michael York

  1. A heart-warming post! Alas, I had not previously heard of amyloidosis 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Myheartscry says:

    That is so neat your daughter was encouraged by this kind actor. How sad he’s going through these health issues. Your right tough times are had by everybody.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Iowa Life says:

    Great post. Reminds me a lot of the story I read about Sir Roger Moore shortly before his death, highlighting his humanity. Something about that generation of Brits.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Sister Dawn… a bunch of points worth repeating and all good except this one which I want to emphasis only because I love that you said it, and I take pleasure in repeating it; if I could only do it in person I would be so fantastically pleased to put down a crumb that needed his butt kicked long ago the pompous dreadful creep-o! “Foul-mouthed creep like Alec Baldwin.” This Hollywood piece of junk is a prime example of what has ruined Hollywood in my opinion bringing it down into the gutter and trenches of the damned; zero class!

    But now that we have that out of the way we can move on to the good that still exists and your experience proves it! I never met Michael York but I too thought of him as a refined gentleman, fine stage and screen actor with enormous talent! I put him in the category with Sean Connery and Anthony Hopkins, two other awesome actors that I simple love and respect for their real character and body of mostly beautiful work! I did have a conversation back many years with Paul Newman and he too was in this same positive light and then some; like Michael York and the others I mention; being so considerate and real, not in any way pompous or aloof or in some state of “I’m a huge star sort of mind set,” that I have seen firsthand in some others I met over the years!

    I think that experience you and Ariel had with the positive kindly support Michael offered is so cool and what I would have expected from my image of him or I would have hoped for him to be like; if I had met him!

    So thanks for sharing this; and life is a beach and beats up some people much more than others, while some too can handle or take it better than others; so when they can’t that part is always sad to me, to see how some great ones in their last leg were a fraction of what they once were; and even so torn up they are too much to be around being so broken and disjointed; I really saw that with Nick Nolte having met him and always appreciated his persona and skill; I don’t bother with autographs over the years but he sat with me and an agent of his in a pub in Burbank nearby the studios chatting for a bit then gave me his autograph, because I said my sisters were going to freak out when I tell them I was rapping with Nick Nolte; so he said what are your sisters names and wrote a couple of nice comments to them, then said here give them copies of this!

    What the heck could possibly be Baldwin’s excuse if there could ever be one; other than he really is the creep he comes across as!
    Thanks for the pros and cons here! Good reality check!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your feedback, Lawrence! I know you’ve met quite a lot of famous people so can judge better than most. It’s so easy to associate actors with the characters they play, especially if the characters are heroic and noble. But in real life, these actors often turn out to be jerks. I have no doubt that Paul Newman was a wonderful man, judging from his company, Newman’s Own, and giving the profits away to charity. And I think what Nolte did was very nice. Not all actors would have done that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hey Sister Dawn! You are spot-on as always kiddo! Let me tell ya some of those that we grow up thinking are some awesome persona in real life are a huge disappointment if you meet the reality! I won’t name any now but some were jerks totally!

        When I met Newman I was full of youthful exuberance but not starry eyed and thank God I could see quickly if somebody wasn’t what they project, a feeling or vibe which I think was a talent my Dad always had in spades and a bit must have rubbed off on me! Even on this social media which I really don’t like I picked up on quite a few fake or phony glory seeking head trips that “gag me with a spoon” as the Valley Girls say or used to I mean! But as far as Newman he was amazing and so much like my Dad to be honest a real pro and great guy or man! I being so young I was not start struck but wanted to be just following him around and did on a movie set just working, so not what I really would have liked which would be hang out and talk for hours; which I’m damn good at, one of my big mouth talents! Was told I should have been in radio!

        Hey if I was born 40 or 50years earlier I would have probably jumped into vaudeville and radio that was a fun era when it was beginning and I always had a knack for voice impressions or weird sound effects and stuff; but I’d toss all of that to have been a great singer like your daughter; that takes hard work and dedication on top of being blessed with the right pipes or plumbing! Nolte was so cool and laid back! But very real an easy going guy kinda how I like thinking of him and Eddie Murphy in 48 Hours at least with me he was but it was the real Nick; and if it wasn’t for some major business he needed to square away with that Lou Pick he had to talk with I had a green light to shoot the bull for a while me an Italian Eddie Murphy high energy kid, he wasn’t going to brush me off and I think he liked me as a guy to just hang around having a beer with, like I felt about him too or the same way I did with Francis Coppola’s professor brother! Ditch Diggers or Professors I seemed to get tight and get along with any of them!

        Funny thing I was looking to catch somebody I had met briefly and was in a Malibu oceanfront property area and went to the wrong door and this lady answers a very pretty one, then followed up by Robert Conrad following her to the door and I said a couple of things that just came off the top of my head along with that aircraft pilot thing I couldn’t pull off in the military, but he had done a TV show with WWII pilot story-line and little did I know he had been actually working on his IVF rating and was sitting out on his patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean on a gorgeous Southern California day studying when I popped into his world out of the blue; and once the conversation clicked in he said come on in and brought me out back with him and his girlfriend to shoot the breeze about flying and whatnot; most celebs would blow ya off for real if they even answered the door!

        Then amazingly when he heard I had been around a while and was actually interested in acting he gave me the name of a producer he worked with and an agency though he said for the agent thing he is used to working with only top shelf pros and I think I didn’t think I would be ready to cut the mustard at that point so kinda cooled my jets about that idea. Met Donald Sutherland and Bruce Dern and others in similar ways in Malibu, but my timing was way off because I would have loved to be around Malibu that much when Mel Gibson got situated there; I think I would have been way eager to jump to anything he suggested or told me to do even! Oh well, so like dad said not meant to be!

        You’re so right though I love that I had even the chances to be that friendly and talk with some of the great ones either just coincidentally or in a work environment how I did, and those professionals I got to rap with were as it turned out those who really were the best and the real deal! I did write and get responses back from Paul Newman a couple of times later and his wife was running the Westport Playhouse and he did tell me you need to get busy being involved with people who work on their acting skills!

        I think I needed a kick in the ass! He would never do that though!

        Got to fly to get over to an Art Show before I miss out on buying some art today! One local artist I was all talk about how I’m going to buy this week!

        God bless!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Congratulations on your daughter’s musical accomplishments!

    Michael York is a colossal actor! I remember him from Great expectations and The Three Musketeers 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. cbholganza says:

    kudos and more power to Ariel! and thanks for the news bits on Michael York. i do remember him from 40 years ago. Romeo and Juliet. And many more.

    Liked by 1 person

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