Talking Tennis with Actor and Former ATP Player Vince Van Patten


Everyone John Wartime here is sports sports illustrated tennis podcast guest Vince Van Patten former top twenty five player beat John McEnroe also an actor for more than fifty years has been in everything from love boat to Baywatch and he has a new film out that he wrote in Stars in seven days to Vegas not tennis film but a fun film. That's got awesome nice reviews and we're GONNA be talking about tennis. We're GONNA be talking about the entertainment industry and good all around conversation with a real character Vince van Patten. Let's let's bring them in now. Where where am I getting. Where are you? I'm in Los Angeles. You're up early. I appreciate you know get up early. I get up at six. Am Anyhow so so I go to work in a little bit for some studio work for the World Poker tour. I'm always up where are you. I am I'm in New York where you were born. but it's later. I I was looking. I'm thinking you're IMDB page. Run circles around your ATP your ATP bio Baiocco but your ATP BIOS pretty strong I am I thinking you're the only person to have beaten John. McEnroe had a recurring role in Baywatch. That's gotta be correct. That's funny. GimMe Your backstory because I mean you were a child actor. These these credits Mary early and then yeah you play tennis switch over yeah. I grew up in Long Island for the first twelve years of my life and we played very little tennis there. there was too little little tennis courts they would almost black tar by the railroad tracks and and for some reason no one play tennis back then and I father just loved exercise. He was like the only one in the village back then grownup that played tennis and and he almost couldn't get a game of tennis with any the adults 'cause back then the adults weren't doing exercise so you play with kids and he kind of inspired us all to get to the fire fire department to these two stupid courts and play tennis and then we would go out to some one summer Guy In the neighborhood said Dick Nick you gotta go to the US Open at Forest Hills. You know and my father's okay they'd come along so he brought us a long. I was about nine years old. My two brothers and I just took a loving to the game I went to that West End Tennis Club and saw Billie Jean King Arthur ash and Stan Smith and Jimmy Connors play on these grass ask court these beautiful blue grass courts and by the way back then you could go right up to the court walk right up to the court. No one was watching it seemed like and as little kids we squeeze in there and I watch these players play. That's kind of inspired me to play the game of tennis So long story short I never had any lessons like that move to California and then age twelve and it was also an actor. My father was an actor and he he's he's and said. Hey Kids WanNA act. They have they seem like they're going to be outgoing and they would have a good look so try it anyway. I started getting a lot of work as an actor to commercials and TV shows so when I came to California I did both I. I was a child actor. and play tennis on the side never had any formal lessons we played at a public park called. Point Setia Park in Hollywood and and eventually my father. Would you like to play tournament. I says yeah okay. I don't WanNa play tournament. So I play southern California's sexual. I play this kid in the first around Walter Redondo and I've been honest to me because I thought it was pretty good at the time about twelve thirteen years old and but those to me. He's a top seed and any pizza me six one six. Oh I get wiped off the court. He's the greatest junior of all time and but it was encouraging because he even though I got beat so bad. Just something inside me said that you know I love this game and maybe someday I can come back and beat that kind of player all right so anyway junior tennis. I also act I I start getting a lot of work as an actor you know as a kid actor and I did every TV show there was Bonanzas High Chiappa Orell you know you the name of every every ironside and all these TV shows and I never was out of work. I was actually under contract to universal child actor and they put being a series with George Part called the Bravo's and I would get every job I had so basically couldn't concentrate on tennis or schooling doing really I was just working actor and I TV series one was called Apple's way. The other was called three for the road as I got older never had to work in the meantime. We actually play tennis on the wall outside the studio wall and hit against the wall. You know like at lunchtime and that would distract the shooting inside so they'd say dad shut up going to take the tennis racket out of his hand. so that's kind of a combination of of of tennis and acting I was never a top rank junior by loved the game. I got beat by everybody in fact. I don't think I was ranked in southern California until the sixteenth and I think it was ranked thirty five or something in the sixteenth which is terrible in the eighteenth. I still wasn't much better and I didn't get much of a ranking. I couldn't even get into the national terms. I was getting better. I got physically stronger was tired of losing. I started weightlifting which everyone said don't wait list. You can't wait live. That's GONNA. That's terrible for tennis player but I didn't care because I knew inside. Maybe feel good. Maybe feel bigger stronger faster and so I did listen to them. Results got better. I never thing in tennis that maybe a better player was I read a book when I was fourteen years old on Bobby ricks who the court hustler and he'd be Margaret Court of course and lost to Billie Jean King and and I kinda idolized them because I always love gambling and I know he was a gambler and and I read a book called of course hustler and in the book book he tells about all the things he did in tennis and it was great but at the end of the book has a chapter on how to become a better tennis player and in the end it says play airtight tennis and listen. I read that closely and it said don't miss a ball. Make your opponent missed. Never give away a point. I was very radical for that. I didn't know I was slapping. Balls around I never had any lessons and and so I listened to that and I instantly got much better from fourteen to fifteen to sixteen a lot better. I just threw the ball back and ran everything down and made them miss so bobby. Riggs was a big instructor. Obstruct read about how to get better at it helping. What's that you realize how nuts this. This is a crazy story. You realize this I do. I do in the more I all. I realized that she's such a long shot. It just wasn't supposed to happen and but I love tennis and eventually I got repeat up so much and people never been different. Every once I remember hanging out with a bunch of kids fifteen years old all tennis players we were sitting around and they said what are you going to do when you grow up and everyone said their thing I said I'm going to be a tennis pro and they look to me and they all started laughing and tennis but you're crazy. Stink stink no good and I just today. I went okay. I'll show him I'll show them that type of thing so it was all a lot of anger and revenge that I myself going and I still didn't have much of a chance. I didn't get any college scholarships or anything like that. And maybe I would have gone to college. We'll play for a team. I didn't know what was going to do. You know my acting was in the transition wasn't going to be an actor later on could get acting jobs. I don't know or could play tennis and something happened out there. I just hung in there hung in there hung in there and all of a sudden I started breaking through when it was about nineteen years old on the summer circuit in Florida of the American Express Summer Circuit at one twenty twenty four matches in the smallest circuit at a twenty seven and I went from on the ATP ranking five hundred in the world to number thirty eight in the world and that same summer. I went on to be Tom Walker and stance the same guys I looked up to when I went to Forest Hills at eight nine and ten. I was playing them and beating them. It was like a dream. I couldn't believe it and all of a sudden. I said I can do it. I can beat anybody. I had this confidence and I I was the rookie of the year in nineteen seventy nine. ATP Rookie of the year and then I went on in the next excu years and stayed the top fifty and then John McEnroe and had a lot of big big wins had a lot of injuries played on the circuit. I think about ten years UPS in endow. Did he's great when you're winning but horrible when you losing. It's the worst you know you know. It was very lonely back then because he's just on your own didn't have anybody traveling with me or anything like that so so. I'm glad that was over that part of my life but it proved that I could do it. I always felt I could be number. One beating macro I started thinking I'm going to be number. One and overtrained I went to the point where I got obsessed and I would practice a five hour. I over trained and I broke down has big injuries and tried to get past them so that's the kind of story but and it went back to Hollywood after that in my thirties into another thing about the tennis I think is kind of interesting is when you're thirty everybody's saying. Oh you now you get when you going to retire. When you're gonNA retire and back then or anybody around me to say. Don't listen to them. You're in great shape which I was. You're not going to retire and just get yourself back out there. I could play the forty and I could've and maybe that would have been better. Maybe it wouldn't have I don't know I feel like Vincent Pat Needs. It's too option the Vince van Patten story this year a late bloomer. You're hitting off the wall at universal you don't have formal training except for Bobby Riggs Book in your top thirty ready player who's beating John McEnroe and vetus Carolina's and Christine and Stan Smith in in ATP level matches. That's a wild story. I I don't know I don't it happens today. You you play longer than thirty today but I'm not sure you you're a teenager hitting balls against the wall and suddenly become top thirty pro. That's a wild possible. That's why I try. I tell young kids and when they're playing or anybody in life. Don't believe them to yourself. You love something and you put your mind to it. Yes it's gotta be brutally tough but you can't do anything you want really if you need if you need it bad if you want it bad enough were acting in tennis where those those parallel careers did they play off each is a too you simplistic to say boy lessons learned at the back lot at universal on the set of love boat and gunsmoke helped you when you're out there on the court or these two separate sports islas. I think key enacting you gotta have great concentration focus. You gotTa be good. You gotta be talented to and and you've got to take those nerves and put them behind you. You know so that you can be involved in part tennis. You've people can hit the ball. People hit Great warm-up people can play great during the middle of match but at the end of the day they have the guts and the heart to execute the big shot at the right time because we all know oh it is one by one or two big points you know maybe get unlucky and miss that line that day and that'll make the difference against another great player but it takes the guts. It's in the heart to not choke. I think most players are GONNA get tight. It's only the top top players that don't they get tight but they know how to execute under that tightness so I always felt like I would come up with a big shot and I always remind myself to on the bigger point even move fast. Get my legs moving faster. Do One thing so. I don't know I think I think a lot of luck to that a lot of similarities what I'll I'll name drop. I've gotten friendly with with Ralph Macho and before four he did karate kid he was on eight is enough and speaks glowingly of your dad. He says he was Tom Bradford on eight hundred off was was was your dad. He said Your Your Dad in real. Life was basically the same figure who who was great with him but I I'm curious what your dad made of this who obviously was anchored in entertainment and so making and What was it like for him when you said you know what I'm GonNa put this acting thing on hold and I'm going to go chase points in in Tokyo okay of this month? He wasn't even aware of it. Really I mean he was just like Oh. Yes sure do whatever you want great father first of all so to say and but the best because life healy acted so he could run to the racetrack and bet the horses and have fun jump into the ocean and play tennis. I mean his whole thing was tennis in the morning poker in the evening racing in the afternoon and he used to sing that every day while he was playing tennis to watch. Let's sing that little so he loves life. He loved it acting but it did love his act. He did his acting so he could do those things anyway where he put us on the tennis in his court. We'd be hanging out as young kids at the public courts watching him play and he was hack. He did it just because I mean he he. He learned his serve at the International House House of pancakes. I mean there was that bad he would just shop but he would beat good players he would aggravate the because of steady game but along the way he never believe that myself and my brother who was also a ATP ranked player 'cause really make digging tennis and why should he. You know we didn't have unbelievable junior results or anything like that but once okay did make it out there it became a whole different animal he couldn't believe that he was shocked and he would show up at all the big matches and and everything but I you got carried away after a while because then he got so into it and I was doing on on the search of that I remember walking off at the US Open one time after practicing for about hours drenched with sweat and he goes oh so vinnie quitting. I said when you when I'm done with my brothers some day he goes. Oh Oh okay. You sure you shouldn't be out there more. I said no dad I practiced a lot. Actually I'm exhausted yeah that's okay but I noticed that you'll hand creek is unquote eleven. He he's been out there a little bit longer. They carry way but he did it in love. It wasn't like a crazy father. That way is wanting to do he thought being. You know what's better but listen. He also was a degenerate gambler. He loved gambling. He taught me how to gamble and read the racing form and play poker at age eight on top of everything else and I was paying his poker game when I was fifteen and sixteen so he taught me many good things about life. He loved life. he was terrific is that you did did your time on the poker. Tour and seven days to Vegas sort of is a love letter to the world degenerate gambling where it all started with Tom Bradford Yeah John. I'll tell you yeah he told me poker then when I came back from the tennis circuit in my thirties and forties. I started up a polk gig. He's always good at poker her. I loved it and it became in the San Fernando Valley in. La became a big game started becoming this big underground game and it was a lot of fun was he's ups and downs and I made this movie called Seven Days Vegas about this game that grew and it's not about poker at all it was about the players the players that played with would bigger than life. They were fun people and we would bet on anything now. Here's the thing I love the Johndroe of movies about gambling and hustlers and all that just love it but I usually they go to a very dark side and it's not that exciting to me. My life and gambling is completely different. I saw fun. I made bets that I couldn't believe we had laughs. We had ups we had danced and this craziest bet that I ever made and it's in the movie is that my character is character that I play called Duke Madsen and has to walk from. La To Vegas two hundred and eighty miles in seven days really everybody in the Party and the all follow him to see if he's he's GonNa fail or not and that Seventies Vegas. I like to describe it as a hangover meets the sting and it's out there right now on Vod. I tuned in Amazon so everybody could see it and it's doing very well and devoting less five years of getting this feel made and it's finally done and it's getting great reviews which Roper is raving about it film critic so so that's that's how this is happening by the way part of its fictionalized so people say oh. Did you exactly do the best. I you know I made this. I'm not going to get details away. but it's a terrific movie called. Seven Days Vegas and you can get it now. Let's let's be clear to you. You wrote this and you start in it. Yeah I started my brother. Jimmy's he's also in it my wife Eileen Davidson from housewives of Beverly Hills and and younger wrestlers my wife she's great in it. Ross McCall Don Stark a Lotta Great Ensemble cast we had a blast making it and it's out there for the world to see I just showed it to premiere in las the biggest to all the big poker players like the Bronson's doyle and Todd Bronson. They love the film so even if you're not a gambler you'll appreciate it because it's about colorful characters big life. It's about hustles and cons and fun and that's the world of gambling I know and that's what I wanted to show so wrote this in writing partner. Steve Alber and like I said you can get a Amazon itunes today. It is doing terrific and it's a lot of fun to Oh. You GotTa get some tennis in there. Did you how'd you how'd you like working with your wife. Agenda love it and she's a top actress two weeks okay so she's one and so scripted. We have all done about shooting five weeks and I go okay honey. We have some good scenes between us. You know can we. Let's run. These lines really Kinda work. She goes what what running anyways so I go to the set all of a sudden she was either. You know like well. What do you mean no. That's not the way I work now. I'm kind out of a little bit but we didn't rehearse because she's the kind of actress that needs to do it on the set. I like to grind away knicks it up and do that so we do go to the A set. We did rehearse and probably doing that but she's a character. She's great in the movie. She plays my wife who is actually in on the whole thing she helps helps make the phone calls and all that stuff and I would say whether I won't give story points away about how she feels about the walk to Vegas but she's great in the picture and the funny thing also along the way you have to cut at the end of the day you gotta cut scenes to make the thing fly and I came home one day realizing a couple Marsin. We need to edit a little bit and she before I could even open my mouth because I know what you're gonNA say. You'RE GONNA say you'RE GONNA cut some of my scenes. I said well you know he was do it. I don't care she goes. Just make the best move you can't use. I don't care about anything like that so she's wonderful that way and she's a great actress and it's nice to get to you know have your wife you know being the movie and and act with each other. C. Two things I see that it's it's ninety two minutes so you you pared that down pretty good yeah yeah. I hate movies that keep going on and on and I always feel like even great directors. UK guys taken a little bit more out of their so my brother and I we did the final edit. We just like to Titan Titan Titan so yeah you know so. You can't even get popcorn. That's that's the kind of movie I like. I just see you know. Just keep them seats. Keep them entertained. Make it fly. Don't take it too seriously. No self-indulgence and that's what seven days does is you gotta you. GotTa tighten up. IMDB page says was rumored in the tablets to be romantically linked to Farah Fawcett in the nineteen seventies that started because they shared a love for playing league tennis. I'm glad tennis page but how long it take you to shoot it okay so we did. Seventy Vegas in eighteen days which is not too much and we took it out afterwards and said you know what we need. Some great desert shots. We need drawn shouts. We extra scenes so we went out to the desert for a five extra days and we did some more stuff so basically twenty three days h Indian Wells. Let me let me ask a question about It sounds like you you like me. We like games of chance and sounds like you you go fairly libertarian on on prop bets and tennis's discovering a a big market for wagering but that sort of balances with integrity issues so a how much gambling went on when you played in B. thoughts thoughts in general about how sports can capitalize on the unpredictability in the fun in gambling but also T. Tennessee had some integrity issues like other sports and it seems like uh-huh persistent challenge for for the sport. What do you think yeah. It's a tricky subject yeah. I would love to bed on tennis and I'm good handicapper. Once I put my mind to Tennyson Tennyson. Most Expos are going to be but I think the what was it for the first time when you were when you were playing with their yeah when I was playing I I love poker of course and I would bet I'd go to every tournament that had a racetrack back around it. My father would always say you're going to be in Cincinnati. Okay there's river downs right around. He's got to go down so recess okay everything he said so. I would go to the racetrack around on the ATP tennis tournament. That's true which was fun by also did bring a set of chips and two decks of cards with me in case I get a poker game going very tough back. Then Ken flack he recently passed a great doubles player and a great guy he would play Robertson Guzzo. I get him at a poker game. Donnelly Brad Gilbert a little bit my buddy Brad you know so I did scrounge up a little game but the guys never really took to it back then. No one really really understood poker actually played one charity rock and roll tennis tournament in Atlanta and Johnny Mack was in the back and I wound up you guys WanNa play poker okay so McEnroe. We were all playing poker in the back and mack was pretty good. Mac was pretty good but generally speaking I couldn't get a good poker the game going no one dead on their matches like in practice. I would love to have a little action to pump you up a little bit more but that just didn't happen now coming to. I know there's a big line out. There and people are betting all the time. I think it's terrific and the first few years we're doing it like twelve thirteen years ago. I was seeing some overlays and really good Betson. I was betting with them and I I did quite well and then he wised up. I don't know who they got in there but they got some great handicapper working for them and now they're very very tough spreads and the middle as you know if you're in the middle is just too big for betting tennis to make some money so it's a tricky proposition but it's fun to have a little money on on a bet so I hope they can and clean it up and sure will because I think it might be good for the game not me. I think it's something every sport is is wrestling with Tennessee's a little individual individual sports are always going to be trickier than team sports but what what's your relationship with the sport now. Do you play you go. You go into wells. What's worse tend to sort of figure in your I think first of all I love watching it. It's better than ever. These guys have so much respect for them their insurance their flexibility what they do and how the hitting the balls out there amazing. I love the play. I've had some issues with my knees and back and forth. I never had any surgeries. I just don't want to go that way but I'm finally okay. I play a lot of paddle tennis in Venice Beach in California and I'm starting to play tennis. Brad Gilbert now lives in my neighborhood. I old buddy my fear playing twice a week. We hit for about forty five minutes and then get get the heck off the court. We don't want to bore each other out the too long. So I wanNA make a comeback. I really do It's all just keeping the body together so I can play. I love singles. I love doubles. I like the workout of singles and and the strategy behind it so I'm looking to play more. Maybe try to get back into some national tournaments from age. What do we say ten tennis in the morning tennis in the morning the track in the afternoon tennis in the morning poker in the evening racing in the afternoon on jump into the ice cold plunge pool get his jacket on and go to Santa Anita Racetrack. That was his life. He has anyone who grew up with eight is enough. what will be surprised have to hear that but this is great so seventies to. Vegas is is out. Did you say you could get you on Amazon prime. You said just WANNA be sure out seven days Vegas out in select theaters theaters in certain cities but it's on Amazon and it's on Itunes and red box everywhere now. It's going to be spread. Everywhere just came out three days ago and it's doing terrific again. It's the hangover meets the sting Seventies Vegas. Please rent it or by a check it out 'cause it is it's a blast it is great for anybody who likes action and EH and fun and excitement and the con who doesn't like those three make you can make a tennis moving next. I want the Vince Van Patten movie to the kid who's hitting balls against the wall to studio. Latin doesn't play junior tennis and beat John McEnroe and pro tournaments. I want that movie next. Wow Okay I'll try to. Hey No so became did do the documentary entertainment idea but it's a lot of work and you. GotTa going back in time but thank you for the compliment and we could use a good tennis movie for sure. That's that'll it'll happen all right great. Thanks thanks thanks so much seventies to Vegas. We will put all the links on the show page and good luck with it but manned can't think about that tennis. That's that's a classic. It's a good one even guy. I didn't even go into it but I have some more stuff but we're really like underdog things that are all true and so yeah I like this. Kinda show that when when it's true because then it inspires others to do they can do anything you know possibly so I will think about that and thanks so what's happening on the show all right good luck. Thanks all right thanks to our guest. Vince van Patten for stopping by a little bit of a different type of podcast this this week thanks as always to Jamie and we will have another guest next week. Thanks everyone listening in subscribe. Send your comments. Thanks everyone for listening to have a we'll do it again on a total. Mike

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