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Frank Stallone remembers boxing Geraldo Rivera and growing up in his celebrity brother's shadow

Ethan Alter
·Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
·8 min read
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Sure, Sylvester Stallone can boast to starring in action movie classics like Rocky, First Blood and Cliffhanger. But only his brother, Frank, has bragging rights to knocking out Geraldo Rivera in the ring. In 1992, the younger Stallone sibling and the mustachioed TV journalist squared off for the Howard Stern-organized prizefight, the “Scrapple in the Apple.” “I remember it like it was yesterday,” Stallone tells Yahoo Entertainment about how the historic match came together. “I was going up to Howard Stern promoting something, and Andrew Dice Clay was in the studio. They were on the speakerphone with Geraldo, because he had started getting into boxing. He said, “‘I’ll fight any celebrity, and you, too, Andrew!’” (Watch our video interview above.)

Clay might have ducked the match, but Stallone — whose long, varied resume includes “amateur boxer” with 30 fights to his name — decided to take Rivera up on his challenge... much to the consternation of his older brother. “[Sly] was freaking out,” Stallone says, laughing. “He goes, ‘If you get beaten by a newscaster, it just kills our whole dynasty and Rocky — you’ll just kill the whole series!” But Stallone wasn’t planning on going down like Balboa did in his first bout with Clubber Lang. “I started doing road work, and training,” he remembers. “On my first day of going to to the gym, I got hit with a body shot and fractured my rib! So I had to fight in a whole different style.”

Eventually, the day of the fight arrived, and Stallone donned 16 oz. boxing gloves and head gear and stepped into the ring opposite Rivera in front of a plethora of TV cameras and radio announcers. “I figured I was a pretty good puncher, so I catch him on the chin and go home early,” Stallone says of how he imagined the fight going down. But reality didn’t square with his gameplan. “I slipped, and they said it was a knockdown,” he says. “Geraldo had a look on his face like, ‘Oh, now Frank’s going to go off on me,’ which I didn’t do.” Stallone also injured his hand during the course of the match, revealing that it was in a cast for months afterwards.

Frank Stallone is the star of a new documentary about his life and career (Photo: Courtesy Branded Studios)
Frank Stallone is the star of a new documentary about his life and career. (Photo: Courtesy Branded Studios)

At the end of the match, though, it was the Italian Stallion’s brother — and not Rivera — who had his arm lifted in triumph. To this day, he still has kind words for his opponent. “He’s a brave guy,” Stallone says of Rivera. “All credit to him: He showed up to fight. And it was the biggest show that Howard ever had up to that time! When I walked out after the fight, there was like 8,000 people in the street. It was amazing, man.”

The “Scrapple in the Apple” is just one of the wild stories recounted in the new documentary Stallone, Frank That Is. Available now on Digital and VOD, the film provides viewers with a guided tour through Stallone’s eventful life and career, from his early days as a musician to the launch of his acting career. Through it all, of course, Sly Stallone’s shadow looms large over his life story — not that his younger brother minds. “I never felt the shadow; everyone else thought I was in the shadow. And that has been kind of a theme of the last 40 years. Is it frustrating? Absolutely! Does the name help? No way... maybe getting a seat in a restaurant with a good-looking girl.”

In a wide-ranging conversation, Stallone discussed growing up with Sly — who is interviewed in the documentary — writing the music for the classic 1983 musical Staying Alive and what advice he has for other celebrity siblings.

Yahoo Entertainment: Your mom, Jackie Stallone, passed away last year, and was a fascinating personality in her own right. How much did she inform your own personality?

Frank Stallone: I think she did in certain ways. She was a force to be reckoned with: Up until she died, she still drove and she exercised every day. She liked her martinis, she practiced her piano and accordion every day and couldn't actually play, which was amazing! She’d been playing for 70 years and couldn’t really get through one song. [Laughs] We didn’t grow up in what you’d call an artsy-fartsy household: My father was a hairdresser from Italy and my mother was a housewife, but she was always a great overachiever. She was born in 1921, and it was always a bit of a history lesson when I would talk to her. And she died like she wanted to: She went in her sleep, and didn’t suffer. Her mind was sharp — sharper than mine, that’s for darn sure.

She launched a career as a celebrity astrologist later in life: Did she ever read your future?

All the time! I’d say, “Mom, you said this will be my year, and you’ve been saying that for 50 years!” She’d go, “Well, you’re a late bloomer.” [Laughs] She was so funny, though, because in the ‘60s, astrology wasn’t really that popular. I would go up to girls and go, “What’s your sign?” and they’d say, “Why?”: But it was because my mother always said, “You’re a Leo, so a Scorpio’s not good for you,” and stuff like that. So I probably blew quite a few dates because of her.

Was there ever competition between you and Sly for her affection?

In a sideways way, yes. We weren’t from what you’d call a loving, supportive family. Our parents were people of their era, so there were really no hugs there. So in a way we were jockeying for some position, but after awhile we realized we kind of had to do things for ourselves. And that made us stronger and more determined, but there are also frailties that go along with it.

Frank and Sylvester Stallone in their younger years (Photo: Branded Studios)
Frank and Sylvester Stallone in their younger years (Photo: Branded Studios)

In the documentary, you allude to the difficulties you’ve had with your brother over the decades. What was the period where you were most at odds?

Well, when he broke his hand on my head, because he had my denim jacket and I wanted it — that was one time! So it was that kind of stuff. And when Rocky came out, no one was more surprised by its success than he was. I don’t think that was an easy time. All of a sudden, he’s the biggest thing in movie history at that point. So we had some little things. I mean, I was living in a dump in Trenton, New Jersey, and here’s Rocky, you know?

Jumping ahead, I had to touch on Staying Alive, the sequel to Saturday Night Fever that your brother directed. You wrote most of the music for that movie, including parts of “Satan’s Alley” right?

Yeah, all the instrumental stuff. I was shocked that I got that job. I mean, my career for all intents and purposes was over and done by 1983. But then I found out that my brother was directing the sequel to Saturday Night Fever, and I don’t know if people today understand how big that movie was. So I made my way over to the Paramount lot, and walked into this cavernous office and said, “Sly, do you think there’s a chance I could get a song in this movie?” And it was a resounding, “No!” [Laughs]

But as I walked out, Sly gave me the script and told me to go write some songs — just to be rid of me. I took it seriously, and started writing and writing. I related to Tony Manero [played by John Travolta] because I was that guy: You know, the old fighter looking for a comeback. Meanwhile, the Bee Gees [who wrote the music for the original movie] weren’t happy with the new music, and from what I heard, didn’t want to do Staying Alive anyway. So I got a call from my brother, and he said: “You remember those songs you wrote?” I said, “Of course I remember them. You rejected, like, eleven of them.” He said, “We’ll, we’ve got a problem.” So I ended up with nine songs in the movie, and one of them [“Far From Over”] got a Golden Globe nomination. It was really wonderful to be involved in something like that.

Based on your own experience, what advice do you have for other celebrity siblings?

Sylvester Stallone talks about growing up with his younger brother in the new documentary, 'Stallone: Frank, That Is' (Photo: Branded Studios)
Sylvester Stallone talks about growing up with his younger brother in the new documentary Stallone: Frank, That Is. (Photo: Branded Studios)

I'd say find another line of work, because dude, I got hammered! Nobody got hammered worse than me, and I didn’t do anything wrong! I had my own thing going on, but it was tough. It’s better if you can start out like Warren Beatty and Shirley MacLaine, who are brother and sister, but have different names. I’ve had people say to me, “Why don’t you change your name?” And I’m like, “40 years after the fact?”

Your brother has certainly had his career ups and downs: When he’s been down, what have you said to him? Like when he’s coming off of something like Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot?

I say, “Hey, how's it feel? Now you know what it feels like. I’d like to feel sorry for you, but that new Lamborghini out front kind of kills it.” [Laughs]

Stallone: Frank, That Is is currently available on digital and video on demand services including Amazon.

— Video produced by Jon San and edited by Jason Fitzpatrick

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