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From Bethenny Frankel of The Real Housewives of New York and Shark Tank fame to the New York Yankees’ Mickey Mantle and George Steinbrenner; to showbiz legends Frank Sinatra, Don Rickles and James Caan — and dozens more — John Parisella’s celebrity connections form a far-reaching network that underscores the influence of one of the most colorful figures in horse racing.
From the Streets of Brooklyn to Trainer to the Stars from award-winning author Denny Dressman is a candid, behind-the-scenes look at John Parisella, who won at least one race every year for 48 years; once winning races at three tracks the same day.
Parisella grew up on the streets of post-Depression, post-war Brooklyn. The son of a bookmaker and shylock, he began playing the horses at Aqueduct and Belmont while still in high school. He became the prot g of fellow New Yorker and Hall of Fame trainer, John Campo, and eventually sent horses to the post at 38 tracks. Half of his starters finished in the money, and his most famous horse, Simply Majestic, once ran faster than the great Secretariat, setting a world record that still stands more than 30 years later.
Parisella enjoyed over five decades of adventures with the biggest names in sports and entertainment. In the early 1970s, he appeared twice on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and on his second appearance was proclaimed the “Trainer to the Stars” by actor Jack Klugman because, at that time, Parisella was training horses for a stable of movie stars that included Klugman, Caan and Telly Savalas. Parisella went drinking with Mantle and Joe Pepitone; cajoled Steinbrenner into helping Pepitone; lived with Caan at the height of Caan’s fame; became a close friend to former NY Knicks and University of Kentucky coach Rick Pitino; and, as Bethenny Frankel’s stepfather, was the father-figure in the future Reality TV star’s life as she was growing up.
The many stars within Parisella’s almost-unimaginable orbit also included “Broadway Joe” Namath, presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, iconic actor James Stewart, Bono of the mega-group U2, former Kentucky Gov. Brereton Jones and New York City shock jock Howard Stern. He was even befriended by John A. Gotti, son of mob boss John J. Gotti.
But his celebrity connections form just one side of the story of the man who went From the Streets of Brooklyn to Trainer to the Stars. Parisella lived faster than his horses ran, burning through millions of dollars as a result of his generosity and profligate spending. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, he endured addictive behaviors associated with the condition — drug abuse and compulsive gambling. From the Streets of Brooklyn to Trainer to the Stars shares the whole story with never-told conversations and dealings that helped make history.
Author Denny Dressman concluded a 44-year newspaper career in June 2007, retiring from the Rocky Mountain News in Denver after 25 years. From the Streets of Brooklyn to Trainer to the Stars is his tenth book. Dressman’s past books — all nonfiction — include Eddie Robinson, a biography of the iconic Grambling football coach; Sterling Heroes of World War II, which recounts the wartime experiences of 36 veterans from northeast Colorado; and The Idea Within: David Griggs and his quest for meaning in public art.
To read more about John Parisella, please visit www.thetrainertothestars.com or connect with him on Twitter at Twitter.com/TrainerToStars or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Trainer-to-the-Stars-334676663912918/.