Don Diamont got shot in the back, bedded his son’s wife and had an affair with his wife’s sister—as his character Bill Spencer Jr. on CBS’ “The Bold and The Beautiful.” In real life, Diamont, (who was born Donald Feinberg but changed his last name to his mother’s maiden name) has had plenty of drama. He raised seven boys as part of two marriages, was named one of the sexiest men alive by People Magazine, has been in a cage with tigers and became a bar mitzvah as an adult.
His new autobiographical book, “My Seven Sons and How We Raised Each Other” (Hachette Book Group Inc.) is not a piece of puffery. Peppered with poignant illustrations of his father, he writes how his dad, Albert, would come home from work with his tie on and play catch with him for hours. When Diamont beats up a student who hurls an anti-Semitic slur at him, his father defends his son to the administration and says he would have done the same thing. While the actors lives a Hollywood fairy-tale life that any man would dream of having, it includes great tragedy, with Diamond losing two family members when he was in his 20s and another several years later.
He details the pain his father’s sudden cancer diagnosis brought him, when found out his father had six months to live and describes the effort to remain upbeat while driving him to and from chemotherapy sessions. After his father’s death he had his brother, Jack, to lean on, until he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.
I cried when reading about how in the hopes of making his brother’s last days on earth more meaningful, he incredibly arranged for him to meet Ronald Reagan, Mickey Mantle, and boxer Sugar Ray Leonard. He met the latter at a gym and convinced him to take a ride to the hospital to meet his brother.
One of the most telling parts of the book is that the actor, who has fame and fortune, sits with his brother and even changes his diapers when his health is so compromised that he can’t make it to the bathroom. Suffering through the death of his father and brother within a two-year period propelled Diamond to want to something he had never previously done – have a Bar Mitzvah.
“I wasn’t raised religiously and I wasn’t Bar Mitzvahed,” Diamont told The Jewish Week over the phone. “My dad expressed a lot of regret about that during the course of his illness. It was something I did for myself, for my father, and for my brother.”
Diamont starred as heartthrob Brad Carlton on “The Young and The Restless,” where—in a major twist—it was revealed that his character was actually a Jewish man named George Kaplan, the son of a concentration camp survivor. This revelation made Diamont not only the only leading soap star who was Jewish, but he also played the only major soap star character who was Jewish as well.
“It came out of left field and I embraced it,” Diamont said. “I thought it was a great opportunity for me and the show to have a Jewish character and a Jewish storyline.”
In the book, the 55-year-old actor recounts how his grandmother suddenly grabbed him by the arm and barked “Stay a Yid!” three times. As for raising seven sons, (one who he considers a son, though it his nephew whom he took in after his sister Bette died) he writes that it’s a balance between being tough and sensitive. He recounts his difficult first marriage to someone suffering from alcoholism, and the bliss of his second marriage to his wife Cindy.
Over his career Diamont has been lucky enough to kiss some of most beautiful actresses on TV. Which kiss was the best?
“Are you trying to get me in trouble?” he asked. “I can’t give out that information.”
He then divulged that a screen test kiss with his wife Cindy (she wasn’t his wife at the time) was his best one.
As to whether or not he is the sexiest Jewish actor, he had to think.
“I gotta be top five,” he said. “I might be in a class all by myself.”
The book is an inspiring and great read that shows a man dedicated not only to living the American Dream, but building a strong family that will continue the spirit of those that were lost. His writing style is lean and to the point and he includes both his failures and successes. I wish Diamont would have dished out some soap secrets about what it’s like on set, but that might be coming in the next book. He said he’s gotten used to people telling him over the years that he doesn’t look Jewish. Diamont’s scenes with actress Jacqueline MacInnes Wood, who plays his one-time daughter-in law Steffy Forrester, have been pretty heated. And speaking of hot places, the California resident said he’s never been to Israel, but that might change.
“I would love to go,” he said.