Joe Dallesandro was born in Pensacola, Florida. His father, Joseph Angelo D'allesandro II, was an Italian-American sailor, and his mother was 16-year-old Thelma Testman. By the time Dallesandro was five, his mother was serving five years for interstate auto theft in a Federal Penitentiary. His parents divorced soon afterward.
As a teenager, Dallesandro supported himself by prostitution and later nude modeling, appearing most notably in short films and magazine photos for Bob Mizer's Athletic Model Guild.
Dallesandro also appeared in at least one gay pornography film. Dallesandro met Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey in 1967 while they were shooting The Loves of Ondine, and they cast him in the film on the spot.
Warhol would later comment "In my movies, everyone's in love with Joe Dallesandro." Dallesandro played a hustler in his third Warhol film, Flesh (1970), where he had several nude scenes. Flesh became a crossover hit with mainstream audiences, and Dallesandro became the most popular of the Warhol stars.
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