As I sit here, preparing to write a few words about Danny Trejo’s autobiography, I find myself tempted to refer to him as being a “horror star.”
That’s just because it’s October and I’m in a horror mood. The truth of the matter is that Danny Trejo has appeared in all sorts of films. He’s done comedy. He’s done action. He’s done drama. Not surprisingly, given his background, he’s appeared in a ton of crime films. He guest-starred on two episodes of Baywatch. On King of the Hill, he lent his voice to the character of Enrique. He starred as Machete in two movies. And yes, he’s done his share of horror. He was killed by a giant snake in Anaconda. He was killed by Michael Myers (or “Mikey” as Danny’s character called him) in Rob Zombie’s Halloween. He battled both a multi-headed shark and a murderous ghost for SyFy. Danny Trejo has appeared in all sorts of films, to the extent that you never really know where or when he’s going to show up.
That’s something Trejo addresses in his autobiography, which is itself simply called Trejo. He writes about getting asked whether or not he minds appearing in so many B-movie and his reply is that even a B-movie will give people jobs, put food on the table, and perhaps provide some joy to someone who watches it. In another passage, he points out that one bad day on a movie set is still better than the best day in prison. He makes a good point. A lot of movie snobs could learn a lot from Danny Trejo’s attitude.
As for the book, it’s as straight-forward as the actor himself. Trejo talks about his early life of crime, the time he spent in prison, his struggle to get off drugs, his career as a no-nonsense drug counselor, and finally, his current status as a pop cultural icon. Trejo doesn’t hold much back, discussing not only the crimes that he committed when he was young and incarcerated (A lot of the people who love Danny Trejo the character actor would have been terrified of Danny Treo the violent criminal, including myself) but also his subsequent struggles to be a good and responsible father. Maturing is a theme that run through the entire book and Trejo admits that, even as he closes in on his 80th birthday, he’s still learning and growing. What makes the book truly effective is that Trejo never avoids responsibility for his mistakes nor does he attempt to deflect blame. He’s as honest about his sins as he is about his subsequent redemption and it’s that honesty that makes his story so inspiring.
If you’re hoping for a lot of Hollywood gossip, this book might disappoint you. With a few notable exceptions involving Edward James Olmos’s attempts to make a movie about the Mexican Mafia, Trejo focuses on the positive when he discusses his film career. One gets the feeling that he loves his life and he loves his unique place in the entertainment universe. There’s nothing wrong with that. Trejo takes a great deal of joy out of the fact that he’s survived and it’s hard not to share that joy. It’s also hard not to be touched by Trejo’s efforts to keep others from making the same mistakes that he made.
Trejo is a good and inspiring read. Check it out and give thanks for Danny Trejo. He’s a survivor and the world is better for it.