When most natives and former residents of Amsterdam, NY think about movie actors who came from this upstate community, the name Kirk Douglas of course comes to mind, which explains why he and his 90 movie filmography ended up number one on this list. But most of you will be surprised to learn that even excluding Douglas and his films from the equation, actors and actresses who once called this place home have appeared in more than 150 additional big screen productions, many of which were in a starring or co-starring role. Instead of revealing the other four of the top five on this list, I thought I’d list the second half of the top ten instead;
- Malcolm Atterbury Jr.-Atterbury was a character actor who starred in several movies and TV shows back in the fifties and sixties. He had married a girl from Amsterdam. Her name was Ellen. The two of them met in an acting school in New York City, fell in love and got hitched. Ellen’s last name was Hardies. Her father was Charles Hardies Sr., a former Montgomery County DA and Judge. The couple started a popular summer playhouse up near Speculator, NY called the Tamarac Playhouse and for a short time lived in a house on Amsterdam’s McGibbon Avenue. Atterbury made his film debut in 1954 in “Dragnet”. He appeared in two of Alfred Hitchcock’s best-known films, “North by Northwest” (1959) and “The Birds” (1963). All told, he appeared in 51 films. He also scored an impressive number of television roles including featured guest appearances in “Wagon Train”, “Have Gun Will Travel”, “Twilight Zone”, “Perry Mason”, “Rawhide”, “The Fugitive”, and “Gunsmoke”. Malcolm Atterbury, Jr. died in 1992 at the age of 87.
- Tom Stewart – An outstanding actor for Bert DeRose during his days at Amsterdam High School, after graduating from there in 1965, Stewart attended Brown University and then studied acting at New York City’s Neighborhood Playhouse of the Theatre. He appeared on Broadway in both “The Visit” and “Holiday.” His first movie role came in the 1974 adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The last of the Belles’” in which he played the minor role of Horace Camby. In 1976, he landed the biggest role of his career, when he played Charles Francis Adams” in the Emmy-Award-winning PBS TV mini-series, “The Adams Chronicles.” Two years later, Stewart was cast as Sparky, the assistant dive master in the sequel “Jaws 2.” Then in 1979 it was back to the small screen for the Amsterdam native in the role of Roland Highbie in an episode of the short-lived series “Project U.F.O.”
- Don Percassi – The best and most successful male professional dancer ever to hail from Amsterdam, New York. He graduated from Wilbur Lynch High School in 1956 and headed to New York City to further his study of dance and begin a wonderfully successful career as a professional dancer. His first appearance on Broadway came in 1964 in the play High Spirit followed by appearances in Walking Happy, Coco, Sugar and Mool, Mack and Mabel. Then in 1975, Percassi landed the lead role of “Al DeLuca” in the giant Broadway hit Chorus Line, which set a record run of over 6,000 performances. The role made Percassi a household name on Broadway. He then landed subsequent roles in the play’s 42nd Street and 70 Girls 70. He danced on both the Ed Sullivan and Perry Como television shows back in the early 1960s and in 2007, he made his cinematic debut in the movie Enchanted. He’s one of the four dancers who appear in the “park scene” of the Disney animated/live action hit.
- Jessica Capogna Collins – Five years after she watched her one-time baby sitter, Ruth Zakarian win the Miss Teen USA Pageant, Collins almost duplicated the feat, finishing first runner-up in the 1988 version of the same event. Born in Schenectady, NY on April 1, 1971, Jessica Capogna moved to Amsterdam as a young girl and grew up with her mom Eileen, on Bunn Street. Her acting credits included the role of Dinah Lee Mayberry in ABC’s “Loving” from 1991 to ’94, the role of Meredith Davies on Fox Network’s supernatural TV series, “True Calling” from 2002 to 2004, and a return to the Soaps in 2011 in the role of Avery Bailey Clark on CBS’s “The Young and the Restless” for which she was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award as Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2013. Her movie career was not quite as noteworthy. She made her big screen debut in the 1994 horror film “Leprechaun 4: In Space.” She was also one of the airline stewardesses Leonardo DiCaprio duped in the Stephen Spielberg film, “Catch me If You Can.”
- Ruth Zakarian –If you were old enough and living in Amsterdam in 1983, the name Ruth Zakarian is one you don’t forget. Today’s Amsterdam Birthday Blog Celebrant was a strikingly beautiful young lady, who beat out over 70 other teenagers to win the Miss New York State Teen USA pageant in the fall of 1982. She then travelled to Lakeland, Florida the following August, where she competed in and won the first-ever Miss Teen USA pageant. Amsterdam went wild as the entire community celebrated their native born beauty queen. After fulfilling her obligations as Miss Teen USA, Zakarian went to Hollywood to pursue an acting career, adopting the stage name of Devon Pierce and earning recurring roles in two soap operas. According to Wikipedia, she is now living in Costa Rica. Her one film credit was an appearance as Princess Luna in the movie “The Lords of Magick”
You can learn the other four actors in the top five of this list when my new book is released later this year. Once a month, I will be sending out a newsletter that includes a portion of the All Time Amsterdam Top Ten Lists I happen to be working on at the time. I will also use this monthly newsletter to announce the topics for upcoming Top Ten Lists and welcoming readers to put forth their own nominations for these compilations. If you’d like be included, please add your e-mail address here.