Interview with Steve Sandalis

Steve Sandalis is one of the most famous cover models for romance books in the USA. He was the legendary „Topaz Man“ and has appeared on more than 600 romance book covers. Actually, he has retired from modeling for romance books and pursues his acting career.

I think this wonderful note from his fan club president Irmasue Zapor that she added to the interview says more than any other words:
“As his fan club president, let me just say that Steve is a great guy and really deserves to be admired. He is a caring and loving person that has much to offer. I think this is why he has such a loyal following - even though he hasn't cover modeled in the last few years. He has touched so many lives and has been an inspiration to many. I still get letters about the special meetings people have had with him. It seems that once you meet him, he is with you forever. Not everyone can have that affect.”

As he is very busy now we feel the more honoured that he answered our questions about his work and give German readers insights into the work of a romance book cover model and an actor. Thank you very much, Steve, and all our best wishes for your future projects!

Angela: Before starting the interview could you give us a brief statement on who the person Steve Sandalis is?

Steve Sandalis: I'm a hardworking person who always puts family first. My career comes in second, but it is also very important.

Angela: Let's start with the beginning of your career: how did you become involved in modeling? Were you discovered or did you go out and market yourself? At that time what was your long term goal?

Steve Sandalis: I was discovered on a beach in Ft. Lauderdale. I was approached by an agent and I guess you could say "The rest is history". I was doing a little modeling but I also wanted to act. At the time I was also studying physical therapy. Modeling enabled me to move back to New York and study acting.

Angela: Was breaking into modeling difficult for you or was it easier for you because of your natural good looks and great personality?

Steve Sandalis: I was lucky. Everything fell into place. I moved back to New York and the jobs came rolling in. After a while, I needed more of a challenge. That was when I seriously started pursuing my acting studies.

Angela: What was the process you went through to become the "Topaz" man? Was that your first big break?

Steve Sandalis: Being named The Topaz Man was my first big break. Topaz interviewed many men including well-known athletes and other recognizable men. In my interview, I was asked to take off my shirt. I was notified the next day that I was hired.

Angela: Could you tell us something about a typical photo shooting for a romance cover? Is there any remarkable photo shooting, one you will never forget for the rest of your life?

Steve Sandalis: The photographer gets a description of the book characters and tries to set up a scene in the studio to match, including costumes. About one hour is spent posing for the cover. I have been asked to pose in some pretty awkward positions. The artist looks at all the photos and chooses the one that is "right" for the cover. They fill in backgrounds to fit the story. That is how the cover is born. One of my most memorable photo shoots is when I fell off a wooden horse along with my "heroine".

Angela: Would you recommend modeling for romance book covers to other men trying to break into the field? What are the advantages and disadvantages in your opinion? What do you like most and what least in your job as cover model?

Steve Sandalis: There are a select few, as you can tell by the covers, that are used in on romance covers. It is not easy to break into the cover modeling niche and you have to be more of an actor than model to por-tray the hero. You want to try for the right expressions. Romance cover models do not have the "classic" physique that is required for runway modeling. We are too muscular. There is no natural field that you can go into from romance cover modeling. I guess you could say acting, but we all know how tough that is. What I like most if meeting people and traveling. What I dislike is that it takes my time away from family and friends. It is also hard to stick to an exercise and diet program when you are on the road.

Angela: What is the cover you like most and why do you like it so much?

Steve Sandalis: I would say one of my favorite covers is "Wild Embrace" by Cassie Edwards. That was one of my first covers and Cassie is a friend of mine. It is a pleasant memory for me.

Angela: How and when did you become involved with the Romantic Times conventions and will you attend the convention in November in Houston?

Steve Sandalis: I became involved with Romantic Times when Topaz was there to promote their book line. I was their representative and spokesperson. It did my best to generate interest in Topaz books and Topaz authors. I will not be at RT in Houston because of a prior commitment. I may be working on a movie.

Angela: Let's switch to your current career: acting. What do you like about acting and in what moved you from modeling into acting?

Steve Sandalis: Acting has always been a passion for me. Modeling can be fun for a while, but it is a lucky few who can turn it into a lifelong career. I discovered that acting/producing is what I'd really like to do for the rest of my life. It is a lot of hard work, but I'm following my heart.

Angela: Could you tell us a little bit more about your future and present film projects?

Steve Sandalis: Most recently, I've finished filming "Where the Red Fern Grows" with Ned Beatty and Dave Mat-thews, as well as an independent film called "Christmas in the Clouds" in which I play a Native American romance cover model. For "Christmas in the Clouds", we negotiated with Cassie Edwards to use her cover as the book cover I modeled for. Auditions come up every week, every day a new project may appear. I never know what may come my way in the future.

Angela: Have you ever made any negative experiences that critics laughed about you being a romance cover model or was your career as cover model of advantage? Do you ever have problems at a film casting because of being considered a romance book cover model?

Steve Sandalis: When I cut my hair, most people didn't recognize me. It's like I've started over with a clean slate.

Angela: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Steve Sandalis: I see myself as a fulfilled person who is a successful actor, direct and/or producer. I will always have a film related career. It is where my heart lies.

Angela: Why, when so many established models are shunning fans and involvement with fans, do you have maintained a fan club and continue to interact with your fans? Have there been advan-tages to your career in doing this?

Steve Sandalis: I guess I could say that I have had a very loyal fan following. A lot of people that are around now have been with me since the beginning. As they have become "friends" on one level or another I can't see dropping them now. As long as someone out there wants to hear about me, I will strive to keep them informed. There have been some advantages to my involvement with fans, but I'm not in it for a payoff. Keeping in touch is a promise I have made to myself for those who believe in me.

Angela: Well, let's turn a little bit private in our last question: are you sometimes uncomfortable with all the adulation and does it affect your personal life? How do you and your wife handle the publicity, the fans, your book covers or the letters and e-mails you must receive everyday?

Steve Sandalis: I take adulation with a grain of salt. It is nice to be admired if you deserve it, but I don't let it go to my head. Hollywood has helped me keep grounded. Since my wife is in the business, she is perfectly capable of handling all that comes with having fans. There is not much she hasn't seen or heard about before. I've been very lucky - my fans tend to be normal people who are very supportive and just want to have some fun.

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Dieses Interview entstand im März 2000 zwischen Angela W. und Steve Sandalis für:


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