Every Other Weekend: Coming of Age With Two Different Dads by Anthony Mohr (EXCERPT)

Hi readers! Here we have a different kind of autobiography, as an author chronicles what it felt like to grow up with two very different men, switching between father and stepfather every weekend.

As his credit card industry pioneer stepfather’s career rises and his well-known radio actor biological father’s eases downward, author Anthony J. Mohr tries to find his place. One weekend he’s sailing on his stepfather’s fifty-eight-foot catamaran; the next, his Swedish stepmother tells him that they’re poor. Coming of age in a time when divorce is rare and viewed as shocking, Anthony lives at the edges of what others regard as a dream world, a place where reality and fantasy blend, maps lead to the homes of the stars, and obstacles abound.

Read on for an illuminating excerpt!


Gerald Mohr—father. Stanley Dashew—stepfather. I still compare those two powers, the actor and the businessman, whose lives intersected across one woman and her son: my mother and me. From their respective remarriages in 1958 through Gerald’s early death in 1968, they never lived more than a few miles apart, which made it easy for me to see them, but not easy to choose between them.

My father played private eye Philip Marlowe on the radio and enjoyed playing villains on the screen, but he struggled to pay the bills. My stepfather spent over a year cruising the Caribbean and helped introduce credit cards to the world, which earned him mention in a book titled You Only Have to Get Rich Once.

My father chain-smoked cigarettes. Stan puffed on a pipe. My father ate steak. Stan ate shrimp. My father’s black hair was thick. Stan’s brown hair was almost gone. My father’s stare could seduce or intimidate, depending on his mood. Stan’s blue eyes flashed to life every time he got a big business order, went to sea, or saw my mother enter a room. My father had a broadcast-quality voice. Stan’s retained a trace of his New York roots. My father was lean. Stan fought his weight. My father played hearts. Stan preferred poker. My father rented. Stan owned. My father wanted to play villains and spies. Stan wanted to play the businessman. By the time I’d reached the sixth grade, Stan’s career was ascending. My father’s was heading the other way.

My father never told me how he reacted when Japan surrendered, but I always imagined him enjoying the victory in some room, kissing a woman—perhaps my mother—while on the nightstand, his cigarette burned in the ashtray. As it turned to ash, I imagined my father whispering the phrases he’d promised to teach me one day.

Stan told me where he was on August 15, 1945—aboard his ketch, approaching New York Harbor. The captain of a Coast Guard vessel yelled to him that the war was over. Stan probably smiled and lit his pipe. He might have allowed himself a glass of wine, just one, but not until he’d returned his boat to port and made sure that every line—bow, aft, mizzen—was cleated to the dock.

My father was a Democrat; Stan, a Republican. Their party identifications cut deep. Adlai Stevenson’s loss to “Ike,” as our Republican neighbors called him, made my father mope for days. When Senator Robert F. Kennedy ran for president, the campaign asked my father to stump for him. He did, a thrill that caused him to consider a life in politics. I’d seldom seen him so energized as he was at rallies where he urged his audience to “get out and vote.” Working for “Bobby” filled him with gusto and verve until, at the Ambassador Hotel, Sirhan Sirhan killed the senator. My father was there, in the ballroom, close enough to hear the shots and struggle through the pandemonium. Devastated and in tears until four in the morning, my father abandoned all political hope and decided to chase one final television series, Private Entrance, the pursuit of which led him back to Sweden, where years earlier he’d made his only series that ever actually aired.

Stan’s Republican credentials reached back to 1948, to the group of businessmen in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who’d recruited Gerald Ford to run for Congress. Then he helped Richard Nixon. They’d met through their mutual insurance broker, V. John Krehbiel, who’d become Nixon’s ambassador to Finland. President Nixon invited Stan to join his administration, a subcabinet post in the Department of Transportation. Stan said no. He wanted to keep working for himself—the quintessential entrepreneur. One night following President Kennedy’s assassination, Stan railed against JFK’s politics during a discussion with friends. They ought to “chop every one of his programs and turn off the gas on the eternal flame.”

“Stanley!” my mother said, grabbing his arm as even his fellow Republican colleagues blanched.

“Well, what I mean is . . .” Stan said.

I flashed to my father. We didn’t talk on November 22, 1963. He was in Sweden, working on another project. He wouldn’t return for months, and by then, President Kennedy was no longer a conversation piece. As a result, my mourning had occurred at Beverly Hills High School, during the noon hour, with our history teachers scattered across the front lawn and us students clustered around them, desperate for comfort. The faculty tried their best. One or two bent the rules and hugged us, welcome to many who, despite the clear sky, were shivering. The mercury had not made it beyond sixty-five, chilly for the Southland. The republic will stand, another teacher promised. Later in sixth period history, Mr. Dodge, a jolly little man whom we adored, walked us through the vice presidents who had been propelled into the Oval Office by assassinations. Andrew Johnson, Chester A. Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt—“Teddy had been put in the vice-presidency to get rid of him”—and now Lyndon Johnson. I listened, rapt and numb. The school canceled the fall play, Our Hearts Were Young and Gay, which would have opened that night.

Stan was an optimist, the kind who, if Somali pirates had hijacked his boat and kidnapped us, would have said, “Don’t worry, Tony. This will be a great adventure.” The deal was always going to go through. He’d get the big order. The investment would pan out. Too often, however, the deal didn’t go through, a competitor got the order, and the investment cratered. It didn’t matter. The next one would “hit,” he’d say. “It can’t lose.”

My father shared Stan’s buoyancy. He always said that the deal was ninety-nine percent done, only to watch it die without so much as a T.S. Eliot whimper. The next season of his television series, Foreign Intrigue. The pilot of another series, Rough Sketch. And another: Holiday for Hire. So this was the price for a life free from steady pay.

I missed the irony—Stan with his multiple cameras, constantly snapping pictures and sending me to the store to pick up two more roles of Plus-X film while my father—a man who made his money in front of cameras, owned nothing more than a clunky Argus 75, which he rarely used. Two-and-a-half months with my mother and father driving through Sweden, Denmark, West Germany, Austria, Italy, France, and Belgium generated no more than fifty black-and-white photos, most of them mediocre, no more than a few of them sharp. Was my father sick of cameras when he came home from a shoot? Stan couldn’t travel a mile without amassing fifty photos, many of professional quality. But none of them evoked the blend of reality and whimsy that made up Southern California, a fusion that author Mike Davis called a “new substance, just as copper and zinc become brass that looks like gold.”

During his nineties, Stan self-published an autobiography: You Can Do It. From what I know, its details are accurate. My father didn’t write his life story, but in a 1952 letter, a publicist did—a five-page missive groaning with hyperbole and exaggeration. I guess that’s how they did things. I don’t know her name, only that she worked at a talent and PR agency called Redoff. It was owned by a man named Red Doff. She sent her letter to Hollywood’s moguls at the time: Howard Hughes, Jack L. Warner, Dore Schary, Louis B. Mayer, and Y. Frank Freeman. Hughes ran RKO Pictures then. (Stan would sell his business to one of Hughes’ companies.) Jack L. Warner headed Warner Bros. Studios; Dore Schary, production at MGM. Mayer ran MGM and in 1952 became chairman of Cinerama. Freeman was an executive at Paramount. “Do yourself a favor,” she wrote. “Sign up Gerald Mohr. I know it’s a flat statement for the old girl to go out on a limb with on a nice, sunny Sunday morning like this . . . but this time, I’ll make book. This guy will be a star.”

Redoff’s publicist included a lengthy description of my father’s persona. Here’s what she said with, in parentheses, my take on her accuracy:

He goes horseback riding (yes).
He reads everything in print (he did).
He’s studied assiduously Freud, sociology, and anthropology (yes for Freud).
He’s proud of his Anatole France first editions (I never saw them).
He has perhaps the country’s largest private collection of crime literature (I never saw it).
He’s fluent in French and German (enough to get by; that’s all).
He can beat Humphrey Bogart in chess (he played well; beyond that, I can’t say).
He doesn’t frequent night clubs, doesn’t play golf, doesn’t lift weights, and doesn’t “collect either old match covers or other men’s wives” (yes to all of these; the women he collected were single, widowed, or divorced).
He can’t change a tire. (I’ll vouch for that).
He chain smokes (you bet).
He guzzles down at least twenty cups of coffee every day (probably ten).
He ignores his mail and hasn’t the vaguest idea how to balance a checkbook (right).
She left the most important part for last: “But what the kid can do is act” (yes, without question).

I didn’t study my fathers. I watched them in their two worlds, neither of which I could inhabit completely. I lacked my father’s looks and charm as well as my stepfather’s love of business and the sea. I wasn’t trying to learn from them what it was to be a man—the future would take care of itself, I figured—and like most privileged California teenagers during the early sixties, I was sure of a brilliant outcome.

My father died at fifty-four. To compare him with Stan beyond middle age is unfair. Who knows how my father would have behaved at sixty, seventy, eighty, or ninety-six, the age at which Stan died? At fifty-four, Stan acted like a hardheaded businessman with no time for fun. By sixty-four, he’d built a new sailboat—he’d owned several in the past. He had yet to bring under control his gnawing desire to become Southern California’s tycoon entrepreneur and premier philanthropist, a goal he never attained, which led to Stan spending his final years depressed, rarely smiling as he tried to launch three more companies, only to see two of them sell for scrap. (After he died, his two children and I sold the third for ten dollars.)

My father may have shared Stan’s frustrations along the way, but he died full of hope. “He had three ecstatically delightful months filming Private Entrance,” his second wife said the first time I saw her after my father’s death, which was also the last time I saw her. Private Entrance was his last attempt at a television series.

From Every Other Weekend: Coming of Age With Two Different Dads by Anthony Mohr. Copyright © 2023 by the author and reprinted by permission.

Every Other Weekend: Coming of Age With Two Different Dads by Anthony Mohr was published February 14 2023 by Koehler Books, and is available from all good booksellers, including

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