Do you remember Joe Penny?
Joe Penny is an American actor, who has an impressive filmography of film and television roles from 1977 to 2016. He’s gained fame mainly from the detective series “Riptide” which aired during the 1980s, “Jake and the Fatman” from the late ‘80s to early ‘90s, and from 2005 onwards in the mystery TV film series, “Jane Doe”.
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Joe Penny’s family and education
He was born Joseph Edward Penny Jr. on 24th June 1956, in Uxbridge, London, UK under the star sign of Cancer, so is now 63 years old. His father was American Joseph Edward Penny Sr., and his mother, Anne Teresa Rita Cox was Italian.
— getTV (@gettv) March 5, 2019
Joe spent his childhood in Marietta, Georgia, USA, and when his parents divorced, Joe and his six sisters and brother moved to Huntington Beach, California with their mother. Joe’s mother remarried and divorced a couple of times, so Joe has three half-siblings. He recalls one of the hardest things in his life was being separated from his father from a young age, and even though his father stayed in touch, Joe didn’t see him; it was only 13 years later that they reconnected.
Joe was never very academically minded, but enjoyed playing football and basketball at Marina High School in Huntington Beach. He left home at the age of 15, which he maintains made him tougher.
Leaving school, he didn’t have any great ambitions as what to do with his life, and when he was 18 years old he would just hang out on Sunset Boulevard. One day Joe was waiting for a friend who was busy in an acting class, and watching the class at work, he became quite intrigued by the whole thing. The teacher invited him to try his hand at acting, and after giving it some thought, he joined a week later. That was a turning point in his life, and set him off on the path to stardom.
Is Joe Penny married?
At a height of 6ft (1.83m), with his dark hair, blue/green eyes, good build and known as the ‘handsome, hunky, tough guy actor’, Joe was often harassed by women. It’s therefore understandable that he chose to keep his private life entirely out of the spotlight.
There were rumors that he dated his co-star, Melissa Gilbert, in 1987 while on set for the crime movie “Blood Vows: The Story of a Mafia Wife”. Joe’s beautiful leading ladies of that era, including Loni Anderson, Lynda Carter and Morgan Fairchild, saw him as one of the sexiest, most handsome actors. Again, there were stories circulating that he had dated a string of other co-stars, such as Kim Zimmer, Jenny Robertson etc., but there are no real facts to be found anywhere. It is reported that he married Cindy M. Penny in 2004 after they had been dating a while, and that they are still together.
How Joe Penny’s acting career evolved
Joe studied acting under Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio, which influenced several generations of actors.
Through those early years when he took on minor acting jobs in LA theaters, he supported himself by working as a truck driver, a dishwasher and maintenance crew foreman.
Joe’s first minor roles were in 1977, in the TV series “Forever Fernwood” and the TV film, “Delta County, USA”. Soon after he acted in “The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries” series, which ran from January 1977 to January 1979, meantime featuring in the drama film, “Our Winning Season”, and making single episode/guest appearances in several TV films and series, such as “CHiPs”, “Deathmoon”, “Mother, Juggs & Speed”, “The Girls in the Office” “Samurai” and “Lou Grant”.
The early 1980s saw Joe performing in several more TV series and sitcoms, but most notable was his star portrayal of the notorious American gangster, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel in the mini series “The Gangster Chronicles” in 1981.
Leading up to 1983, he starred in the movie, “Lifepod” and TV series, “The Gossip Columnist”, “Vega$”, “Archie Bunker’s Place”, “Matt Houston” and “T J Hooker”, amongst several others,
What was the turning point in Joe Penny’s career?
It was around that time that Joe had also read the script for the upcoming series “Riptide”, and had been asked to come in for a second audition. He was hesitant as he really wanted to be a movie actor and he had auditioned for, and was hoping to get a part in the film, “Purple Hearts” with Cheryl Ladd (best known as one of the Charlie’s Angels). The producer of “Riptide”, Stephen Cannell, actually called Joe direct saying that he really wanted him to play the character, Nick Ryder, and convinced him that a TV series would be of greater benefit, and would ultimately give Joe a lot more exposure.
Stephen said he would deposit $50,000 into Joe’s bank account and if Joe got the part, Joe could pay him back weekly from his salary. If not, he could keep the money anyway. Well Joe went for it and the rest is history!!
“Riptide” ran through 56 episodes on NBC from January 1984 to August 1986. Joe Penny, as Nick Ryder, starred alongside Perry King as Cody Allen, together opening a detective agency and conducting their business out of Cody’s boat, the “Riptide”, which was moored at King Harbor Marina, LA. They enlisted Thom Bray (Murray “Boz” Bozinsky), a techno-savvy scientist and computer geek to help them with their investigations. The series was highly popular, and was later released as a DVD package. In Germany the series ran from 1985 entitled ‘Trio mit vier Fausten”. Ironically, apparently Joe suffered seasickness during the filming of the series.
Joe Penny’s career takes off after “Riptide”
Joe had made a name for himself as an accomplished actor, had hit the big time and was in high demand. From 1986 to 1987 Joe acted in the TV films “Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star” and “Blood Vows: The Story of a Mafia Wife”, also in the TV series:’ “Matlock”, “The Twilight Zone” and “Roses are for the Rich”.
In September 1987 “Jake and the Fatman” launched on CBS, with Joe in the role of Jake Styles, an easygoing special investigator who has ongoing clashes with J.L. “Fatman” McCabe, (William Conrad), a tough Los Angeles district attorney, ex-Hawaiian police officer. Initially the series was set in LA, then from the second season onwards to midway through the fourth season, in Honolulu, Hawaii. At that stage, Joe had a health crisis and lost a lot of weight.
Many rumors did the rounds about the suspected cause of his condition, but actually he had a gastrointestinal virus and struggled to put on weight. For the completion of the fourth season and the remainder of the show it once again returned to LA, eventually running for 103 episodes over five seasons. The TV series, “Diagnosis: Murder” and three connected TV movies developed as an offshoot of the series.
Concurrently, Joe also starred in three other TV films, and from the ‘90s onwards through to 2010, featured in many productions such as the films, “BitterSweet”, “The Prophet’s Game” and “Jack of Hearts”. Amongst many others, some notable TV movies and series were “Walker, Texas Ranger”, “Family of Cops”, “The Sopranos”, “Days of our Lives”, “Double Jeopardy”, and “CSI: Miami”.
From 2005 to 2008 Joe starred as Frank Darnell in “Jane Doe”, alongside Lea Thompson.
This was a series of nine Hallmark Channel mystery TV films, which replayed several times after the original run. In 2008 he played a recurring role as Martino Vitali in six episodes of “Days of Our Lives”, followed by three episodes in “Cold Case” between 2009 and 2010, and then another TV film, “Betrayed at 17” in 2011. The last movie Joe appeared in was “The Last Night Inn” in 2016.
What else do we know about Joe Penny and where is he now?
Throughout his career, Joe worked long hours – often 15 hours per day nonstop – so when he had time out, he would sleep as much as possible. In between when he could grab some time, he would enjoy camping, traveling, bodybuilding, fishing, hunting and spending time with his family – he was never much of a partygoer. Joe considers himself quite a good cook, and enjoys making a good spaghetti sauce.
It is reported that he studied Nichiren Shōshū, a form of Buddhism. He is a lover of music, having grown up with The Beatles, and spent his teenage years in the dawning era of great rock bands.
Joe was inspired to create a blues/rock band called “Stray Dogs”. Their CD, “This Year’s Blonde” was released in 1994, and gained more popularity in Europe than the US. Joe wasn’t entirely satisfied with the CD, nor his musical ability, and opted not to continue as a musician.
Joe has mostly withdrawn from the public eye, and can’t be found on any social media platforms at all. His home is tucked away in the San Fernando Valley, California. He is known to have a big heart, and has done a lot of charity stuff over the years, and making occasional appearances at charity events.
Otherwise he is only seen occasionally, sometimes with his wife, Cindy at red carpet events. Perry King, Joe’s co-star in “Riptide”, launched his own movie recently called “The Divide” and he and Joe were reunited at the LA premier in February 2019, after not seeing each other for many years.
Joe Penny has declared, ‘The mark of a good actor is to take a difficult role and make it look easy’.
As Joe has managed to keep his life a secret for over four decades, whilst riding the tide of success, it is difficult to pinpoint what his financial status is, but according to valid sources, Joe Penny’s net worth is about $500,000 – apparently he’s preferred to play roles he’s interested in, rather than chasing ‘the big bucks’.