Stan Dragoti: From “I Love NY” to “Love at First Bite”

I may have eventually got ’round to a post on director Stan Dragoti (1932-2018) but probably not as soon as today. The fast track is accounted for by the fact that he was an old friend of my father-in-law’s, a fellow second-generation Albanian-American from the same Bronx neighborhood. Albanians are not numerous; it’s not heart attack inducing to learn that they knew each other. Dragoti’s output was not prolific — a half dozen films and one TV episode over two decades. But most of it was high profile and popular and featured top Hollywood talent. I wish he’d lived a little longer — I’d love to seek him out to try and find out what made him tick.

Because, no fooling, his body of work was well-known, even if he’s not a household name. In 1972 he directed the Billy the Kid picture Dity Little Billy starring Michael J. Pollard, which we wrote about here (it’s my favorite Billy the Kid movie). In 1976 he directed an episode of Tony Curtis’s cop show McCoy. That’s all fairly obscure, but then came big stuff. In 1979 he directed the Dracula spoof Love at First Bite. It’s not my favorite comedy, but there are interesting aspects, and it’s way better than Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Plus, look at that picture of Dragoti above. Not a bad looking guy, Right? He was married to supermodel CHERYL TIEGS. And Love at First Bite stars the not dissimilar-looking George Hamilton as Dracula. Was this film in part autobiographical? Reportedly the project was hatched while the key collaborators were lying around a swimming pool working on a suntan. It was penned by Robert Kaufman, who also wrote How to Beat the High Co$t of Living). After the success of Love at First Bite, Dragoti next directed the 1983 classic Mr. Mom, penned by John Hughes, starring Michael Keaton, Terri Garr, Ann Jillian, Christopher Lloyd, Jeffrey Tambor, Martin Mull, and Patti Deutsch: another hit. Then, The Man with One Red Shoe (1985) with Tom Hanks, Dabney Coleman, Lori Singer, Charles Durning, Carrie Fisher, Edward Herrmann, Jim Belushi (also Albanian!), and David L. “Squiggy” Lander. This one was not a hit; it brought in a little over half of what it cost. Just two movies followed: She’s Out of Control (1989) with Tony Danza, Ami Dolenz (daughter of Mickey Dolenz), Catherine Hicks, Wallace Shawn, and Matthew Perry; and the football comedy Necessary Roughness (1991), Scott Bakula, Robert Loggia, Hector Elizondo, Sinbad, Larry Miller, Rob Schneider, Fred Thompson and Jason Bateman. And that’s the lot. Not a huge track record, but not a bad one either.

Most of Dragoti’s career was spent shooting TV commercials; his best known credit was the “I Love New York” campaign.

For more on comedy film history please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.