I first met fellow Ocean Park resident, Bruno Marcotulli, at the Ocean View tennis courts twenty years ago. I worked for the city checking in players. I remember it because I’m somewhat short at 5′ 8 1/2” (on a good day) and Bruno is somewhat tall at 6’4”.

I also remember our meeting because Bruno’s playing partner and girlfriend was highly attractive. Two decades later, Bruno’s current girlfriend, Kelly, is also highly attractive and they’re getting married in June. At 57, this will be Bruno’s 1st marriage. “I’m glad I waited until Kelly arrived,” Bruno says proudly. (And smartly.)

Among Bruno’s and my common interests, other than tennis and Sanskrit (joking)  was basketball. Bruno played on his Hollywood High varsity team for all three years and ultimately got a scholarship to play Division I at Loyola Marymount University.

As an actor, Bruno has been in many commercials, including a United Airlines spot in which he played Bigfoot. In a Dimetapp Cold Medicine commercial he played a guy carrying a giant suitcase and suffering from a giant cold. (“Nobody does “a cold” better than I do,” says Bruno, sounding like Dustin Hoffman in “Tootsie”.)

Bruno’s TV credits include his role in the controversial documentary series on FX, “Black.White.” Bruno was brilliantly made up to look black so he could experience how his interactions might change now appearing to the world as an African-American.

On HBO, Bruno was  in the comedy series “Encyclopedia Brown”  about a 10-year-old genius who helps fight crime in his small town. With deft comic skill, Bruno played the bumbling but sweet Police Chief Brown who frequently took a pratfall. (And who apparently didn’t have a first name.)

Bruno’s also appeared in numerous movies including: “Spy Hard,” “Moon in Scorpio” and “One Tough Bastard” as well as other TV shows such as “Bay Watch,” “MacGyver,” “Murder She Wrote,”Dragnet,”Jag,” “Dallas” and “V.I.P.” in which he played Paul the nudist. (Which he insists was not typecasting.)

Locally, Bruno has been in numerous Shakespeare productions , at the Miles Memorial Playhouse in Reed Park, including “A Mid Summer Night’s Dream” and “Macbeth.” In April he’ll be performing in “As You Like It.”

For many years, Bruno was a beloved grade school substitute teacher on the Westside. But, back in 2007, Bruno began, “An adventure with paint which took [him] on a journey of self-discovery [he] had no way of anticipating.”.

Bruno’s written a book about this journey, “You Are What You Paint: Fearless Creativity.” (Since I’m such a procrastinator, maybe I should do a book, “You Are What You Write at the Last Minute.”)

Bruno’s book includes 24 original brightly colored, clown-themed paintings which reflect his personality and views on life. As  Henry Ward Beecher (brother of Harriet) put it, Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.”

Each painting includes humorous commentary in which Bruno dispels the notion that only those who have studied art can enjoy creating it. “If you create art, you’re an artist. I believe we all have something to say and the ability to express it.”

Bruno’s journey coincided with a burgeoning movement of would-be artists exploring and expressing their own talents. Of late, I’ve even noticed commercials on TV for “adult coloring books,” which seem to have become the rage.

The Paint Lab, a walk-in art studio on 14th Street is a perfect example of this growing trend of amateur artists with their inspiring logo “Experience, Express, Explore.” They offer kids, teens, adults and senior classes and provide all the art supplies necessary.   

In his book, Bruno names each of his paintings. The titles include “Egg Head,” the “Power of Flowers” and “Love Flows,” a humorous salute to Vincent Van Gogh.

The last painting in Bruno’s book is titled “God,” an homage to what Bruno describes as “the creative power of the universe,” which he believes flows through us all. It’s also an encouragement to others, as he puts it, “To feel free to express themselves artistically, without the fear of making mistakes. There are no mistakes in art.”

There’s actually nothing more that Bruno would like than to encourage others to tap into their artistic selves. I suppose he’d also like you to check out his book.

“You Are What You Paint: Fearless Creativity” is available on Amazon. Bruno’s email is: Bruno.youarewhatyoupaint@gmail.com.  The Paint Lab is  at 1453 14th St. and their website is  www.paintlab.net. Jack is at jnsmdp@aol.com