PERFORMER: Jerry Dean, Now and Then. Photo by Matt Kamimura

Jerry Dean became a criminal when he was in the fourth grade. As he was being carted away by the New York police for the first time, he was heard to shout defiantly, “My father’s a cop!” That phrase became his mantra as he was carted off repeatedly during those early years, and now, as he nears 50, he uses the phrase as the title of the one-man show in which he tells the story of his life. And a grueling life it is—for the audience as well as for the performer.

Growing up in Greenwich Village, with stops in various prisons along the way, Dean decided early on that he wanted a career as a con man. And so, as with every twist and turn in his self-destructive life, he started at the top, going to the sharpest con man in the city and convincing him to take him on as an “apprentice”.

His father, the cop, filmed documentary-style, is shown offering advice, recriminations, and frustration, but usually, in the end, supporting him. His mother, on the other hand, on discovering that his pants pocket was filled with ill-gotten loot, offered him the alternative of turning himself in to the police or quietly splitting the money with her.

As he moved on from his creative phase as a graffiti artist, he augmented his newly learned “con man” skills with a continually growing variety of other crimes. By 1983 he had been convicted of 26 robberies with a sawed-off shotgun in local whorehouses. And, introduced to drugs by a friend, he soon began to sell as well as use them.

At the same time he pursued a plethora of females in “the business” and, because he was “cool” and extremely handsome, he never had trouble finding a sexual partner. (Even though he once choked Peter Seller’s daughter Victoria, at her request, nearly to death.)

His looks also provided him with a brief modeling career and then an introduction to acting. Acting intrigued him. He loved improv, noting that “With improv you use the same muscles you use as a con man.” Then, after taking a series of acting lessons in New York, he migrated to Hollywood, where he enjoyed a modest success in films and the friendship of prominent actors.

But he was still bedeviled by his ongoing need for ever more devastating drugs, and his use of heroin, cocaine, crystal meth, and countless pills played havoc with the mental problems he had struggled with since childhood. In between his repetitive arrests and imprisonments (for as long as seven years, and often in solitary confinement) there were continual hospitalizations and treatment in mental wards, long stretches in rehab, and inevitable relapses as soon as he was released.

It’s not a pretty story, and even though Dean inserts bits of ironic humor from time to time, it doesn’t get much better as it goes along. And the comparison between Dean’s sleek good looks as a young man and his sad, flabby appearance as he approaches 50 becomes a cautionary tale for young people who are contemplating drugs as a way of life.

In addition, the set where this story is told, as “designed” by Raymond King Shurtz, is a depressingly empty stage darkened by dismal lighting and backed by a wall on which dopey graffiti (words like Hyper”, “ORB 7” “BLIGHT 2” and “FLIRTING WITH DISASTER”) is scrawled. Nothing remotely artistic or interesting.

Moreover, Kurt Brungardt, who serves as director and co-writer, has allowed the “f word” to dominate the script, using it multiple times per sentence. Not as offensive as unnecessary.

“My Father’s A Cop” will be continuing at the Lounge Theater, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. through January 28.

For tickets,