All those recognizable scars on Danny Trejo weren’t sustained in a bike accident. The Mexican-American actor and restaurateur, now 77 and a well-known star of more than 300 movies and TV episodes, including “Blood In, Blood Out,” “Con Air,” “Spy Kids,” and “Machete,” understands exactly what it’s like to be the criminal he so frequently portrays.
Trejo, who was born in Los Angeles in 1944, experienced greater adversity than nearly all of his characters. He engaged in street life and combat, consumed and sold strong narcotics, engaged in fist and gun battles with opposing gangs, served a hard time in numerous jails, and even sat on death row before being freed on a technicality. After that, he straightened up, got lucky, and landed a Hollywood part in the 1980s, and he never looked back.
But getting there wasn’t easy, and things haven’t been entirely smooth since. These are Danny Trejo’s terrible details.
TREJO’S UNCLE GOT HIM INTO DRUGS AND CRIME
Danny Trejo’s terrible story begins with an abusive upbringing, like many others. The actor of “Machete” and “Breaking Bad” underwent severe abuse as a child at the hands of his father and grandparents, according to the documentary “Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo”. This made him more attached to his Uncle Gilbert, who at least gave him some sort of love and care.
Unfortunately, Trejo’s uncle wasn’t exactly a positive role model when he was growing up. He was exposed to narcotics and became addicted to them with the help of his uncle. And that goes beyond just the occasional use of marijuana and LSD.
He began smoking marijuana when he was 8 years old, and by the time he was 13 years old, he was a full-fledged heroin addict. Trejo was likewise introduced to crime by Uncle Gilbert.
He reportedly told a crowd the following story: “I recall giving my uncle a ride in my mom’s car… Stop here, let me get some cigarettes, he would say. ‘Go, go, go!’ he exclaims as he exits. I would yell, “You motherf*! I’m in my mom’s car now. He could rob a booze business for $80 if he had $5,000 in his pocket.”
Gilbert also made Trejo a fighter by ruthlessly beating him and compelling him to remain standing or, in Trejo’s words, “get my head beat in.” Trejo had a depressingly close-knit and knowledgeable relationship with crime and street life even as a young teen.
Please call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or utilize their live chat services if you believe that you or someone you know may be a victim of child abuse.
Trejo fought… a lot
Grantland claims that Uncle Gilbert trained Trejo to be tough by frequently ambushing the youngster, making him keep his guard up and learn to defend himself unless he wanted a split lip. Later, Trejo said, “I was basically his punching bag.”
Despite how brutal the training was, it did help Trejo be ready for a life of crime and imprisonment (and, eventually, a career in acting). It also helped him prepare for life in his neighborhood of Los Angeles, where rival street gangs engaged in brutal turf battles in places like Mission Park.
Trejo discovered there that while everyone is tough, not everyone is frightening. “People ain’t afraid of tough guys,” he declared. “People are terrified of crazy men.”
During this time, Trejo occasionally fought alongside champion kickboxer Benny “the Jet” Urquidez. He said, “Danny never gave in. He was an expert. He had a powerful jaw and a big heart.”
Trejo recalls the constant physical pressures and strains of growing up in Los Angeles’ Echo Park, which he sees as being “basically a ghetto,” in an interview with Tony Gonzalez.
“It was problematic,” he claims. “We were from Echo Park (EP), and we frequently engaged in conflict with the Temple Street gang. The situation was constantly chaotic. We had to keep people out of our area because there were fights on the way to school and on the way home.”
Only death or prison was an option for Danny Trejo given his lifestyle of drug usage, drug dealing, street fighting, and general criminal activity. Fortunately, it was the latter, although he wasn’t first aware of how fortunate he was.
Trejo reportedly spent a total of 11 years behind bars in several southwest prisons, according to Texas Monthly. In 1962, he served a brief sentence in jail for robbery and drug trafficking. He was released quickly, but by 1965 he was back behind bars—this time for good—after selling four ounces of heroin (he claims it was sugar, per the story) to a federal agent acting as a drug addict.
He would eventually become the man he is today as a result of the trying experience, but it wasn’t quite an overnight transformation. He remained a tough criminal who was difficult to frighten.
However, that was about to change. He was transferred from Soledad to San Quentin, a prison renowned for its execution rooms, in 1968. The story claims that Trejo’s cheery attitude changed as the conversation turned to the first time he saw the location up close.
When you approach San Quentin, you will notice two lights above the North Block. A red light and a green light are visible. When the red light is on, someone is being killed. People enter this place and don’t leave, so that’s the first thing you notice, letting you know it’s a death house.
TREJO HASN’T HAD THE BEST LUCK WITH MARRIAGE
Perhaps Danny Trejo doesn’t look like Brad Pitt. He hasn’t had many issues over the years, though, luring women to him thanks to his reputation as a multimillionaire Hollywood bad boy with a kind heart. Being a good husband and appealing to women require entirely different skill sets.
The information about Trejo’s previous relationships, including which of his five children was fathered by which one, is available on HITC. Danielle and Gilbert were children of his 1997–2009 (very long for Hollywood) marriage to fellow actor Debbie Shreve, who starred in “High Hopes” and “Tennis, Anyone?”
Apart from the fact that one of the ladies was named Maeve, there is not much publicly available information regarding Danny Boy, Esmeralda, and Jose’s different ex-lovers.