By: Jenny Castro
Los Angeles, California (The Hollywood Times) 12/2/23 – Anthony J. Mohr has lived quite a fascinating life. A former California Superior Court Judge, current Senior Editor at the Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University, and now published author, Mohr grew up with two fathers who were widely different from one another. Having grown up in Los Angeles during Hollywood’s golden era, Mohr’s father was radio actor and film star Gerald Mohr, who also appeared in numerous television shows and was known for his distinctive voice and dashing good looks. Mohr Sr. often played villains, gangsters, cops, and was especially known for being a prolific radio actor and narrator. On the other hand, Mohr’s stepfather was credit card pioneer Stanley Dashew, a stern businessman dedicated to his entrepreneurial ventures.
Mohr’s book titled, “Every Other Weekend: Coming of Age with Two Different Dads,” offers a warm-hearted and entertaining look into his experience in navigating both father’s, divorce, blended families, and adolescent insecurities. After years of encouragement by friends and colleagues, Mohr finally immersed himself into writing his memoir on his upbringing. Giving readers insight into family quarrels, life during the 1950s and 60s, and coping with personal emotions, the book also touches on experiencing the economic differences between his two families and living in the shadow of his famous father and successful stepfather. When asked how both men inspired him, Mohr recalls a particular review, “One person wrote a review about this for a literary journal called Hippocampus Magazine. And he wrote in the review that had it not been for my father I never would have written the book, and had it not been for my stepfather I never would have become a judge and that resonated with me because he’s right,” said Judge and author, Anthony Mohr.
Mohr and his father’s relationship continued to develop even more so after his parents divorced around 1957. In terms of Mohr’s mother Rita, he credits her for helping him balance the transition of their split while they also both remarried, “She’s the unsung hero of the book, and navigated between the two fathers. She ran interference between the two. Stan wanted me to do a lot of things in terms of working for his companies and not necessarily being in school activities, and I wasn’t interested in doing that. My mother would tell him, “You got to let this kid do what he wants to do.” Mohr had been interested in the debate team and writing for the school paper during his youth. When it pertained to his father Gerald, Mohr’s mother did her best to be a bridge between him and their son as well. Gerald’s acting and radio career was a top priority which often left him absent from the home, “After the divorce, my father became much more available to me. I used the word pal in the book, and he always used that word. He would say, “You and I are pals.” And he made a point of spending every second weekend with me. We would play miniature golf or go horseback riding or something, and we grew very close and talked about everything. He was a Polymath and knew about many subjects and it was a delight,” Mohr recalls.
During the 1950s and 60s, divorce and blended families weren’t exactly the norm, but Mohr wasn’t necessarily treated any different, “Fortunately, nobody gave me any trouble because of that. Nobody in school teased me about it and to my knowledge, no girl refused to go out with me because of that. I wasn’t getting a lot of dates in high school, but then again, I was pretty nerdy. For all I know, there was one girl who seemed to be very interested and then suddenly she kept saying no when I asked her out and her family had a lot of stature in Beverly Hills,” Mohr said. The idea she was persuaded against pursuing any relationship with him did cross Mohr’s mind admittedly. “I don’t know that it happened, but I always suspect that it did,” he added.
Through his father Gerald, Mohr was able to get a taste of life as an actor, “As a kid my dad was filming “Foreign Intrigue” (TV series) and I did ask to be on the show, so they had me walk through a scene. They wrote me in as a child who was playing with other kids in a park and a paper airplane lands among us and it turns out it’s full of secrets. And I have lines there and I kept blowing my lines and wasn’t acting well and couldn’t treat my father as a stranger. So, we had to go through a lot of tapes,” Mohr recalls. “And frankly, I got bored and was 7 years old at the time. I just remember leaving there and thinking I don’t want to be an actor. So, I did try out for a couple of roles and got a few but that was it. I was never interested in going into the entertainment world. I guess because I saw both my father’s hitting the highs and hitting the lows. They would have lots of money then suddenly they wouldn’t have any money and I didn’t want that. I wanted something that was very steady. And even though I had my own law practice and that’s a form of being an entrepreneur, I became much happier when I became a judge.”
Living in Beverly Hills since the 6th grade well into high school, Mohr also rubbed shoulders with other children of Hollywood stars “Oh, yeah. There were so many people in the school whose parents were celebrities that it really didn’t make much of a difference. Because most of us were just involved with our own activities, and our own homework and friends. And if somebody had a father or a mother who was well known, we didn’t jump up and down. It didn’t make us go into a different personality mode or anything else. One of my very close friends, starting in the seventh grade had a father who was a well-known director. He directed Peyton Place. There was also Dena Kaye, Danny Kaye’s daughter. I knew Dena a little. She was a year or so ahead of me, but I never even realized she was Danny Kaye’s daughter, and she ran for student Vice Body President and lost to a guy whose parents who were not famous. There was Julie Cobb, our homecoming queen if I remember right. And Julie was Lee J. Cobb’s daughter, and there was Larry Bishop, Joey Bishop’s son. And in fact, there were celebrity kids that I never even realized were children of celebrities. Alot of us have commented that we didn’t realize where we came from until we ended up in college and people started asking questions,” Mohr said.
Speaking of seeing his father on film or hearing his voice today, Mohr can’t help but feel various emotions. A sense of “sadness,” or “pride” comes up, “And sometimes surprised,” he said. “I’m walking across the room, and my wife has the TV on, and I look and there’s my father. That has happened a couple of times and watching his movies today. I mean, there’s always a little sense of loss…sure you know. He died too soon, and he did really good work. And it’s interesting I can pull him up anytime I want and watch and listen to him. I haven’t watched all of his movies and haven’t watched nearly all of his radio shows as there are dozens and dozens of them. But, you know, I’ve got a number of them here.”
Recalling a moment in the book, Mohr briefly speaks on Bobby Kennedy’s assassination in 1968, in which his father Gerald was present, “Let’s put it this way, I was on my way to the Ambassador Hotel where Kennedy was shot and one of my buddies wanted to come along so I go to his house to pick him up,” Mohr said. “Kennedy gave his acceptance speech, and we watched it on TV. I turned back and looked and there’s a crawl across the screen saying, “Kennedy’s Shot,” and of course we never left his house, and my dad was there, and I didn’t know what had happened. And so, I started calling my father’s house an hour or so later and finally around 3:30 or 4:00 am I reached him at his apartment. When I arrived, he was sitting in the dark talking to someone on the phone saying “He’s gotta pull through,” and he was weeping and absolutely heartbroken and upset. It was tragic.”
Released earlier this year, Mohr’s book is an overall great reflection on his early years and offers enlightening details through its storytelling. For 26 years, Mohr served as a Superior Court Judge in Los Angeles, and interned with the Nixon Campaign while in college. No doubt his father would have been extremely proud of him today. Reflecting on his judicial career, Mohr happily gives insight, “Well, I call it a calling more than a job, and the trick is to be neutral. Don’t get involved with the case. Don’t get personally involved and listen to both sides. If it’s something that’s emotional, you’re going to have to control that. You can’t break down in tears on the stand when you hear testimony about somebody who’s gone through a trauma. On the bench you’ve got to be neutral, and you’ve got to follow the law. I mean, you may want to do something for one side, but the law may say no. And if that’s the case, follow the law. But it’s a wonderful job. Your only job is to do the right thing and bring justice between the parties. That’s lovely. That’s a wonderful privilege to have. And the vast majority of people who work for a living don’t have that privilege,” Mohr explained. If there’s one final thought to sum up his book, Mohr tell us, “If there’s anything positive out of it, it’s taught me how to be a dad.”
Recently, the book won an American Writing Award in the category of Memoir/Autobiography and also won a Firebird Award in the Nonfiction category. “Every Other Weekend: Coming of Age with Two Different Dads” is available to purchase on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Bookshop.org.