Danny Trejo (@officialDannyT) is an instantly recognizable actor, producer, and restauranteur with a resume that includes crime, hard time, and battling his own addictions while helping troubled youth overcome theirs. His latest project is the documentary Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo.
What We Discuss with Danny Trejo:
- What it was once like for Danny to ponder if he was doing robberies to support his drug habit, or doing drugs to support his robbery habit.
- How Danny got his act together after spending 10 years in and out of every prison in California.
- How Danny walked onto a Hollywood movie set as a drug counselor and left as a bona fide actor.
- Why Danny doesn’t do his own stunts.
- How Danny has maintained sobriety for over 50 years — and continues to help others maintain theirs.
- And much more…
Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps! Consider including your Twitter handle so we can thank you personally!
Danny Trejo is an ex-con turned icon, featured in over 350 films and television shows — from Machete to Breaking Bad to Desperado to American Gods. He’s also a restauranteur who keeps the citizens of Los Angeles filled with tacos, donuts, Cerveza, and love. It’s not overstating things to say that Danny Trejo is a national treasure — but it wasn’t always this way. Before becoming such a prolific star of the silver screen, Danny was a drug-addicted criminal — hooked on heroin at age 12 — who spent more than a decade in and out of prisons. It wasn’t until serving time for armed robbery that he resolved to clean up his act — and now he’s been sober for more than 50 years. This bumpy, unorthodox path to stardom is chronicled in his latest project, Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo.
On this episode, we talk to Danny about second chances, the boundless joy of helping others, the thrill of robbing liquor stores with hand grenades, prison prayers, rescuing kids from car crashes like some kind of superhero, why he doesn’t do his own stunts, maintaining sobriety for five decades, and much more. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
Please note that some of the links on this page (books, movies, music, etc.) lead to affiliate programs for which The Jordan Harbinger Show receives compensation. It’s just one of the ways we keep the lights on around here. Thank you for your support!
Sign up for Six-Minute Networking — our free networking and relationship development mini course — at jordanharbinger.com/course!
Great protection. Fair prices. Easy to use. SimpliSafe is the right way to protect your home at half the size and double the range — go to SimpliSafe.com/jordan to learn more!
Better Help offers affordable, online counseling at your convenience. If you’re coping with depression, stress, anxiety, addiction, or any number of issues, you’re not alone. Talk with a licensed professional therapist for 10 percent off your first month at betterhelp.com/jordan!
HostGator has been around almost as long as the Internet. Does your business have an Internet presence? Save up to a whopping 62% on new webhosting packages with HostGator at hostgator.com/jordan!
OxiClean MaxForce tackles grease, oil, grass, blood, soil, clay, food, and drink stains with five types of stain fighters. To work your magic with OxiClean MaxForce, go to OxiClean.com/MaxForce1 to get a coupon for $1 off!
Bring Back Bronco — The Untold Story is a podcast about the rise, fall, and rebirth of the Ford Bronco. This eight-part serial is a 50-year odyssey of blood, sweat, and dirt that takes you from the dizzying heights of the post-war boom to the most-watched police chase in American television history to this year’s rebirth. Check it out here!
Miss the show we did with Moby — musician, singer, songwriter, producer, animal rights activist, and author? Catch up here with episode 196: Moby | What to Do When Success Makes You Miserable!
THANKS, DANNY TREJO!
If you enjoyed this session with Danny Trejo, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- Inmate #1: The Rise Of Danny Trejo | Prime Video
- Danny Trejo | Website
- Danny Trejo | Instagram
- Danny Trejo | Twitter
- Danny Trejo | Facebook
- Trejos Tacos
- Trejo’s Coffee & Donuts
- Trejo’s Cerveza
- Machete | Prime Video
- What I Learned Spending the Day in a Maximum-Security Prison | Jordan Harbinger
- Danny Trejo Talks About Being a Prison Boxing Champ | Mostly Football
- Maurice Harper | BoxRec
- Runaway Train | Prime Video
- Eric Roberts | Twitter
- Edward Bunker | Wikipedia
- Antonio Banderas | Instagram
- Andrei Konchalovsky | Mariinsky Theatre
- How Do I Get Into the Screen Actors Guild (SAG)? | Entertainment Careers
- Mark Wahlberg | Twitter
- John Wayne | Wikipedia
- Forrest Gump | Prime Video
- Danny Trejo: Machete Star Rescues Baby from Overturned Car | BBC News
- How to Grow Dichondra Ground Cover | Gardening Know How
- National Coalition for the Homeless
- Danny and His Stunt Double, Norm Mora | Facebook
- Norman Mora | IMDb
- How to Stay Sober: 12 Tips for Your Recovery | Verywell Mind
- Craig Monson | Twitter
- Arnold Schwarzenegger | Twitter
- Blood In, Blood Out
- John Strasberg | Wikipedia
- The Juilliard School
- Typecast Actors: People Who Always Play The Same Role | Ranker
- Edward James Olmos | Twitter
- American Me | Prime Video
- Charles Bronson | Wikipedia
- Death Wish | Prime Video
- Robert De Niro Is the Greatest Actor of His Generation | British GQ
- 10 Actors Who Have Died Most in Films, from John Hurt to Christopher Lee | The Independent
- Heat | Prime Video
- Desperado | Prime Video
- Danny Trejo and Robert Rodriguez Are Cousins? | Power 106 Los Angeles
- Robert Rodriguez | Twitter
- Anaconda | Prime Video
- Jennifer Lopez | Instagram
- Ice Cube | Twitter
- 2020 BET Awards
- Bundy Does Dishes | Confessions of a Bundyphile
Transcript for Danny Trejo | Inmate #1 (Episode 398)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00] Coming up on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
Danny Trejo: [00:00:03] Prison has a taste. Put one of those fake pennies, leave one in your mouth, and keep it there. That's the taste of the pressure. That's the taste of anxiety. That's the taste of fear. That's the taste of everything you feel, you know, that's to walk around with. And when you finally lose that taste, you've decided whether you're going to be predator or prey.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:30] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. If you're new to the show, we have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts, entrepreneurs, spies, and psychologists, even the occasional national security strategist. Each show turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:00:56] Today, ex-con turned icon Danny Trejo — you might recognize him as Machete or aka the Mexican villain in every movie ever. He's been in over 350 films. Just go ahead, google him, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. He's not just one of the most prolific actors in history, but the reason he looks the part is because as a child drug addict and criminal, Trejo was in and out of jail for 11 years. He was hooked on heroin at age 12. Doing some armed robberies, of course, landed him in prison where he got sober and has remained so for over 50 years. His persona at first glance — it's a little menacing. I assume that came in handy in prison.
[00:01:34] Despite being known for playing intimidating and violent characters, he's widely known as being one of the nicest and friendliest actors in Hollywood. He's been described as a joy to work with by many co-stars. You'll hear on the episode — he's just a gem of a guy. In films, of course, he's been shot, stabbed, crushed, beaten, and eaten hundreds of times at this point. And this is just a feel-good episode. You know, I really came away with a positive impression. I've enjoyed this conversation and I think you will as well.
[00:02:00] If you're wondering how I managed to book all of these great authors, thinkers, and celebrities every single week, it's because of my network. And I'm teaching you how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. And by the way, most of the guests on the show, they either subscribe to the course, they contribute to the course or both. So come join us, you'll be in smart company. Now here's Danny Trejo.
[00:02:22] I'm excited for this because we're both big on second chances. I volunteer in prison. I know you hire at-risk youth felons to work in your restaurant. I actually volunteered at Susanville and in Kern County. I know you were in Susanville.
Danny Trejo: [00:02:34] I was the lightweight and welterweight champion in Susanville boxing. They don't have boxing anymore in the pen, but in the '60s they did. You know there was a guy there, Maurice Harper that fought — in fact, they changed the age limit at the big fight place in New York — I always forget — gardens, gardens, gardens.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:53] Madison Square Garden.
Danny Trejo: [00:02:54] Yeah, because of his age, he fought the main event. He could only fight eight rounds because he was 17.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:00] Jeez, that seems — now that's a kid. Back then, I don't know if that was a kid back then. Look, you've got to be one of the most prolific actors in Hollywood, over 300 movies. I assume you don't remember most of those because how could you, right? No?
Danny Trejo: [00:03:14] I'll be in a foreign country somewhere and I'll be watching TV and I'll go, "Hey, look, I'm in this. And I'm speaking German."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:24] Yeah, German, and I was going to say Spanish, but you already know Spanish. I played a bad guy a lot on camera, but I also know that you had a rough start in a lot of the acting you do. It's less like, "Hey, fictional character," and more like, "Hey, act like you did, like 50 years ago, 30 years ago," right?
Danny Trejo: [00:03:41] Eddie Bunker — we were doing, we were acting, and this director said, "I want you to kick in this door. They're all stunt people. So kick in this door and you're robbing this poker game." I kicked in the door and I fucked somebody with a rifle and guy fell over and I grabbed this one guy and put him down and screamed at him. You know, "I haven't killed anybody all day. Move or I'll kill you." And the director, "Cut! Cut! Danny, where did you study?" I'll never forget that. And I looked at Eddie Bunker. I said, "Let me see Vons Market, a Safeway."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:19] Right like literally robbing stores with a sawed-off shotgun.
Danny Trejo: [00:04:23] And we just laughed. And the director guy, he says, "The first half of my life was a character stunt."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:30] Yeah, from actually robbing stores with — I know the sawed-off shotgun was a weapon of choice back then —
Danny Trejo: [00:04:35] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:37] — I don't know. That makes a lot of people think twice about like —
Danny Trejo: [00:04:40] Being a hero.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:40] "You're not getting my money."
Danny Trejo: [00:04:42] It does. It does. A lot of times, if you pull out a little 38 snub-nose, the little small gun — one of those athletes like, "I couldn't do anything," because little bullets hurt too. They don't understand that, but there's more chance. But when somebody's looking at a sawed-off shotgun, they kind of figure that whatever they got isn't worth what you got.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:04] Yeah, probably. Yeah. I would imagine that to be the case. You first got arrested at age 10, assault and battery, then grand theft auto in your teens robbing liquor stores. I read you robbed the store with a hand grenade. I just want to know where a teenager gets a hand grenade.
Danny Trejo: [00:05:17] This was later on. This was like —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:18] Okay.
Danny Trejo: [00:05:19] We did a robbery and we ended up with this hand grenade. So I tried it and it was very simple. You know when you hold a hand grenade and you've got your hand on the pin and you ask somebody for some money, they think twice, you know? You can see them counting. Because in the movies, they count to the 10. It's like where can I get to, by the time, this insane son of a bitch, counts to ten. And you usually get what you want, so we did. I mean, Dennis was behind me with a rifle though but we had this hand grenade.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:53] Somebody somewhere is telling the story about the time they got robbed with a kid holding a hand grenade, I would imagine. Or got a lot of mileage out of that. I say all of these, not to obviously glorify any crime, but like playing the role of an inmate or something like your first role, not a huge stretch.
Danny Trejo: [00:06:07] Well, let me tell you something. There's nothing glamorous about robbery. I ended up doing a lot of time in the penitentiary and one of the reasons that I'll take a role, I'll take a role, but if the bad guy wins, I won't take it because — no — that's the wrong message. Bad guys either get killed or go to prison. Okay. Change the script. You know, that's the way it is.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:28] Interesting. So you won't do anything where the criminal bad guy, whatever ends up on top.
Danny Trejo: [00:06:35] I never had. I've done over 330-some movies and never have. Never done anything where the bad guy gets away. Now, in Machete, I was a good, bad guy.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:46] Right.
Danny Trejo: [00:06:46] And I did a lot of damn —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:51] Yeah. You know the Grindhouse, it's like artistic, ridiculous. Nobody is like, "I want to be that guy because it's—" It's like saying, "I want to be bad Superman or Lex Luthor." Like it doesn't really matter.
Danny Trejo: [00:07:00] You know what's cool though is when after I did my Machete, Halloween came around and all these Mexican kids were coming in dressed as Machete. I thought it was so cool that we finally got like a superhero and he doesn't have to wear tights, you know?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:20] No, but you do have a lot of — there's a lot of sleeveless, leather vest moments. I don't know. That might be tight standing. I'm not sure. You're in solitary after this prison riot and you're asking God for forgiveness.
Danny Trejo: [00:07:32] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:33] But it sounds like if you're in solitary after a riot, what are you thinking?
Danny Trejo: [00:07:38] I didn't really ask for forgiveness. I just asked God to let me die with dignity because you know, it was alleged that I hit a guard with a rock. That means the gas chamber.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:49] Oh man.
Danny Trejo: [00:07:49] Ray Pacheco hit a free person. That's the gas chamber. Henry had kicked a coach. That's any assault in prison. It's like you're in danger of going to the gas chamber and drying blood on an inmate is a life sentence. So I just said, "Let me die with dignity," because I didn't want to go out crying and yelling with pee in my pants and shit, you know?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:10] Yeah. I don't blame you. When you were robbing, was it just to support the drug habit, or was there some teenage adrenaline in there where you're like, "This is fun"?
Danny Trejo: [00:08:18] Let me tell you something. Once you start doing robberies and you're using heroin, the robberies become addictive. You don't know whether you're doing robberies to support your drug habit or doing drugs to support your robbery habits because the adrenaline is the same. It becomes very, very addictive. And the first time when I was on Runaway Train and I heard a director say "Action," it was like doing a robbery. It was like you were under complete control. It was really funny. I fought Eric Roberts. Well, I trained Eric Roberts to fight, and when the director went, "Action," you know, Eric turned into a store clerk. It was so funny. It was like, "I can do this," and I loved it, man. I loved the adrenaline rush. I love the slow motion. I loved watching Eric be scared of me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:15] So you basically had to train a guy to box and then, what? Go beat him up, but not for real?
Danny Trejo: [00:09:21] Yeah, well, you know what? It was like, I ran into a guy named Eddie Bunker on this movie called Runaway Train and I was there to make 50 bucks. I wasn't there for any other reason. And I was a drug counselor, and one of the kids I was counseling was with me on this show. We were sent out by this agency. The movie was Runaway Train and I'm there and I'm staring at this guy. I'm thinking, "God, I know this guy." And then the second AD told me to take off my shirt. I took off my shirt and I got this big tattoo. And he said, "Leave your shirt off." So now I'm standing there like always with no shirt and Eddie comes up and says, "Hey, you're Danny Trejo." And I go, "Yeah." And he says, "Danny, I'm Eddie Bunker. I saw you win the lightweight and the welterweight title in San Quentin." I said, "Eddie, what is up?"
[00:10:08] This guy became famous throughout the whole penitentiary because we used to call him the brain because he knew how to write writs. And he knew how to write them grammatically correct and in the language of the court because otherwise they just throw them out. You know writs already has to be absolutely correct. So he would charge a hundred dollars for reading your transcript and a hundred dollars if you wrote a writ — you know, for as many writs he wrote. So this guy, every time he read somebody's transcript, he made about 400 bucks, you know, for writing the writs. And so he became very wealthy and I knew him in Quentin. And so he was there, he was a bank robber, and we all had known each other.
[00:10:52] And then on the movie set, he had wrote the screenplay to Runaway Train. He adapted the script. And he asked, "Danny Trejo, what are you doing here?" I said, "Making 50 bucks." And he said, "Are you still boxing?" And I said, "Shit, Eddie, I'm 40 years old. I don't get hit in the face anymore." And he said, "We need somebody to train one of the actors how to box." "I don't know. What's it pay? I'm making 50 bucks." He said, "320 a day." And I said, "How bad you want this guy beat up?" "No, just hit. You don't get 350 bucks for — and he says, "No, no, no. You have to be careful. This actor is really high-strung. He might sock you." I said, "Eddie, for 350 bucks, give him a stick, homie. I've been beat up for free!" And he showed me Eric. Eric was as pretty as his sister, okay? And you can size somebody up and kind of know that God, I wish he was my cell partner in prison.
[00:11:50] I started training Eric Roberts how to box for this movie and they're paying me 320 a day. You know what I mean? So I worked with him for about four days and then the guy that they had cast to fight Eric in the movie comes in and he's the prettiest Spaniard you'd ever seen, man. He's prettier than Antonio Banderas. So if you can imagine there's a huge prison movie. Everybody in the audience looks like they would eat your babysitter. Rawr! Take a bite out of your dad. And they're like all these mean-looking guys and there's two pretty — you know, you don't know if they're fighters or strippers in a box. And Andrei Konchalovsky, he said, "No contrast, no contrast."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:43] This is the director, this Russian guy.
Danny Trejo: [00:12:45] Yeah, he's Andrei Konchalovsky. For the love of my life, I swear to God, He goes, "Look, Eric. Aah," and then he goes to the Spaniard kid, right? He goes, "Look, aah. No contrast." And then he comes to me and he goes, "Rawr, contrasts." I look at Eddie. "Is he making fun of me?" Eddie said, "Shut up, Mexican." So I just told him, "All right." So I got picked to fight Eric because of the contrast.
[00:13:13] First thing I said was, "Eric, don't wear shorts," because he had tight shorts and you can't wear tight shorts in prison but, "No, this character looks good." "Yeah. Well, you'd be my cell partner with those shorts." So I wore regular boxing shorts, and I got to fight Eric. Andrei said, "You'd be in movie and you fight Eric in movie and you'd be my friend."
[00:13:37] Now, if you have a prison background, you're always a little skeptical. If somebody says, "You'd be my friend," because, "Okay. Sucker, what does that entail?" And then he kisses me on both cheeks and walks away. I looked at Eddie Bunker. I said, "Eddie. I'm going to train, I'm going to fight the kid for 320, but if I get to kiss that old man, I want more money." Eddie says, "He's European." And that's what I found out Europeans kiss and —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:08] Yeah.
Danny Trejo: [00:14:10] I kissed that old man every day of my life. He got me a sidecar. I didn't even know what side it was?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:15] So you got discovered that doesn't even happen anymore probably. I would imagine. You never hear about that.
Danny Trejo: [00:14:21] Eddie said it. I said, "What happened?" Because everybody's rushing around saying, "He's not sag." And then Andrei says, "Make him sag," and walked away. Everybody started calling me Mr. Trejo. "What happened?" "Mr. Trejo, would like some coffee?" "Yeah."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:37] Yeah. You got upgraded, man.
Danny Trejo: [00:14:38] Eddie says, "You just caught lightning in a bottle. Believe me." I did the first five years of my career as inmate number one, cholo guy, but I got paid 320 a day. And the directors that had seen Runaway Train, they say, "Take off your shirt." I take off my shirt and they say, "Say something prisony." "We're killing all you suckers." "Oh, that was perfect." So I got paid 320 every time I did a movie. God, I worked all the time. I made my insurance the first year I was sagged and nobody's ever done that unless you're like Mark Wahlberg or some pretty guy.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:20] Sure. Were you ever afraid of being typecast? Like you're always the mean Chicano guy with tattoos.
Danny Trejo: [00:15:24] Well, but listen, listen, you know what? The first time I got interviewed by some girl fresh out of interview school, a little Mexican girl, that was La Raza. And she goes, "Danny, don't you feel you're being stereotyped?" And I looked at her and I said, "As what?" She said, "You're always playing the mean Chicano dude with tattoos. You're being typecast." I look at it and I say, "Hey, I am the mean Chicano dude with tattoos." And I was like, "I was getting paid." Do you understand? Because I was typecast, we opened the door for a whole lot of people. Now, we got Latins playing Latins. Ricky Schroder can't play Mexican anymore.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:04] Yeah. I noticed that they weren't doing a lot of that. Like, this is a Mexican guy. It's like, okay, that is definitely Ricky Schroder, like trying to speak to some dusty ass Spanish in a cowboy movie. I guess you never needed to go to acting school.
Danny Trejo: [00:16:17] Well, you know, on my resume it says San Quentin Drama Arts.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:23] Like, "Where it's at? Near the prison?" Oh yeah, it's near the prison, all right. To the front, in the backyard. You loved John Wayne as a kid. Do you see yourself as a John Wayne type figure? I could see that. You've done twice as many movies as he has.
Danny Trejo: [00:16:37] Yeah. Well, you know what? I've done three times as many movies but Machete, I loved Machete. I loved the fact that he was a really bad good guy. You know, he was a killer. Yeah. He didn't play and I loved that night, like I told you — I mean, I almost cried when kids came to my door, dressed as Machete. And it was like, "Wow, we got a superhero." "We really do." "He's a bad dude," and that painted mustache. It was so cool. It was just warmed my heart and I thought, "Wow, thank you, Lord."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:12] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Danny Trejo. We'll be right back.
[00:17:17] This episode is sponsored in part by SimpliSafe. Here's the thing with home security companies, most crappy with high prices. They got tricky contracts. The customer support is non-existence. Unless, of course, you're trying to cancel them, they can answer you right away. While there are a lot of options out there, there's only one no-brainer, which is SimpliSafe. Despite the technology needed to produce this show, I'm that guy that if something doesn't work, I'm just getting frustrated. I'm getting super pissed. I definitely get it from my dad. You know, the type where, like, "I don't understand how this works. This is stupid. Aah!" And I get really upset. SimpliSafe doesn't have that problem. Let's just say I didn't get triggered by SimpliSafe. They've got everything you need to protect your home. None of the drawbacks of home security, traditional home security. It's got an arsenal of sensors, cameras. They blanket every room. They're paired together, so you don't turn — I don't turn into my dad when setting it up. Professional monitoring keeps watched day and night. They're ready to send the cops, fire medical professionals if there's an emergency. You set it up yourself and under an hour. You're probably not going to punch a hole in the wall. If I didn't, you're good. There's no contract. There are no pushy sales guys. No hidden fees. No fine print. It all starts at 15 bucks a month.
Jen Harbinger: [00:18:21] Try SimpliSafe today with simplisafe.com/jordan. You get free shipping and a 60-day risk-free trial. There's nothing to lose. That's simplisafe.com/jordan.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:34] This episode is also sponsored by Better Help online counseling therapy. There's no shame in this. A lot of people kind of shy away from this stuff. I get it. I used to do that too. And several years ago, I went to a therapist because my friend was going to one and really recommended it. And it just changed the whole game for me. So if you think you might be depressed or you're feeling anxious, stressed, overwhelmed, or you just need somebody to kind of see if you're the crazy one in your house or your relationship or in your office, that's what therapists are for. Better Help offers licensed professional counselors who are trained to listen and help. You can talk to your counselor. It's all private. It's all online. It's all at your own convenience. You do it right from your phone. It could be as simple as difficulty sleeping or just as serious as trauma, a loss, a family conflict, self-esteem stuff. Better Help gives you access to help that might not be available in your area. And certainly that you would normally have to go drive park, set up, and go and do. You fill out a questionnaire, they'll assess your specific needs. They'll match you with a counselor in under 48 hours. In fact, so many people have been using Better Help, they're recruiting additional counselors in all 50 states.
Jen Harbinger: [00:19:35] Better Help is an affordable option. And our listeners get 10 percent off your first month with a discount code JORDAN. Get started today at betterhelp.com/jordan. That's better-H-E-L-P.com/jordan.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:49] And now back to Danny Trejo on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:19:54] Some of the stories of your life are almost like Forrest Gump in nature, right? Like this car wreck.
Danny Trejo: [00:20:00] Run, Forrest.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:01] Yeah. Run, Danny, run. You have so many experiences like this. There was one that I caught when I was looking at the news. There's a car wreck and there was a special needs kid in the car. And you're keeping them really calm. You had kind of an interesting takeaway in the news interview that everything good that's happened to you has happened as a direct result of helping someone else. Can you speak to that?
Danny Trejo: [00:20:21] Everything! God, when I first got out of prison, me and Danny Lebatoff, we started a garden business. We didn't even have a lawnmower. I just had a 59 Chevy Impala with a big trunk. So we would go around. Danny was like a good looking little white kid. So I say, "Go ask them," and he'd go up the door. "Hi, can I mow your lawn?" "Oh, sure." Nice little white kid — and then I show up, I keep my shirt on though, and we would borrow — "Do you have a lawnmower?" We take their lawnmower and their trash bags and go around the neighborhood and mow lawns. And then we come back at the end of the day with their lawnmower.
[00:20:58] And when I went to prison, there was this one lady and her family — she had two boys and a husband. They had a beautiful yard. They had dichondra grass. Nobody grows dichondra grass because — it's the kind of grass that you have to like sing a lullaby. It's craziest. And then when I came back out of prison, it was like a forest. "What happens?" "You know, amigo, one son got killed in Vietnam and one got murdered on the street and her husband committed suicide in her house."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:29] Oh my God.
Danny Trejo: [00:21:30] She turned into the witch lady of the neighborhood. She turned all the kids into cats. We've got her yard looking kind of good. And this old big guy comes over. Hillbilly Ray comes over and, "Hey, poncho." The minute he called me poncho I charged him $10. "Okay, what?" He says, "How much are you charging the lady?" "Nothing, she's a crazy lady." "Well, come over to my yard and bring Pablo," Danny Lebatoff, "Bring Pablo with you for $10." And this guy told us what he wanted done to his yard. And then he goes to his garage, opens his garage. This looked like the Taj Mahal of garages, okay. The walls were painted blue. And if the hammer was missing, you could see it because it has a white.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:13] Oh yeah.
Danny Trejo: [00:22:14] You know what I mean?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:15] Yeah.
Danny Trejo: [00:22:15] I kept telling him, "Your hammer's gone." And he said, "Look, I love gardening yet every gardening tool has no demand to mankind. I can't do it because I had a heart attack. My wife won't let me. I will give you this gardening supply. If you do my yard. I said, "Sir, I will come over to wash your back at bath time. Are you kidding? We got so much, we want a truck because it wouldn't fit my 59." That's what has really started our gardening business. Every good, everything good — when I sold that business, me and Danny, sold that business. We had like trucks. We had eight guys working for us. We even had like shirts that said D and D Gardening because his name was Danny too, D and D Gardening. I had that little guy running with a lawnmower. You know what I mean? It's everything good, everything good that's happened to me has happened as a direct result of helping someone else.
[00:23:07] And that's the promise that I made. I made a promise to God. If you let me die with dignity, I will say your name every day and I will do whatever I can for my fellow man. Everybody that I know — Jordan, let me tell you something. Everybody that I call a friend has thermal underwear and socks in the trunk of their car and you can bank on it cause they will pass out thermal underwear to the homeless people. They'll give socks. They'll give dog food for their dog. I mean, that's what we do. We're the guys that were driving down the street and see you and your wife trying to move a refrigerator. We'll stop. Of course, we'll yell from across the street because if we up on, you'll — 911, "They're stealing our refrigerator." "Hey, let us help you, man." We'll walk up and just help you. And I love it when you try to give us $20. "No, no, we're okay, buddy. Thank you, man."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:04] That's funny. I can imagine the 911 call, like, "Hey, somebody who looks like Machete — Did you ever see that? Anyway, he's trying to steal my refrigerator."
Danny Trejo: [00:24:13] God.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:13] "Sure, that's just Danny Trejo. He's probably just being nice. Try not to get stabbed." I heard you don't do your own stunts, which I thought was kind of a surprise because you seem like the type who would, you know, after all that boxing.
Danny Trejo: [00:24:26] Hey, let me tell you something. Stunt guys, they got mortgages too. And every time one of the actors tries to do his own stunts. Okay, first of all, let me tell you something. I'm going to call all the actors that say they do their own stunts. You're lying. Okay. Because first of all — no, listen, listen, Jordan. If I got $27 million invested in this movie. Okay, and I see my number one actor who, if he gets hurt, puts 300 people out of work and costs the insurance company a whole lot of money. I'm going to say, "Hell no."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:07] Yeah, it's too risky.
Danny Trejo: [00:25:07] insurance companies won't let you do your own stuff.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:10] Yeah, I would imagine that's way too risky.
Danny Trejo: [00:25:13] Let me tell you something, my stunt guy is named Norm Mora. He looks so much — my daughter was asking him for money on the set. "Dad, give me some money, okay, because I'm going to go buy this app." And Norm goes, "Oh, okay." And then, he's, "Wait."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:33] How old is Norm?
Danny Trejo: [00:25:34] He's younger than I am, thank God.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:35] Yeah, if he is doing stunts.
Danny Trejo: [00:25:37] You can't do the crap he does at 76. You know what I mean?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:44] You've been sober for 50 years or over 50 years.
Danny Trejo: [00:25:49] 52 in August and I loved every day of it. And people say it's so hard to stay sober. No. I learned to think of the consequences. Do you understand? It's really easy. And some people, I guess, people that had parties when they were getting drunk, I imagined myself showering with 60 men again.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:08] In prison.
Danny Trejo: [00:26:09] Try not to look. You know what I mean? I imagined myself being, "Hey, blue, get over here." So no, I've seen the bad side of alcohol and drugs.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:23] You've mentioned that actually, the prison has a large warehouse of talent and also insanity. That's a shame, all the wasted potential you see in there.
Danny Trejo: [00:26:32] I call it a warehouse of insanity, it's a breeding ground. And right now they took the weights out. They took the boxing out. They took all the recreation out. It's really sad, but they don't realize it. What they're doing is they're bringing all the gangs together. All we're going to do is calisthenics. And we're going to do them as a gang, all right, Mexican mafia, Aryan brother, Guerrilla family, all of them. You see them. They all do burpees together. They are all doing — so it makes a unit. Before when you had weights, well only the guys that were interested in weights were doing weights. You know what I mean?
[00:27:07] This is funny. I got Craig Monson. He was one of my best friends, right? He was Mr. World. I think in 82 or 83, but he didn't know how to politic with the guy runs all that weightlifting shit. I forget his name, like Schwarzenegger and all the guys knew how to politic with this guy. Do you know what I mean? And so they stayed on his nutsack, but Craig came out of prison, he's, "Don't call me boy, you fool." Craig Monson was bigger than all of them. He's bigger than Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger wouldn't get near him.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:39] Wow.
Danny Trejo: [00:27:40] Yeah, that's right, Arnold. You heard me? None of them because we used to be at the weight pit and when all those guys were in the weight pit and Craig came up like 24-inch biceps. That's almost 580. They don't split. They don't leave. These guys, they are in the weights, so they stay at the weights. The only reason they took the weights out — well, we did blood in, blood out. We donated a hundred thousand dollars' worth of weight because you couldn't pay the extra. We donated to their weight, but then they took the weight out. But I think the weight yard is the only place where you see the races getting together in the same area.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:19] So do you think, I mean, in prison, it sounds like this is — I hate to sort of phrase it as like an educational experience, obviously, but I mean, do you still have nightmares about prison, the consequences — do you ever think, "All right, I'm going to wake up and be in prison?"
Danny Trejo: [00:28:35] You know it's funny you say that because I've had some really beautiful days. Do you know what I mean? Just days like the sun's out. Kids are skipping. People are laughing. The girls love me. This whole thing is like wow. And then I go to sleep and I swear to God, I feel like somebody's waking me up with, "Hey, Trejo, let's go to chow." "What?"
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:54] Oh no.
Danny Trejo: [00:28:55] "You were mumbling something about De Niro."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:59] "Are you all right, man. You need to see the shrink."
Danny Trejo: [00:29:01] Yeah. My life is a dream, Jordan. My life is a dream. And my life is a dream because I can't do enough for people. I can't but I have to. And I don't condemn or anybody that isn't doing stuff for people. Do you know what I mean? If you had Arnold Schwarzenegger go to a high school and say, "Hey, you guys can do better or whatever." They were like, "Yeah." But he won't do it, and I can't condemn him for that. I can't condemn people for not wanting to help because they don't owe. I owe my life. Do you understand? I owe my life. And because of the fact that I talked to God a couple of days ago, and asked him, "Hey, homie, how am I doing?" He said, "Hey, Trejo, you're almost out of help. Keep it up, son" I got more to pay.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:51] It's almost like — I guess it's not where you start. It's maybe where you end up at the end of it.
Danny Trejo: [00:29:56] That's one of those things. I used to be in juvenile hall. It's not where you start. Because the kids in juvenile hall, they feel like they've been thrown away.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:02] Yeah.
Danny Trejo: [00:30:03] It's a program meant to make you feel like you've been thrown away. It makes you feel like you want to go to camp and it makes you feel like you want to go to youth authority. It makes you feel like you want to go to the penitentiary.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:17] Are you saying that the juvenile system that we have actually encourages more wasteful criminal acting instead of rehabilitation?
Danny Trejo: [00:30:25] I would have to say that our whole system is kind of based on — you got to remember if you look at juvenile justice system, department of corrections, spell backwards, spells recidivism.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:41] I'm trying to spell it backwards in my head and I realized that's a metaphor.
Danny Trejo: [00:30:43] That's a metaphor — a joke.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:46] A joke.
Danny Trejo: [00:30:47] But do you understand what I'm saying?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:48] Yeah.
Danny Trejo: [00:30:48] They're meant. If kids stop going to juvenile hall, if kids that going to youth authority, if people stop going to the penitentiary, if our thing goes down, our economy suffers. Every place you put a prison, a town blows up. California has got more people in prison than in some countries?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:08] Yeah, that's insane.
Danny Trejo: [00:31:09] Yeah. And so it's like, wait a minute. What is this? Okay, so 10 percent. 10 percent of the people that are in prison belong in prison. Okay. Don't let them suckers out. But the other 90 percent, we got to work with. You can work with them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:25] Imagine that like you — you grew up in an era that especially for Mexicans, for people that aren't white, like everything has changed so much in the United States since then. Because when you started, how many actual Hispanic people were in movies? Like I wasn't around then but probably not a ton.
Danny Trejo: [00:31:43] Can I get to say this, okay, any Latino that was in the movies kind of was like Juan Strasberg or Julia Art or whatever it was. They were —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:54] Fancy.
Danny Trejo: [00:31:55] Thespians I guess. I started at 85 and then, "Wow, you know, he is probably Mexicans?" I think I was like the first one. I'm straight out of the — almost he went to drama arts school — what's that school?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:08] Juilliard or something like that, yeah.
Danny Trejo: [00:32:09] Yeah. None of them like me because San Quentin Drama Arts but I worked more than most of them. So when I came in, I didn't know what typecasting was. I didn't know the difference between standing here, getting paid 50 bucks, or being the lead. I was just used to — we were all doing the same thing, really acting. And I think I kicked in a lot of doors because I didn't know what being typecast was. You know, I was who I was. Do you know what I mean? I was being who I was. I was an ex-convict. I love the fact that when they have a prison movie, I know I'm in it. And it was funny.
[00:32:50] One of the reasons I kind of like frowned on Edward James is when he said any Mexican that works on Blood In Blood Out can't work on American Me. It was two movies about Mexicans. Are you stupid? It's like there aren't many of us here. A couple of guys snuck in, both of them. So it was like, you know, I was in this thing — at first, not to better my race just to be in movies. And then I realized, "Wait a minute, I've got a hell of a platform," and that's all the movies are for me. They're not — my mom even said, "I'm not here to make somebody's day." I mean, I'm not here to be a movie star. The good Lord put me here so that I can sign every autograph, take every picture, go to school, tell Mexican kids that, "Hey, you can do it. This is all you got to do." Every time I make a movie, I get three or four kids out of the neighborhood. "Come on, let's go. You're going to be in the movies," and put him in the movie.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:50] This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest machete, Danny Trejo. We'll be right back.
[00:33:55] This episode is sponsored in part by HostGator. Self-quarantining can definitely be a drag but it can also be an opportunity to pick up a new hobby while responsibly waiting for scientists to give us the all-clear to go outside and road rage at strangers in person again. You can learn to knit, you could pick up a new language, you could read the classics, or you can build that personal website you've been meaning to do for ages. You don't even have to start from scratch or know the first thing about web design, coding, domain registry hosting, none of that. HostGator takes care of all that crap for you. With every plan, you get unlimited email, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited disc space, free SSL certificates — if you don't know what that is, well, it doesn't matter. It's free anyway — advertising credit. They give you WordPress blog tools. They even guarantee 99 percent uptime, 24/7 365 support, and a 45-day money-back guarantee if you aren't 100 percent happy. That's a lot of numbers. And here's one that's really important — you can get up to 62 percent off if you go to hostgator.com/jordan. That's hostgator.com/jordan.
[00: 34:53] This episode is also sponsored by OxiClean. When Jayden, my son, pooped in our sheets and we just sprayed that OxiClean Max Force on it. We let it sit for a few days. It washed right out. And this was no ordinary baby booty either. This was a cherry poop pits, and all, all right. If OxiClean Max Force can get that out, I'll use it on anything. It even works on dried-in stains. Also, it's not just for white clothes or sheets, but on any color that you can stay in which after having a kid I've learned are all colors. So even if you don't have kids and you just got to stay in your clothes — my kid has gotten stains on his clothes. He's gotten stains on my clothes and I've thrown out a couple of shirts. And I know what you're thinking — just get rid of the kids. Well, now you don't have to because of OxiClean Max Force. Spray it on there, get the stain out. You've got to try OxiClean Max Force for yourself. To work your magic with OxiClean, go to oxiclean.com/maxforce to get a coupon for a dollar off. That's. O-X-I-C-L-E-A-N.com/maxforce to get a coupon for a buck off.
[00:35:53] This episode is also sponsored in part by Bring Back Bronco. This is about the Ford Bronco, kind of an interesting concept. Few people know that my dad worked for Ford for 30 years. I'm sure he worked on the Bronco because he worked on everything else. This is an eight-part serial all about the blood, sweat, dirt, the design of the Bronco, the manufacturing of the Bronco. Why is this such an iconic car brand? Obviously, they go into the OJ Simpson thing. That chase happened more than 25 years ago. A lot of questions about the impact and this series is kind of an inside look at Ford and the call center and the chairman's office, inside the factory, why they killed the brand, what's going to happen with the Bronco. I think they're going to do a re-release. I don't know. I don't think that's any kind of secret that's in the news. If I know about it, probably everybody else who cares does. The host goes through a road trip of a lifetime to find out why Ford killed the Bronco. He's no stranger to the factory floor. He weaves in the tail of his migration to Detroit and goes through the whole legend of the notorious Ford Bronco. I got to sneak preview of the show. It's what you would expect from a Ford Bronco podcast, right? Lots of cool guitar riffs and narration. It's well produced. So if you're into cars, I think this is going to be a great fit for you. Search for Bring Back Bronco anywhere you listen to podcasts. We'll include a link in the show notes as well.
[00:37:02] Thank you for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers is why we are able to keep doing this. So I would love it if you would support our sponsors. To find out who they are and take advantage of those deals, go to jordanharbinger.com/deals. And don't forget, we've got worksheets for every episode. The link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast.
[00:37:22] Now for the conclusion of our episode with Danny Trejo.
[00:37:27] You mentioned before, like giving out food and socks and underwear. I know I've heard you give away diapers. When you were working on — was it Death Wish where Charles Bronson, the super famous action star for people who don't know who that is, he gave you some pretty good advice and it seems like you took it to heart. Do you know what I'm talking about?
Danny Trejo: [00:37:43] I was balled out by this kid. And I told him I was going to beat him to death. And then he was an asshole and I turned around and Bronson says, "You're like a drug counselor, aren't you?" I go, "Yeah." And he goes, "I like the way you counsel." But it was Eddie Bunker who said, "The whole world can think you're a movie star, but you can't."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:05] Yeah.
Danny Trejo: [00:38:06] And that is it. And when he said that, I said, "Why?" He said, "Come here?" And we walked by a movie star, a real movie star, right? And we're sitting there, listening to all the people, talking to him. "I love you. I love you." And then he walked away. And we just said, "Such an asshole. So I love to kick him in his —?" Wow, see because he's a movie star. If you call Robert De Niro a movie star, the first thing he'll say is, "I'm an actor."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:32] Huh.
Danny Trejo: [00:38:33] And he's like, "No, I don't want to be a movie star." Movie stars are the ones asking for green M&M's and shit. Do you know what I mean? I'm here to work. And that's me. I realized that the directors get hired to direct and the actors get hired to act. And it's funny. I worked with this one actor. I can't say his name. I want it so bad but I can't, but every time the director said something, he would go, "Excuse me." And he would want to like —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:01] Rearrange everything?
Danny Trejo: [00:39:03] And directed the whole segment and everybody got tired of it. And finally, I said, "Hey, there's one damn director on this set. Get over here, man. You know, just shut up, come on." And he dummied. Do you know what I mean? Because when I got on the set, he wouldn't ask shit. You're going to get paid the same bread, no matter what.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:27] Why do extra work, right? Why become the director too?
Danny Trejo: [00:39:30] Yeah. You know, he's got his job. He got hired to tell us what to do.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:35] Out of 300 — is it 350-plus movies now?
Danny Trejo: [00:39:39] I don't know. I have no idea.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:41] I figured you don't even know.
Danny Trejo: [00:39:42] I think I got more than anybody. I know I've died 65 times. I have the record for dying in the movies.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:48] Really.
Danny Trejo: [00:39:48] Everybody said, "Why are you so proud of it?" Because every time I die, I went to the bank.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:55] "That's a wrap. All right, I'll see you guys at JP Morgan later on. I'm out. I'm done." Out of the 350-plus movies. Do you have any favorites? I would imagine — I mean, Heat got to be up there, right?
Danny Trejo: [00:40:06] That's it. Desperado, I love that movie. In Desperado, I kept fighting Robert for a line. "Give me a line." "No, no, your character is better." "Give me a line," and he wouldn't give me a line. In fact, I even got an Indian dude, a good friend of mine, right? RJ, he was a stunt guy. He said, "Danny, give me a guy that looks mean and can say something." "Oh, you're going to give the Indian guy a line. What about me, man? I'm your cousin." And then the first time we got a question and answer, a Q and A together, they asked, "Danny, in the movie Desperado, your character didn't say a word and you made it so strong. Was that an actor's — ?" "Absolutely."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:47] "Yeah. They tried to give me lines, but I realized — "
Danny Trejo: [00:40:49] That's my character.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:51] "I have much more of them mystique without any lines, so I insisted."
Danny Trejo: [00:40:55] Robert wanted to talk to me. Do you know what I mean? But Robert said, Robert gave me a compliment, he said, "Danny, let me tell you something. You can say more with your face than some leading actors can't say with a mile of dialogue." And I thought, "Wait a minute, is that a compliment? Well, I can say I'll kill you pretty easy." But you know that's how I learned. I learned, man, it's like the secret to my success was shutting up. The movie Heat got killed. That actually moved me up in stature as far as being an actor. It's like, wow, I'm a real actor. I'm with Robert De Niro. And Robert De Niro is amazing to watch. It's like, he makes it so easy. Robert DeNiro, I did Heat with him and we buddied up. He's awesome, man, which is so cool. And in fact, Robert De Niro called me one time and he was coming into LA and he had to bring his daughter and a friend of hers and they wanted to go salsa dancing, and he wasn't going to have time. Did I know anybody? I got this message on my machine. Okay. I think I still got it because I used to play it every time. "Hey, hold on, hold on." "Danny, we heard that two years ago."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:03] you're just playing it for anyone that walks in like, "Hey, it's Robert De Niro. I just wanted you to take my kid to salsa dancing."
Danny Trejo: [00:42:08] So when he came aboard on Machete, that immediately jumped Machete into a different category. And he's like going — I run into him right at craft service. And we're like looking at each other.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:21] Is that like the chow hall for movies?
Danny Trejo: [00:42:23] Well, yeah, you know it's where all this good stuff is and he goes, "Hey, you." "Huh?" "You, number one." Because we always joke about being number one on the call sheet. Because they had a call sheet, number one Robert De Niro. They had another call sheet over here, number one Pacino. So, he's gone, "You, number one." I looked at him. I'm trying to figure out what to say. All I could say was, "Can I get you some coffee, Mr. De Niro?" Come on. I'm not being number one with De Niro in the movie. It's a joke. Do you know what I mean? But he was awesome in it. He made the movie brilliant. Come on, I know that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:01] Did you ever think at any point during your career, especially during movies with like De Niro, Pacino — I mean, your life could have actually ended like it did in Heat where you got shot in a robbery or whatever it was. I can't remember now. Like, you could have ended like that for real.
Danny Trejo: [00:43:16] You know what, that's one of the reasons why my mom, my daughter. They could never watch that. Because that's what they said. I remember my daughter when she was crying. "Why are you crying, man? I'm going to ask you." "Daddy, your life could have ended that way. The way you were in it." "Wow," I thought, "You're right." And she goes, "Yeah," but De Niro was so awesome. And that was so real. That's the one, they can't watch.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:42] That's the scene your family can't watch. Yeah. I mean, it's a gross scene. They do a closeup of you. And I think your head's wide open or something like that.
Danny Trejo: [00:43:49] It was the best death scene. People still talk about that and they try to mimic that. It was funny because when I was talking to Bob.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:59] Nobody calls him Bob.
Danny Trejo: [00:44:03] When I was talking to De Niro he looks at me, he goes, "How do you want to play in this, Trejo?" And I said, "What do you think about?" He says, "I think you're dead," and I looked at him. "All you've got left is enough breath to beg me to kill you." When he said that for just a split second, I want to say, "Nah, Bob, that's not the way I see it, man. Look — "
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:25] "I got a different vision for this."
Danny Trejo: [00:44:30] I have a vision, "But yeah, that's it, you got it right there. The same way. We're on the same page." I did it the way he said, and it was like — I mean I am more proud of that death scene than I am of a lot of movies that I've done because first of all, Robert De Niro killed me. Secondly, I did it just like he said, and it came out awesome.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:58] I think Robert DeNiro is probably your favorite guy that's killed you or you have any others.
Danny Trejo: [00:45:03] No. De Niro is the best.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:06] You're 77. You've lived several lives at this point.
Danny Trejo: [00:45:09] 76.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:10] Oh, sorry, excuse me.
Danny Trejo: [00:45:11] Come on.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:11] I got to correct one of these articles. Let me take that again. You're 76. You've lived several lives at this point. And you're still going. I mean, do you now feel like you're the good guy or the bad guy? The hero with the villain?
Danny Trejo: [00:45:22] They did a documentary on my life and it was called Inmate #1 and I really liked the way it came out. It came out because it was about redemption. It wasn't about just being, "Ooh, I was a convict." It was just really about — it doesn't matter where you start, it matters where you end. And I'm on my way to ending — a pretty good spot. I want to take that to high schools. I want to take that to and show, "Wait a minute." Do you know what I mean? I don't care how you look at things right now. It's how you're going to end up. I was really impressed with my Uncle Gilbert. My dad was hardworking. You know, my dad was a hardworking guy. He came home with sweat rings, you know, devoted to his job. God, that uncle of mine, my Uncle Gilbert, he always had a roll of cash like this. And it was like a, maybe a 20 on the outside and the rest were in 20s, 100s, and 50s. It wasn't like a Chicago roll. And he always had $200 shoes — and that was the left one — and nice pants and a Tommy Bahama shirt or something, and that impressed me. That's what I want to be. And he got that doing drugs and doing robberies. The price you got to pay is so heavy and you come so close to losing our life.
[00:46:42] In prison, there's only two kinds of people in prison. There's predators and their prey. That's it and you got to decide every damn morning what you're going to be. And I know a lot of people that decide, "I'm prey, fuck, I don't care because I'm tired. You don't kiss me. It doesn't matter." I know a lot of people that took an elevator off the fifth year. There's no elevator. You know just going off and hitting the ground. I know a lot of people cut their wrists. Prison has a taste. Put one of those fake pennies, and leave one in your mouth, and keep it there. That's the taste of the pressure. That's the taste of anxiety. That's the taste of fear. That's the taste of everything you feel. Do you know what I mean? That's what you walk around with. And when you finally lose that taste, you've decided whether you're going to be predator or prey. That's the only way you can lose it.
[00:47:35] I don't care — all the celebrities, every one of them, okay, all of you. And if you want to call me a liar, I dare you. Every one of them that went to prison made protection. You had to, you had to do. Do you understand? You had to pay protection. If you try to tell me you didn't, I slap me in the mouth because I know. If I'm doing 55 years and you're here for drunk driving and you got people that love you and sending you money and I got nobody, you know, you're paying. And that's just the way it is. What I did — I started a protection ring, me, Tyrone, Cookie, and Frog. We had a hell of a protection ring going and you would pay us so people wouldn't hurt you. Out here, you would call it extortion. In prison, it's survival.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:26] When you have that, are you actually protecting people or is it just like —?
Danny Trejo: [00:48:30] Yeah, you have to.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:30] You have to.
Danny Trejo: [00:48:31] No, you have to, because somebody else sees them as prey. Dude, there's an 18-year-old kid going to prison for the first time, it's like he's Gandhi. It's that simple. And at first, you got these little hard heads because they boxed on the streets. You don't box in prison. You box in the ring, but in prison — do you understand me? Understand me, if I get into a fight with you, that means we're going to do that's all around on the ground. We're going to get shot at, and they're going to catch us. And it's the same punishment as if I first stab you. So, now, if I come up and stab you three times in the back and walk away before you drop, I won. Do you understand? And I didn't get caught. It's easier to get caught fighting somebody than it is stabbing somebody. That's the way it is in prison.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:16] Yeah.
Danny Trejo: [00:49:22] Do you understand me? Like if four guys are standing around you. I hit you three times and we all walk away and you fall and I won. And nobody is like, "Oh, you fought dirty." No, I won — because you won. Prison is the most right-now place in the world. It is all about right now. What are we doing right now? Am I killing you or are you killing me? That's what it is.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:45] Did you ever think that you would get out of prison at all when you were in there?
Danny Trejo: [00:49:50] You said right there. I never thought I'd get out of prison. If that riot wouldn't have happened and I didn't go to the hole, I'd still be in prison.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:58] That was your wake up call.
Danny Trejo: [00:49:59] Yeah, yeah, that was the one. Again, do you understand? I knew about 12-step programs. I knew about all of them. And so there's no worse feeling than a body full of drugs and alcohol and a mind full of some damn 12-step call, 12-step meeting. You know, it will fight you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:17] you were a thug and now you're a celebrity legend if you will, what do you think of the rappers, the boy band guys who get famous?
Danny Trejo: [00:50:27] They are so cute.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:27] And then they're trying to roll in their Ferrari, trying to get street creds.
Danny Trejo: [00:50:31] You know what? Let me tell you something. We did a movie called Anaconda with J. Lo.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:37] Oh, yeah. That's right. I saw that.
Danny Trejo: [00:50:39] Gosh, she's gorgeous. Unbelievable! Little kiss from God's lips, right? I'm on Amazon with her and we're talking — we're sitting in the backstage because I started this record label. And we're sitting backstage and two of these rappers that, "Yay. Mother blah, blah, blah —," and I’m looking at Ice Cube and he's looking at me and he goes, "On the street, somebody will slap their mouth." And I go, "You know what? I would love to just go up there right now and grab him by the neck and call them a bitch. Just straight up, shut up bitch." But you know, my attorney has warned me about that. They'll sue — because it's like, come on, man. You know what? If you were a gangster, the last thing you want to do is let people know you're a gangster. That's the last thing. So I love all these guys with the tattoos and the piercings enough and names, red jackass, or whatever. And, "Make your way from me." "Pfft, shut up!"
[00:51:50] Let me tell you something. My little cousin, Gilbert, was 38 years, he got out. And he's an electrician. He's working on the new Ram Stadium. And then he was an usher at the B-L — the awards.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:05] The B-E-T.
Danny Trejo: [00:52:06] B-E-T. Yeah, okay. And I told him, Gilbert, you'll be careful because you got a lot of them little rappers that think they're — you know. "No, no, I'm cool, Danny. Gilbert is about 5'9", 5'10", a little buff up. And he called me, "Dan, I don't know what meant, but you know what? When you stare at him and you got it in your eye —" Because, in prison, you learn how to say with your Folsom stare, with your eyes. "Look, I will kill you. I will go kill the guy that dry cleans your clothes and then I'm going to do bad things to the rest of your family." You look at people with that stare. They tend to say, "Oh, wait a minute, sir." It immediately changes. And he says, "You had to give them a couple of them that stare.
And then they said, 'Excuse me.'" Because there's a certain thing — people can give you a mad dog look, and you know it's phony, but if they give you that Folsom damn stare. It's like, "Wait a minute. I am right now staring at somebody that looks like Ted Bundy." It's like, "Okay, I got you." And it's a different thing and it doesn't matter. I mean, I've seen guys with all the muscles in the world get stabbed by a short Mexican in tennis shoes with a big knife. Fighting? I don't fight you. That's prison.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:27] Danny Trejo, thank you very much. This has been a fun one. I wish we had more time
Danny Trejo: [00:53:33] Thank you. And you live in San Jose. I go up to San Jose. And if you come down to LA, dinner's on me, on me with your family.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:40] I would love that. I would love to come down. I usually do these in person, but we can't because of COVID. I'd love to come and try some tacos or something, man.
Danny Trejo: [00:53:45] Okay. When this is over, I'm going up to San Jose. We'll cruise Story and King, and we’ll have dinner.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:52] I would love that. Thank you very much.
[00:53:56] Stay tuned, we've got a trailer of our interview with Moby, iconic musician and producer. This was a super real conversation about creativity, fame, mental health, money, and what really makes people happy and fulfilled. Moby was really open with this one. And even if you're not a fan of the music, I guarantee you will dig this episode. That's coming right up after the jump.
Moby: [00:54:16] I grew up in arguably the wealthiest town in the United States, Darien, Connecticut. But my mom and I were on food stamps and welfare. My first punk rock show was to an audience of one dog. And my first electronic music show was to Miles Davis.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:31] "I wanted to stop the show on patiently explained to the movie stars and the beautiful people that they'd made a mistake. They were celebrating me, but I was in nothing. I was a kid from Connecticut who wore second-hand clothes in the front seat of his mom's car while she cried and tried to figure out where she could borrow money to buy groceries. Now, it was 1999. I was an insecure has-been, but we kept playing and the celebrities kept dancing and cheering."
Moby: [00:54:53] The weird thing is things started to go wrong when I stopped feeling that way. 1999, I thought that my career had ended.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:01] Yeah.
Moby: [00:55:02] My mom had died of cancer. I was battling substance abuse problems. I was battling panic attacks. I'd lost my record deal. And I was making this one last album and I was like, "Okay, I'll make this album, I'll put it out. I'll move back to Connecticut. I got a job teaching philosophy at some community college." And then all of a sudden, the world embraced me. I handled fame and wealth really disastrously. It was so humiliating. I wouldn't trade any of it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:35] For more from Moby, including how he bounced back from a 400 drink per month booze habit, check out episode 196 of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:55:45] Thanks to Danny Trejo. His new documentary is called Inmate #1, based on, of course, the role he usually plays in every movie ever. Links to all that will be in the website, in the show notes. Please use our website if you buy any books from any of the guests that help support the show. You know, what's amazing about him is there was a car wreck — and many of you probably heard this story. There was a car wreck. This SUV got overturned. Danny Trejo runs to the rescue, ends up pulling out the people in the car wreck. There's a special needs kid in there. And he just ends up on the news and it's like, "Actor Danny Trejo rescues a special needs child from a car wreck." The guy is literally everywhere somehow.
[00:56:22] And as he said in the show, "Everything good that has happened to me has happened as a direct result of helping someone else, everything." That's what he told Eyewitness News and he said that on the show here as well. It holds true. He helps this young actor on set with his addiction. Now, he's a globally renowned legend. After the car wreck, I'm not even kidding. After the car wreck, he goes and buys a lottery ticket, like a scratcher, wins 700 bucks. This is some Forrest Gump stuff right here. I love talking to Danny. Imagine working in Hollywood to get away from drugs and alcohol — an interesting strategy there, Danny. And if you're watching us on YouTube, you may have noticed he pulled up his shirt and showed us his tattoos. He once ran up to Salma Hayek and said, "Hey, I got a tattoo of you on my chest," which I can imagine a little bit creepy at the time, but it turned out to be really, it's a tamale label. It's not Salma Hayek, but it was cunning. He met Barack Obama at a fundraiser — of course, as Forrest Gump type people do, and Obama recognized him and says, "Hey, you're a machete." So, of course, he's recognized by literally everyone. I mean, it's just amazing. And our final bit of trivia to this day, Danny randomly carries a photo of actress, Michelle Rodriguez in his wallet. I don't know why he has a photo of Michelle Rodriguez in his wallet. He says, "I love her. She reminds me of a little sister. If you're ever in a bar fight, Michelle Rodriguez has your back. Don't piss her off." So I'm not even sure exactly what I was going for with this interview with Danny Trejo. I hope you all enjoyed it. I really had a blast with it. It's fun for me to occasionally do something that's a little lighter than terrorism, national security, election hacking, et cetera.
[00:57:48] Worksheets for this episode in the show notes, transcripts episode in the show notes. There's a video of this interview on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. I'm at @Jordan Harbinger on both Twitter and Instagram or hit me on LinkedIn. I'm teaching you how to connect with great people, such as Danny Trejo, and manage relationships using systems and tiny habits over at our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Dig the well before you get thirsty. Most of the guests on the show, they subscribe to the course, they help out with the course. Join us, you'll be in smart company.
[00:58:21] This show is created in association with PodcastOne and my amazing team. That's Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Ian Baird, Millie Ocampo, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. You know somebody likes Danny Trejo, share this with them. You know somebody who's into Hollywood stories, share it with them. Somebody likes feel-good stories, share it with them. Hopefully, you find something great in every episode, please do share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.