ANGELES ó Like many Americans in their 50s, Stephen
Tartalia wants to begin a second career. He figures it
wonít be simple, but it might be a lot less painful.
worked as a Hollywood stuntman in film and television
franchises such as "Pirates of the Caribbean"
and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Tartaliaís
stunt reel shows him jumping from buildings, crashing
through windows and embroiled in other mayhem.
rather than taking a fall for Hollywood stars, heíd
like to cook for them.
an athlete, you need to get out while you can still
walk," Tartalia said.
a few years in Asia, doing stunts or playing roles in
martial arts films, Tartalia learned to cook. He wants
to parlay that expertise "into this exotic
Indo-Asian chef world of cooking ó but Iím a little
late in getting there."
is contending with more than physical limitations; film
and television productions continue to move out of
Southern California to take advantage of state and
municipal incentives that often require them to tap the
income has always fluctuated, from lows in the middle
$20,000s to more than $130,000. But last year was a
catalyst for change, he said. He made just $16,500 in
residuals and unemployment.
much squeaky wheeling does a man with a semblance of
pride do?" Tartalia said. "They donít call
people from Los Angeles to work for them; itís all
contingent on them making hires locally, where itís
scenario is familiar to fee-only financial planner Delia
Fernandez, who reviewed Tartaliaís finances.
is facing what has happened to a lot of Angelenos,"
Fernandez said. "Industries and jobs are moving out
of California, and when it happens 10 to 15 years before
retirement, it can be devastating."
to Tartaliaís future occupation came early.
I was a kid, I used to race around the family pool in my
red pedal firetruck, fast enough to swing around the
rear end on the turns," Tartalia said.
make the route to school in South Florida more
interesting, he and a friend fashioned vines and ropes
so that "we could try to swing along without
touching the ground."
steady diet of martial arts movie matinees every
Saturday inspired Tartalia to learn Northern Shaolin
Eagle Claw Kung Fu. His first big break, as an
uncredited stunt double in 1985ís "The Last
Dragon," wasnít exactly a cinematic masterpiece,
but Tartalia was hooked.
years he spent as a stuntman and actor in films in Hong
Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and
Morocco were a mixed bag. The income earned on a series
of tourist visas didnít boost his pay into the U.S.
Social Security system, but the experience inspired his
interest in cooking.
friends are his test audience, receiving messages that
say things like: "Weíre going to Indonesia today.
Surabuya boneless fragrant chicken curry and/or baby
back ribs, water spinach Ďong choyí pickled
has big dreams, sometimes envisioning his own "hip,
comfy Indonesian-centric restaurant." Heís even
imagined a kind of travel show in which he revisits the
places that have inspired his cooking. Heíd like to
develop other food-related ventures, such as a line of
spices that would sell at Whole Foods Markets.
he ratchets down the high-octane enthusiasm, he sees
himself cooking at farmers markets or using the
restaurant-quality kitchens of friends during off hours.
found through extensive potlucks, demonstrations and
farmers market food-court booths that there is an
incredible enduring excitement that comes from
discovering an unknown cuisine," Tartalia said.
said Tartalia could be successful if he summons the same
zeal he used in his film and TV stunt work.
needs to start small," Fernandez said. "Itís
very typical of a lot of people at this stage of their
lives to want to pick up on a passion, which, for Steve,
he can leverage his past career and
entertainment-industry contacts, Fernandez said,
"he can succeed, but it wonít be easy."
lacks the capital he would need to make a splashy
entrance into the food business, Fernandez cautioned.
Thatís partly the result of a business partnership in
a Web magazine that went under, taking about $40,000 in
savings with it.
another investment comes along that requires Tartalia to
put in a lot of money, Fernandez wants to make sure he
only gamble with discretionary money that is over and
above what you need," Fernandez said. To that end,
Tartalia needs to build up an emergency fund of at least
thereís the additional problem of $12,000 in credit
card debt Tartalia ran up over the last year to help
make ends meet.
suggested that Tartalia turn to the National Foundation
for Credit Counseling for help in managing his money and
making arrangements with his creditors to limit or lower
the debt. He might also need to consult a bankruptcy
attorney, she said.
other expenses are modest, including a $1,000-a-month
rent-controlled apartment in Santa Monica. To get around
in the neighborhood, Tartalia frequently uses an old
motorcycle, which saves on fuel costs.
jump-start his food business, Fernandez recommended that
Tartalia consult with SCORE, formerly known as the
Service Corps of Retired Executives, to get advice on a
business plan and financing.
most likely routes for Tartalia, Fernandez said,
"might be something like becoming a home chef or
cook that will come to your home and make dinner during
a social event, leaving the hosts free to relax and
interact with their guests."
options, Fernandez said, would be obtaining the
necessary licensing to cook at farmers markets or for a
food truck, but both of those options would require
raising money, perhaps through a Kickstarter or other
going to have to start on one or more of those three
things and build a clientele base out from there,"
Fernandez said. "I think those things can build off
suggested Tartalia should still try to keep a hand in
the stunt world, although in a less physically rigorous
way. For instance, Tartalia said he had been asked to
"break down fight scenes for a cowboy movie"
shot in Spain. That could provide another source of
on Tartaliaís to-do list, Fernandez said, is to update
his website, LAsianKitchen.com, to show that he is still
actively pursuing the business.
are talking about layering," Fernandez said,
"just like how a corporate job search would be run.
You want to make sure that those personal, word-of-mouth
connections are made.
Iíve invited guests to my home and had a really good
meal cooked for me, Iím going to tell people about
it," Fernandez said. "Thatís the kind of
thing Tartalia needs to do and thatís build a base of
the obstacles ahead in transitioning to a second career,
a decent retirement is achievable, Fernandez said.
spent enough years being flung through windows, kicked
down stairs and knocked off rooftops to have earned a
Screen Actors Guild pension of $25,800 a year.
an otherwise undistinguished financial situation, the
pension is like an oasis in a desert.
are incredibly valuable," Fernandez said. "To
match that amount of annual income, one would have to
have saved somewhere between $600,000 and
main goal will be to work until he is 67 to build up a
modest emergency fund and some savings to complement his
pension and Social Security benefits, which should
provide an additional $1,500 a month.
said there was one caveat ó only the Social Security
money, not the pension, will have cost-of-living
wants Tartalia to wait until age 67 to retire. If he
retired at 62, Tartalia would get less than $1,000 a
month from Social Security.