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Frank Stallone, at 91; father of actor was polo devotee

By T. Rees Shapiro
Washington Post / July 14, 2011

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WASHINGTON - Frank Stallone, an Italian immigrant and prominent Washington-area polo player who owned a chain of beauty salons and was best known as the father of actor Sylvester Stallone, died Monday at his home in Wellington, Fla.

He had prostate cancer. He was 91.

Mr. Stallone moved to the Washington area in the early 1950s and later opened salons and beauty schools in Silver Spring, Md. He was an early member of the Potomac Polo Club in Poolesville, Md., and played matches on the Mall next to the Washington Monument and on the lawn beside the Lincoln Memorial.

In the mid-1990s, he moved from suburban Potomac, Md., to Wellington, the winter home of America’s polo elite. He once competed in a match with the Gracida brothers, Memo and Carlos, two of the sport’s most talented players.

Mr. Stallone was known as a rough and fearless player.

His former wife, Jacqueline Stallone, an astrologer in Los Angeles and the mother of the actor, said she once saw Mr. Stallone punch an ornery horse so hard that the blow knocked the animal down.

He passed on his passion for horseback riding to his oldest son, Sylvester, who grew up in Silver Spring and Potomac, where Mr. Stallone owned a farm.

Mr. Stallone and his famous son had an on-again, off-again relationship.

Although the pair occasionally feuded, they shared an enduring bond through polo.

In 1990, father and son played on opposing teams in a celebrity exhibition game with the Gracida brothers at the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club in Florida. Frank Stallone called the match “the thrill of my life.’’

His team won, 6-5, and Sylvester Stallone was named most valuable player for scoring two goals.

Francesco Stallone was born in Gioia del Colle, Italy. He spoke no English when he moved in the early 1930s to New York City from the southeastern mountains of Italy, where he was sheepherder.

An outdoorsman, he rode horses in Italy and briefly served in the US Army cavalry in the early 1940s.

In New York, he was a cobbler, fixing high heels for showgirls at the Diamond Horseshoe nightclub, where he met Jacqueline, a dancer with Billy Rose’s Long-Stemmed Roses.

He attended hairdressing school in the city’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. He had a bit part as the timekeeper in his son’s 1976 movie “Rocky.’’

Mr. Stallone’s first three marriages ended in divorce.

Besides his son Sylvester he leaves his wife of 14 years, Kathleen Rhodes Stallone of Wellington; another son from his first marriage, Frank of Los Angeles; a daughter from his second marriage, Francesca Beaven of Laurel, Md.; a son from his fourth marriage, Dante of Wellington; and seven grandchildren.