Celebrity Fathers: Dan Pastorini & A. J. Foyt
With Father’s Day comes a special occasion to cherish memories and celebrate the importance of family. Whether separated by distance or living nearby, it’s the love that matters.
By Melanie Saxton
Back in the “Love Ya Blue” days, Oiler fans flooded the Astrodome with pep-rallies, pom-poms and fight songs. “The 70s were magical years to fans and the players,” says former Houston Oiler quarterback Dan Pastorini. “Earl Campbell, Kenny Stabler, Mike Barber and Coach Bum Phillips were household words and touched the spirit of football fans in a way we haven’t seen before or since.” Looking back, Pastorini’s most nostalgic memories are of being a father. “It was a struggle balancing a demanding career while being a dad. I missed out on so much of my daughter, Brahna’s, childhood and wish I could have it to do over again.”
Pastorini has called the Houston area home since then — he’s bonded to the people and the culture. “I’ve left for California and Colorado but always came back.” After football, Pastorini pursued his passion for speed in top fuel dragsters, racing and finishing in the top 10 in ’86 and ’87. “I branched out into road racing in the early 90’s and again ’03 and ’04. Let me tell you, competitive sponsorships are difficult to come by!”
Pastorini has followed his heart into his family’s line of work. “Especially around Mother’s and Father’s Day I think of my mom, Dorothy, and dad, Dante, and regret not bringing them to Houston in the 70’s. For 37 years, they owned and operated Pastorini’s Longhorn in Sonora, Calif., and were the ultimate restaurateurs. Houstonians would have embraced them.” In their honor, Pastorini dusted off some favorite family recipes and, with a business partner out of California, created his Texas Style Rub. “My parents would be proud. They inspired a spice rub with no MSG that can be used on all meats, but also salads, chili, popcorn, gumbo and bread crumbs. It’s made in Texas, so we market tested it at the 2011 Houston Livestock & Rodeo Cook-off. Approximately 3,000-4,000 people tried it on chicken, ribs, brisket, tri-tip, frog legs and corn on the cob, and everybody liked it. This is a true testament to my parents, and we’re putting it on shelves as we speak,” says Pastorini.
Not only does his business partner reside in California, but so does Brahna, now 35. “My career and divorce strained our relationship,” says Pastorini. “Like so many single dads, I wasn’’t the presence in her life that I wish I’d been. Thirteen years ago I was hell-bent on getting the two of us back on track. I can honestly say that the best two days of my life were when Brahna was born and when we reunited. She lives in Long Beach, teaching tennis — she’s truly gifted — and working for Prudential Realty.” Thanks to Brahna, he has an additional love: granddaughter, Allie. As a never-married single mom, Brahna adopted the 3-year-old. “Allie is now 6 and I see how clever she is, twisting her mother around her finger,” says Pastorini. “I jokingly call that ‘payback.’”
For the past three years, Pastorini has had a wonderful lady in his life with her own California connections. “Pam’s son is 31 and her daughter is 35, both in Los Angeles. Between the two of us, we are blessed to have such a great kids.” His family has come full circle. “At this point, I’ve taken a step away from the fast lane. What once seemed important fades when I compare it to the importance of family. My focus going forward is preserving my parent’s culinary legacy. I want to pass it on to my daughter and granddaughter and share it with the people of Texas.” For more information, visit dpqualityfoods.com/about.asp
A. J. Foyt
Anthony Joseph Foyt Jr. — better known as the legendary A. J. Foyt — is the all-time winner of 67 Indy car races and 12 national titles. He is also the first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500. Amazingly, he is the only driver to have conquered what many consider the “triple crown” of racing — winning the Indianapolis 500, the 24 Hours of LeMans and the Daytona 500. Although busy with his enterprises and retired from the track, he was tapped to replace Donald Trump behind the wheel of the Indianapolis 500 ceremonial pace car May 29th to the delight of fans. This special date marks the 50th anniversary of his first win in 1951. But when asked about what is most important to him, this native Houstonian says, “My family.”
With Father’s Day come memories of his own upbringing. He shadowed his dad at their family garage, learning how to build cars and knowing from the age of 5 that he wanted to race them. “My daddy was the greatest influence on my life,” says Foyt. “As a teen I made the mistake of outrunning the cops, then lied to him about it. He found out and punished me for one year where I had to report to his shop right after school and I couldn’t drive my car. Even at Christmas, my mother and grandmother pleaded with him to let me off and he wouldn’t. It really impressed me not to get in trouble anymore.”
Those lessons passed down from his father shaped his life, and as the husband of Lucy (whom he married in 1955), and a father of four. Foyt revels in the success of his children. Tony (A.J. III) manages the Foyt cattle ranches, and operates the Foyt Game Ranch in Del Rio, Texas. Daughter Terry is the president of Foyt Realty in Houston. Jerry manages a Lexus dealership. Larry is the team director of A.J. Foyt Racing and also drives in selected NASCAR events. Grandson Anthony Foyt IV has had a long racing career and married Indianapolis Colts vice president Casey Irsay. On Sept. 18, 2010, the couple announced the birth of, Anthony Joseph Foyt V, A.J.’s newest great-grandchild and namesake. Youngest son, Larry, has attended every Indy 500 since his birth. “My parents are my role models and huge influences on my life,” says Larry. “We were all worried about my mom, who had a triple bypass in February. Then my dad had an angiogram, which showed a 99 percent blockage in an artery. Thank God they are both fine, although my dad missed the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in March due to his angioplasty. But he quickly made his way out to the ranch —unstoppable, as usual.”
Recently, Larry and A.J. Foyt IV launched a new venture — Foyt Family Wines. “We founded the label as a tribute to our patriarch,” says Larry. They introduced their first Collectors Series wine with No. 77 — named after the year (1977) A.J. Foyt became the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 four times. “The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Mt. Veeder Napa Valley Appellation really is a celebration of our family,” says Larry. “I’m so glad we can honor my father’s successes in this special way. And I would like to say, Happy Father’s Day, Dad!” For the history of A.J. Foyt Racing, visit www.foytracing.com. For the history of Foyt Family Wines, visit foytwines.com.