Billy Dawson is known locally as Rocky Hill Borough Council President. But, few know his history as a classical ballet dancer, artist, screenwriter, and actor.
He’s trained in classical ballet, toured internationally, and performed for seven years. Dancers, known to have relatively short careers, Dawson is diversified.
He is registered with the Writer’s Guild East, has written a screenplay, television pilot, and digital film documentary; and, he's a trained actor and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) member with a part in Martin Scorsese’s upcoming gangster movie, The Irishman.
The film, starring Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesce, and Harvey Keitel, will be released soon on Netflix.
Based on Charles Brandt’s nonfiction book titled I Heard You Paint Houses, the movie revolves around the disappearance of flamboyant and controversial union leader Jimmy Hoffa in the mid-1970s, and his presumed assassination by mobsters and specifically by Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran.
Dawson plays prison guard Patrick O’Brien in Attica, NY in the early 1960s.
Regarding the experience, he says, “As a producer and multimedia specialist, I truly enjoyed every element of the filmmaking process. At times I had to stop and remind myself to take it all in because the reality of showbiz means my scene could be cut out of the film entirely, although I doubt it.”
Dawson’s regular job is working as a traffic reporter and producer for KYW Newsradio 1060 in Philadelphia.
He takes acting jobs whenever he can get them. In July, Dawson played an Italian card dealer in an underground Chinese casino in Made in Chinatown, which was shot in South Philly and was released in November, although it is difficult to get a copy of the film.
Summarizing the martial arts action comedy directed by James Lew and Robert Samuels, he says, “It’s about a Chinese man in love with an Italian girl who is part of the mafia. To prove his love to her, he has to become a ‘Made Man,’ hence, the title.
“No lines,” he says, “but possible screen time with the main character, who comes over and checks my table like a pit boss while I’m dealing a hand.” The film was due to be released in late December.
Another time, in 1994, Dawson played a police officer in the foreign film Occhio Pinnochio, which was directed by Francesco Nuti.
Dawson has also acted in many plays as well as a Best Buy commercial. In his younger days, he wrote and performed standup comedy in and around New York City clubs, including Caroline’s on Broadway, COMIX, and New York Comedy Club.
Trained in classical ballet, he toured and performed with the Lone Star Ballet and WTAMU Touring Dance Ensemble (West Texas A&M University) for seven years.
Born in Chicago, Dawson spent his formative years in Texas. In eighth grade, after his parent’s divorce, he entered Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch in Amarillo. He says the boarding school / working ranch offered its thousands of students a safe environment “with countless opportunities to learn and grow beyond our circumstances. The reality of honest work at a young age forged my work ethic.”
Describing his positive experience, Dawson says, “I have tremendous respect for people who dedicate their lives to raising some other parents’ kids and give them the opportunity to do more than they would have done given their situation. I was able to go to college because of a four-year academic scholarship awarded to me by Cal Farley’s; they made college possible.”
As for the genesis of his acting career, Dawson says, “My pursuit of acting began when I was 14.” Taking the advice of his school’s play director, he worked on public speaking for three years. “My senior year I was finally cast in the title role for our contest play. We won Best Play four times and I was awarded Best Actor three times. I also received offers for two acting scholarships.”
At West Texas A&M, Dawson segued into radio and broadcast journalism at the college radio station.
“I fell in love with radio,” he says. “I changed my major to mass communication, with an emphasis on radio, television, and film. I became the program director of the station and changed the music format to alternative rock. They are still playing the format I chose over 25 years ago.”
At night, he started working as a radio DJ. “I got my first paid on-air gig at a country station, then went to a Top 40 station, where I was rated number one,” he says. “I was a full time student in the morning, getting paid through work-study as program director in the afternoon, and working as a night DJ.”
He didn’t slow down during the summers, when he worked as a stage technician and eventually as a principal actor and dancer in the evenings and overnight, as a radio DJ. “I was entertaining tens of thousands of people, with two different mediums, every day,” he says.
Dawson moved to New York City to continue his study of acting at the American Theater of Actors, where he played Prince Buckingham in Shakespeare’s “Richard III.”
“Actors move to Los Angeles and become waiters so they can act,” he says. “I moved to New York City instead, to do radio since it’s the number one media market, so I could act.” He worked for Westwood One and Jacor Communications, producing a syndicated radio talk show, and later became a tri-state traffic reporter for Metro Networks and a helicopter reporter and cameraman for WOR, ABC, and other networks.
After one of his radio contracts ended he started working in sales. He says, “Companies need strategic marketers and communicators like me, who understand the story and can tell it to the right audience at the right time and through the right channels, in order to acquire more market share. In media and communications, I’ve worked defining target audiences, marketing content to attract them, and creating promotions that retain them. I’m hunting for the right situation to do that again.”
Five years ago, Dawson notes, “I campaigned for election to borough council in 2013 and lost by nine votes. I didn’t like losing, so I ran again in 2014 and was elected to a three-year-term as councilman. I was re-elected last November to my second, three-year-term and was sworn-in on January 3.”
He enjoys serving the community and demonstrating to his children William, Miles, and Mary, the importance of taking an active role in it. (Miles, 9, pictured below, is a dancer too.)
Cary Dawson, Billy's wife, also serves the community as president of the Mary Jacobs Memorial Library Foundation Board of Trustees.
“I’m 47, and I just got my first modeling gig for a QVC commercial for LQD liquid skincare for men. And my podcast ‘The Billy Dawson Show’ debuted this year. I’ve done quite a bit, but it still feels like I’m just getting started.” ■