Hometown: Kenosha, WI
You Know Him From: A TV writer on “General Hospital” (and the famed ‘Luke & Laura’s Wedding’ storyline), as well as author of several novels, including “The Madman’s Diary.”
Did You Know?: Thom would eventually be credited with giving his roommate, a struggling actor named Brad Pitt, his first acting job. He also recalls Pitt asking him to suggest a scary book, though after finishing Racina’s copy of “Interview With A Vampire,” expressed that he didn’t care much for it. Pitt would later star in a movie based on the novel in 1994.
On June 4, 1946, Thomas Frank Raucina was born in Kenosha. He left the Midwest after graduating high school to pursue higher education, first in Albuquerque, NM, and finally in Chicago where he earned his Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts and Directing from the Goodman School of Drama at the Art Institute.
To help finance college, he wrote books simply to earn money- books that he didn’t even want recognition for. Thom Racina (as his professional name came to be) wrote Westerns, romances, porn or whatever else the publisher paid him for. He moved up to mainstream publishing with a take-off on “The Happy Hooker: My Own Story,” by Xaviera Hollander, called “The Happy Hustler,” which he wrote entirely in one weekend. The novel ended up being successful, selling three million copies and spawning three sequels.
Next, Racina turned to ghost-writing three books for Xaviera Hollander, made-up life stories for Ivory Soap girl-turned-porn star Marilyn Chambers and Fanne Fox and turned out 25 novelizations of TV shows and major motion pictures. In his career, Racina has been published by Warner, Dell, NAL, Berkeley, Ace, Putnam and Penguin, authoring 157 books before his own breakthrough success in novel writing. This breakthrough came in 1977 and was &!@*#led “The Great Los Angeles Blizzard.” Rights were purchased by Erwin Allen to adapt it to the big screen, but the cost estimates for the film were too high for it to be profitable.
Racina took a 19-year hiatus after this novel to work on writing for TV. He gave the world 4,000 broadcast hours of “Search for Tomorrow” (1980), “General Hospital” (1981-1984), “Days of Our Lives” (1984-1986), “Another World” (1986-1988), “Generations” (1988-1991) and “Santa Barbara” (1991-1992), besides writing for the much-acclaimed nighttime series, “Family” (1978-1979). As a writer for the soaps, he received five Emmy nominations (for “Day of Our Lives” and “General Hospital”), one specifically for “Luke & Laura’s Wedding on” “General Hospital”- the single highest-rated episode in daytime history (30 million people tuned in). He also worked in Hamburg and Toronto writing “Family Passions” (1993-1994), a Canadian/German production.
Of his years writing for TV, he says on his web site, “It was a treadmill, but so much fun to play God.”
From busy years spent writing for TV, Racina grew tired of the Los Angeles scene. He returned to life as a novelist and moved to Palm Springs. It was not difficult for him to get back into the swing of writing thriller novels, with “Snow Angel” being published shortly after in 1996. He has since written “Hidden Agenda” (1998), “Secret Weekend” (1999), “The Madman’s Diary” (2000), “Never Forget” (2002) and “Deep Freeze” (2005).
“I’m a vampire,” says Racina, who told Palm Springs Life he prefers the quiet and solitude of the early hours of the morning for writing. He then retires to bed after the sun rises. Unlike a true vampire, though, he gets up at noon and goes out among people (whom he enjoys talking with).
Racina attends more than 100 book signings a year, including weekly appearances at VillageFest every Thursday evening in Palm Springs, where he sells as many as 100 books in one evening. He also often happens to be in the right place at the right time to sell his novels. Racina walked into a Costco store in San Francisco for bread and tequila one day and signed 30 books in 10 minutes after he noticed his book on display. In another instance, he was at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, where he saw his books lining three shelves in a store.
“I was on top,” he tells Palm Springs Life. “Mr. [John] Grisham was down near the bottom, and I had never seen that. I said. ‘Where’s the manager? Where’s the manager?'” After the manager identified himself, Racina reportedly asked him, “Can I kiss your feet?” As the two talked, a crowd gathered and Racina ended up signing 30 books. “I almost missed my plane!” he exclaims.
He calls his 2001 novel, “The Madman’s Diary,” a “love letter” to his new home in Palm Springs. It’s filled with references to local places and people, though the idea came from his brother, Bob, who still lives in Kenosha. Thom says many tourists who buy his book at VillageFest “really love it because it’s a souvenir of a place they’ve been.”
Another claim to fame for Racina is helping Golden-Globe winning actor Brad Pitt get a foot into the world of acting. While Racina was writing for TV in the 80s, he hired on Pitt to be his live-in odd-job man (which included walking his dog). For two years Pitt, fresh from his home in Missouri, lived with Racina. He had enough flexibility in his job to take acting classes and go on auditions- but with little success.
On one occasion Pitt performed a scene for Racina, impressing Racina with his natural ability. He wanted to help the young actor get a start, so he wrote him in a part for “Another World,” the TV series he was working on at the time. According to Racina, Pitt did wonderful with his one-day role, but according to the producers Pitt was not talented enough nor appealing enough to sign a long-term contract with the show.
However, from this gig Pitt was able to get his AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) card, which led to his SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card that he had been struggling to get. After a few more years of small gigs, Pitt got his break into stardom with his role in 1991’s “Thelma and Louise.”
Other than in books, Racina’s passion lies in theatre and music. He’s authored several musicals for children, including “Allison Wonderland,” the Alice story retold as she falls into a television set (with a new version just produced as “Allison Webland”), “The Marvelous Misadventure of Sherlock Holmes” and a contemporary musical version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” All three of these plays have been published by Samuel French, Inc., and are performed all over the world.
While he lived in Los Angeles for 25 years, Racina now divides his time between Palm Springs, California, and Washington, D.C. He’s an accomplished pianist, addicted to Peets Coffee, loves to travel and is happiest when he’s on an airplane. According to Racina on his web site, “My middle name is TWA, as you can probably tell from my books.”
Biography by Katie Doucet
Childhood Home: 1925 52nd Street