Tom Taylor: From Nam to the Stars


At 30, Tom Taylor was a soldier. He served in Vietnam.

At 36, Tom Taylor was a teaching assistant. He was studying sociology at the University of California, Berkeley.

At 46, Tom Taylor was a lawyer. He practiced contract law in Saudi Arabia.

At 48, Tom Taylor became a triathlete. His first race was in 1982, his last in 2010.

At 67, Tom Taylor, an established author, published his seventh book.

Now, at 78, Tom Taylor wants to dance among the stars.

Mr. Taylor lives in Seahaven, a bayside Inverness enclave, with his wife, Pamela, and their Jack Russell terrier, Scooter. They’ve lived in their home since 2008.

Mr. Taylor has applied to compete on an upcoming season of ABC’s hit ballroom-dancing competition “Dancing with the Stars.” The show pairs professional dancers with celebrities vying for a disco-ball trophy and the votes of several million viewers. He is hoping to appear on the program as a celebrity, starring as a decorated veteran.

“‘Dancing with the Stars’ doesn’t have a broad enough definition of what a star is,” Mr. Taylor said. “What they practically always use is either a notable athlete or an entertainer.”

An astronaut has competed once, and a veteran soldier won in 2011. Mr. Taylor wants to see teachers and scientists, and more veterans like him, compete.

“By getting on the show and doing well on it, that will expand the concept of stardom,” he said.

He contacted Elena Grinenko, a talent agent and a former professional dancer on “Dancing with the Stars,” for help. Ms. Grinenko sent Mr. Taylor’s application to her contacts at the show, but heard nothing in response. She told Mr. Taylor he needed an online presence to even have a shot at being considered for the cast.

“If I can’t find you online, you can’t be considered a star,” Ms. Grinenko wrote in an email to the Light. “It is the most important aspect of being a celebrity. You just need to be publicly known—what for is a different story.”

So Mr. Taylor is building a Wikipedia page, trying to document a lifetime’s worth of feats accomplished long before an Internet was available to record to them. His common name does not help his searchability. But he is not fazed by the odds.

“Just like the military, I will keep giving it and going at it until I succeed or fail,” he said.

Mr. Taylor has a tenacity much like the spirit he sees in West Marin. People move here for the beauty, sure, he said, but the area also attracts people who were individuals to begin with who want to continue to be.

“Some people are never idealistic, even in their youth. It tempers, I would say, your idealism, when you meet realism,” Mr. Taylor said. “For one thing, the heroes of your idealism, you find eventually have feet of clay. There are very few pure heroes that endure through your whole experience.”

Ms. Grinenko said she’s waiting for Mr. Taylor’s Wikipedia page before sending his application one last time.

“I usually try twice just in case, and that’s it,” she said.

Perhaps if Mr. Taylor appears on “Dancing with the Stars,” he’ll dance wearing his Purple Heart.