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Instagram.com/joemantegna - Getty Images
Source: Instagram.com/joemantegna - Getty Images

Joe Mantegna Is Married for 46 Years to High School Friend Who Paused Her Dream to Support His Career

Oyin Balogun
Jul 31, 2022
11:10 A.M.
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Joe Mantegna tapped into one of life's fulfilling blessings by having a partner ready to make sacrifices for his success. Behind this successful on-screen star is a supportive woman who has remained in his corner for forty-six years- Inside their love journey.

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Fans of the CBS series "Criminal Minds" would recall that one of their favorite cast members, David Rossi, played by Joe Mantegna, was a compelling character to watch.

Rossi had been in and out of several relationships and marriages, trying to find his soulmate. However, he claimed that he missed an opportunity for true love as his childhood sweetheart was the one who got away.

Joe Mantegna during the 2019 National Memorial Day Concert - Rehearsals at U.S. Capitol, West Lawn on May 25, 2019 in Washington, DC. | Source: Getty Images

Joe Mantegna during the 2019 National Memorial Day Concert - Rehearsals at U.S. Capitol, West Lawn on May 25, 2019 in Washington, DC. | Source: Getty Images

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In reality, Joe's love life is binding. Not only is he with the woman of his dreams, but the actor has been latched onto his high school love, Arlene, for about fifty years.

Consequently, the duo whipped up the most fairytale-like romance in Hollywood by sticking together through thick and thin and being supportive of each other, even though it entailed making sacrifices.

Their connection began as teenagers. The pair met in a drama club, where they were cast for a play. However, their relationship was not romantic until a few years later.

Joe Mantegna during the Build Series to discuss "Criminal Minds" at Build Studio on January 27, 2020 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

Joe Mantegna during the Build Series to discuss "Criminal Minds" at Build Studio on January 27, 2020 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

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After their first meeting, they became acquainted but returned to their separate lives. Joe schooled in Morton East High School and junior college in Cicero, Illinois, while Arlene studied at Morton West High School in Berwyn, Illinois—but the play brought them together.

In 1969, when they got shortlisted as the finalist for "Hair," a Chicago play in Schubert Theater: this time, they had brushed up their acting skills and were more professional; they recognized each other, and soon a romance was born. According to Joe:

"As it turned out, we both got cast. And, you know, it turned into something else."

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Many years later, Joe still holds the genesis of their romance dear and talks about it at any opportunity. In 2019, he shared a throwback image of him and Arlene posing as cast members of "Hair," the drama that ushered in their history.

The image showed Joe dressed in a studded long sleeve shirt, with his black hair draped over his shoulder. The actor's hands were tucked into Arlene's, the blonde beauty who sat in front of him. Joe's caption read:

"Yes that's me and my darling wife Arlene when we did Hair. #hairthemusical."

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Despite being in love when reuniting, the couple did not marry immediately. Instead, they spent a few years having fun because they were "hippies," according to Arlene.

By 1975, they decided it was time to be a formal couple. So after sharing vows privately in the city of love, at the top of the Eiffel Tower, they had a wedding ceremony.

ARLENE STUCK TO HER HUSBAND

Joe Mantegna and Arlene Vrhel attend George Lopez Foundation's 15th annual celebrity golf tournament pre-party at Baltaire Restaurant on May 01, 2022 in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images

Joe Mantegna and Arlene Vrhel attend George Lopez Foundation's 15th annual celebrity golf tournament pre-party at Baltaire Restaurant on May 01, 2022 in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images

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Joe did not immediately cross from Broadway to TV, it took a while before he got calls, and throughout this period, he had a supportive wife sticking to him like peas in a pod.

Arlene encouraged her husband by following him everywhere he went, literally. They traveled to LA with their belongings in a U-Haul. The couple also had a close friend, Dennis Franz, who was trying to get a breakthrough role.

Franz accompanied them on their quest for stardom, forming an inseparable bond with the duo. Similarly, Joe was a true friend. He once threatened to leave a local play if Franz was fired.

rlene Mantegna and actor Joe Mantegna attend the 2nd annual Borgnine Movie Star Gala honoring actor Joe Mantegna at the Sportman's Lodge on February 1, 2014 in Studio City, California | Source: Getty Images

rlene Mantegna and actor Joe Mantegna attend the 2nd annual Borgnine Movie Star Gala honoring actor Joe Mantegna at the Sportman's Lodge on February 1, 2014 in Studio City, California | Source: Getty Images

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After much touring on the road, trying to grasp a favorable role, Joe found luck in New York with "Glengarry Glen Ross." After this feature, calls to feature in other Hollywood works became unending. This was an excellent time for the couple who had been in unity through the highs and lows.

Once the fame and fortune appeared steady, they settled in Toluca near Burbank, living in a big house in an urban area. While Joe worked to be a top actor, he had his wife at his side, grooming and encouraging him. Arlene dedicated time to making her husband a successful star.

Once, during a performance at the prestigious Goodman Theatre, the actor forgot his lines, leaving the audience with an awkward silence. However, Arlene hugged her husband during a break, and eventually, he scaled through. In the end, critics rated him as a "brilliant" actor.

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Joe Mantegna and wife Arlene during The 30th Annual People's Choice Awards - Arrivals at Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California | Source : Getty Images

Joe Mantegna and wife Arlene during The 30th Annual People's Choice Awards - Arrivals at Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California | Source : Getty Images

Thankfully, Arlene's contributions to her husband's success have not gone unrecognized. Joe credits his wife for being his ride or die. "Outside my immediate family, she's the only one that's taken the ride with me. She's been able to be part of it all, contribute toward it all, do it all, and see my dreams come true," he said.

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The "Criminal Minds" star has done more than confess with his mouth. In appreciating Arlene, who was able to manage their family while being steady with her support for him, he helped her to fulfill her lifelong desire—owning a restaurant.

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In 2003, the duo opened "Taste Chicago" in Burbank. The restaurant dished out sultry and tasty Chicago meals, including fast foods like Italian beef sandwiches, Vienna beef hotdogs, and deep-dish pizza.

However, the business ran for about sixteen years before its closure. Joe took to Facebook to announce to friends, family, and fans. He shared a front view image of the restaurant and praised his wife's ideas and efforts in the business. He added:

"She accomplished it all and I couldn't be prouder of that accomplishment."

JOE MANTEGNA ON FAMILY

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Joe has enjoyed marital bliss for almost five decades, yet he remains honest with the intricacies of his seemingly perfect marriage. The actor explained that his marriage has featured a bumpy and smooth ride, but what mattered was who was riding with him. In his words:

"I won't say, "Life's been perfect, and I've never had a problem, it was all dandy." I don't think anybody can say that. But what we've done is we've hung on, and I think the longer we hung on, the better it got."

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The actor advised younger couples to be patient in their marriages and possess foresight of where they are going, as life is like a rollercoaster with unending twists and turns. Arlene also holds the same belief, no wonder they have lasted long! When explaining the reason for their eternal union, she said:

"You've heard it a million times but it's really true: Don't go to bed angry. And we never have."

Apart from their inspiring love story, the duo is parents to two adorable daughters. One of their daughters, Gina, aka Gia Mantegna, is a professional actress. She appeared in the sitcom "The Middle."

Brianne Tju, Gia Mantegna and Joe Mantegna during the L.A. Loves Alex's Lemonade 2019 at UCLA Royce Quad on September 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

Brianne Tju, Gia Mantegna and Joe Mantegna during the L.A. Loves Alex's Lemonade 2019 at UCLA Royce Quad on September 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

Amid raising a close-knit family, Joe and Arlene are concerned about helping the needy and their community. So far, they have dedicated their time to this cause.

The couple works with eight charities that support veterans or people with developmental disabilities— Gary Sinise Foundation and Autism Speaks. Joe is also a spokesperson for the National Army Museum.

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