Joe Mantegna is well known for his role in the CBS series Criminal Minds, on which he played the famous David Rossi. In the show, his character tried hard to find a soulmate and went in and out of relationships and marriages, but his personal life is nothing like that.
In real life, Mantegna has been with the same woman for about 53 years, and they have been married for close to five decades, now.
Mantegna met Arlene, his one true love, in high school. “I went to Morton East High School and junior college in Cicero, Illinois, and she went to Morton West High School in Berwyn, Illinois. We would do district-wide musicals. I was the lead actor in two of those plays, and she had featured roles in both. So we knew each other, but not romantically at all, and then we went our separate ways,” he told Toluca Lake in an interview.
“Then we both got cast in the play Hair in 1969,” he shared, adding that this was both of their first professional jobs. They bumped into each other and immediately recognized the familiar faces. Of course, it didn’t take long for their friendship to turn into something else.
The same year, they began dating, according to PEOPLE. However, they did not get hitched immediately, because, according to Arlene, they were “hippies.” They eventually got married in 1975, but not before having a private ceremony where they exchanged their vows at one of the most romantic places in the world—at the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Mantenga’s career did not immediately take off, but Arlene stuck with him and literally went with him everywhere. In 1978, the couple packed a U-Haul and moved to Los Angeles. The couple was accompanied by their close friend, Dennis Franz, who was also trying to get into showbiz.
After looking out for a while, the star finally landed a role with Glengarry Glen Ross in New York. Soon, offers started pouring in. With time, he made a name for himself, and the duo decided to settle in Toluca near Burbank.
While Mantegna worked hard to become a successful actor, Arlene supported him through every step of his career. And Mantegna is forever grateful to his wife for her sacrifices. In fact, he credits his wife for having an unwavering belief in him. “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.
He also returned the favor by making one of Arlene’s lifelong dreams come true—owning her own restaurant. In 2003, Taste Chicago opened in Burbank. The place ran for 16 years before it closed.
As for his long-lasting marriage, the actor compares it to a roller coaster ride.
“There’s going to be a lot of harrowing turns, and there’s going to be some stuff that’ll scare the hell out of you, and some that’s going to be exhilarating and some’s going to be fun. And then if you’re doing it with another person, you’re in this rollercoaster together,” he shared.
“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. And the ride has smoothed out,” he added.
Sometimes, true love does exist, and it gives us hope, too.