Beyond the Boardroom
Author: Alexandra Russell
February, 2008 Issue
Though born in Buffalo, New York, Napa real estate developer George Altamura always knew he’d make his way west. “After high school graduation in 1949, I packed my suitcase and hitchhiked, all by myself, to California. As a boy, I always dreamed of coming to California. I constantly drew pictures of the state and hoped I would spend my life here,” he remembers.
Working first as a carpenter’s apprentice, George soon got a general contractor’s license and began buying and developing property. By 1952, he’d started his own company, Altamura Enterprises, which focuses on development in his adopted hometown. These days, all eyes are on his restoration of the Uptown theater, which is scheduled for completion “hopefully later this year.” When he’s not busy around town, George enjoys traveling (Italy is a favorite) with Jacqueline, his wife of 54 years, and spending time with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchild.Describe your dream home.
A dream home is something you can wish and wish for, but is hard to accomplish. For me, it’s one where all your family and friends are together and are enjoying each other without petty jealousies.
What’s the best way to earn another person’s respect?
The best way to earn another person’s respect is to treat everyone equally. I have the philosophy that, 60,000 years ago, there were only 2,000 people on this earth, so we’re all cousins. The best satisfaction you can get is helping your cousins, never thinking you’re better than anyone and never being jealous of anyone else’s prosperity and happiness.
If you could play a role in a movie, what would it be?
I was on “Falcon Crest” many times, and was in a Francis Ford Coppola movie in which I played Nush Berman. All were great experiences and fun for me. Francis had to paint a thin mustache on me every day until my own grew in. I had a hell of a time memorizing my lines, but when I finally did, I couldn’t forget them.
What controversial topic do you relish debating?
I’ve been arguing for the past year that the economy was going to “tank,” and the stock market would go below 10,000. I felt that way because I think the stock market is only a chain letter, Ponzi scheme or a pyramid. I believe most of the stocks people invest are too dependent on another person paying more for it than they did. I have no faith in the stock market.
What’s frustrated you in the recent past?
The price of oil is ridiculous. It’d be so easy for the government and citizens to curb the use of gas 25 percent or more. When someone tells me we can’t build an automobile that would use 50 percent less gasoline, I think they’re taking advantage of us. If we used 20 percent less, you’d see the oil companies and foreign oil prices drop. It’s really that simple, but we’re all victims of the easy life and just keep paying and paying.
What’s the worst job you ever had?
I don’t think I’ve really had a “worst job.” Each job connected me to the present. When I first came to California, I worked at Rough Rider Clothing Company pressing pants. The temperature in the press room was 110 degrees. But I can’t say it was a bad job, because it gave me the opportunity to earn a decent wage and prepared me for future endeavors.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to hunt, fish and travel the world. My hobbies have generally been hunting and fishing. I love being on a horse and in the wilderness for a couple of weeks a year. [He’s pictutred here with a more than 1,000-pound Shiras moose he shot in 1980 while on a Wyoming hunting trip with golfer Johnny Miller and some friends.]
What was your first car?
My first car was a 1930 Model A, 2-door Coach. It cost me $30, and I had it for a few months until I sold it for $60. I continued buying cars from that day forward. I have an affinity for nice cars.
Which of the five senses do you treasure most?
Eyesight. It’s something I feel I probably couldn’t cope without. I now have sight in only one eye, and if I lose sight in the other, I hope God gives me the strength to bear it.
Do you consider yourself a self-made man?
To me, there’s no such thing as a self-made man. I believe no one is self-made, that the people around you make you. I could never have accomplished all the things I have in my lifetime without the helpful hands of family, friends and employees.
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