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Tommy Burke

“Not going to sugarcoat going through cancer, 30 years of TV & film including hit shows. Do better getting into the industry & Parkinson's”


About Me

I feel dirty. I’m sweating bullets. It’s already been a fourteen-hour day on set in the blazing Los Angeles sun and all I want to do is shower. That is NOT going to happen. 

My day was far from over. Every other Thursday that summer of 2004, I would finish shooting Jerry Bruckheimer’s acclaimed TV series Skin and then tack on a four-hour nightcap at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. As tough as my days were, I knew they’d get a lot worse if I skipped my date with four bags of poison at the all-night chemo ward. 

I would pass the hours of those late-night infusions watching classic 50s reruns, thinking about work, and thinking about life. Where I had been, where I was going, what I’d leave behind. That’s where the seeds of this book were planted: in the desolate basement of Cedars-Sinai, while I waited for my fortnightly poison cocktail to empty into my arm and get to work.

Not Just Sunglasses and Autographs follows me from bar bouncing in Boston to working on award winning television and movies as I made my way up the entertainment industry ladder. It is an endearing story of overcoming the odds through dark humor, tenacity, authenticity, and a smile. I had originally envisioned this as the memoir of a man who’d beaten Hodgkin's Lymphoma and lived to tell the tale, but that was before I was pitched a curveball called Parkinson’s Disease in 2019. This unvarnished and vulnerable memoir-meets-handbook shares lessons I’ve learned in life and work and encourages readers to keep moving forward, embrace resilience, step out of their comfort zones, and take life head on. 


I’ve been in the industry for nearly forty years. Nicknamed “the Irish Bull” by my west coast colleagues, I earned my reputation and secured Assistant Director credits on productions including the film Close to Home, Skin, CSI Miami, the pilot for Desperate Housewives, and many others. I spent the last five years of my film career on location in Chicago, working as First Assistant Director on Chicago PD from 2014-2019. After my Parkinson's diagnosis in 2019, I hung up my AD walkie and returned to the west coast to enlist all of my drive, determination, spirit, stubbornness, and good humor in the second battle of my life.

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