Author, biographer, film historian Dan Van Neste’s love affair with the movies did not begin in the cushioned seat of a beautiful movie palace but on the lumpy couch of his family’s living room. Born in Charlotte, a small town in south central Michigan, Dan grew up poor in a rural area a few miles outside of town. Because his family was of modest means, there was little extra money for restaurants or movie tickets during Dan’s early years. Back then entertainment at the Van Neste house was usually confined to the family living room, and consisted of discussions of current events, live and recorded music, and episodes of Gunsmoke, Bonanza, or The Ed Sullivan Show on television . On weekends the family enjoyed classic motion pictures broadcast on the local tv station. Even as a child Dan was fascinated by the cinema, music, and the entertainment world. Among his early film favorites were westerns, comedy shorts, and horrors particularly Universal’s classic monsters. His love of writing and journalism also developed early. While a grade school student, he began writing short stories, poems, and songs. In high school he excelled in English and journalism, winning statewide honors as a humor columnist for his high school newspaper.
The death of his father precipitated the family’s move to Lansing, Michigan after Dan graduated from Maple Valley High School in 1970. Receiving an Associate’s Degree from Lansing Community College (1972) and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Michigan State University (1974-- with high honor), he contemplated law school or teaching before opting to pursue a career in entertainment.
A singer and musician who began performing at local lodges and civic functions as a teenager, in 1972 Dan landed a regular spot as a vocalist on a live music oriented television program emanating from WKZO in Kalamazoo. His appearances on the program and several other local TV and radio broadcasts eventually landed the budding singer in Nashville. In 1974, he signed a recording contract with Conestoga Records owned by the Homesteaders, a famous country band known nationally for their many tours with legendary country entertainer, Jeannie C. Riley of Harper Valley PTA fame. Recorded on Nashville’s famed “music row”, Dan's first two singles: Cry A Little Bit Baby, and Forget Tomorrow Tonight (which he penned) reached nationwide country charts.
Dan began to have second thoughts about a career in music after the Conestoga company was sold in the late 1970‘s. During the early 1980’s, he chose to seek new creative avenues. He went back to school and became a CRC (Certified Rehabilitation Counselor), assisting mentally and physically challenged adults to maximize their potential. The world of entertainment was not through with him however. When temporarily incapacitated by a hip injury in 1987, Dan rediscovered his passion for classic movies and writing. In the late 1980’s, he began penning articles for newspapers, magazines, film journals, and various publications commemorating filmdom’s “golden age”. In 1994, one of his articles was published in the renowned film monthly, Classic Images. Since then he has written over 40 articles for CI and its sister quarterly, Films of the Golden Age. His work, which has often included original interviews with vintage film stars, has merited seven cover stories. His acclaimed reference volume, The Whistler: Stepping Into the Shadows (BearManor Media) is a salute to the influential, groundbreaking Columbia film suspense series and the talented, unsung professionals who produced it. In 2017, his second book, The Magnificent Heel: The Life and Films of Ricardo Cortez was published by BearManor Media. A biography and complete filmography of the prolific veteran film actor, the large 584 page volume includes rare, never before published materials and records from major film archives and libraries and 160 photos including many large full page portraits, movie stills, and pictures of rare memorabilia items from Cortez's personal collection. Dan currently resides in Michigan and is working on multiple writing projects including two books.