John H. Pearson
Michael Lassell was born on July 15, 1947, in New York, New York, and spent his early years living with his family in Brooklyn in an apartment above his maternal grandfather’s pickle shop. When Lassell was three, his parents, both native New Yorkers, moved into a small home in New Hyde Park on Long Island, which he calls “the unincorporated and / undistinguished tract of suburbia / no one has ever come from” (“To Be the Lover of a Poet,” Poems for Lost and Un-Lost Boys). Lassell lived and attended school in this neighborhood until he left to attend college at Colgate University, where he earned the B.A. in 1969, graduating in 1969 Phi Beta Kappa, cum laude, with a major in English.
After college, Lassell’s interests diversified, marking a trend that would characterize his career as a writer of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and journalism. He studied theater design at the Yale Drama School from 1969 to 1970, then relocated to the West Coast, enrolling in the School of Theater (performance) at the California Institute of the Arts. While there, he published his earliest poems, “The Rabbi’s Tree” and “Bus Ride Home,” in the CalArts Literary Magazine. He soon returned to Yale, however, where he earned the M.F.A. in dramatic literature and criticism at the Drama School in 1976, winning the prestigious John Gassner Prize in Criticism.
Lassell began his career, however, not as a professional writer but as a teacher. He returned to the California Institute of the Arts in 1976 and spent two years teaching in the School of Theater and Division of Criticism Studies. He then began working in Hollywood, California, managing a script preparation company and selling showroom designs. He later put his analytical skills to work as a legal assistant, first, for a First Amendment appeals law firm, then for an entertainment law firm, and finally for 20th Century Fox.