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The People (London, England)
April 19, 1998 | Earls, John | Copyright

We know all about Leonardo's life since he found stardom. But what was he like when he was growing up? Leonardo has experienced the best and worst of Hollywood, having lived as a child among drug addicts in an area of Tinseltown he calls Scumsville. His parents separated when he was a baby and, as JOHN EARLS reports, while Leonardo now gets pounds 12 million a movie, his dirt-poor childhood has left a lasting impression on his attitude to money. Often mistaken for a girl because of his long blond hair, Leonardo was unpopular at school and had to act the class clown to escape bullies. But it wasn't all misery. He says his parents made sure he didn't suffer from their break-up - and his acting helped him win girls...

EONARDO Wilhelm DiCaprio was born in Los Angeles on November 11, 1974, making his starsign Scorpio. Leonardo's parents, George DiCaprio and Irmelin Idenbirken, met and fell in love while studying at a New York college in 1963.

Irmelin, a legal secretary until she became Leonardo's manager, had moved with her own family from Germany when she was four. George, who is half- Italian, was on the fringes of America's early hippies, the Beat Generation.

He was friends with leading writers of the time like Charles Bukowski.

George, who still grows his grey hair down to his waist, had also lived with Sterling Morrisson, guitarist with influential Sixties rock band Velvet Underground. George and Irmelin married in 1965 and travelled around America as hippies.

It was while they were on a second honeymoon in Italy, celebrating Irmelin's pregnancy, that the fateful moment came which decided what George and Irmelin should call their unborn son. "My mom felt me kicking while they were looking at a Leonardo da Vinci painting in the Uffizi gallery in Florence and they took it as a message," said Leonardo.

Having travelled for so long, the DiCaprios decided to settle down before Leonardo's birth. They ended up in Los Angeles, in the poverty-stricken East Hollywood suburb.

"My …

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