The ''Glee'' guest star shares secrets for surviving fame both on and off camera

By Adam B. Vary
October 01, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

John Stamos strides into a Los Angeles diner on a bright September morning looking nowhere near his 47 years, but he’s definitely feeling them. Currently appearing in a multi-episode arc on Glee, he’s keenly aware that he’s surrounded by a cast roughly the same age as the Olsen twins. ”I was the youngest guy on set always,” Stamos says ruefully, ”and all of a sudden I’m the elder statesman.” That’s right, the man known to millions as Uncle Jesse on Full House has been on your television for 28 years (since breaking out as Blackie Parrish on General Hospital in 1982), and even he admits with a laugh, ”I should’ve been long gone by now.” How has Stamos endured when so many other ’80s-sitcom dreamboats have been lost to either obscurity or celebreality shows on VH1? By following these five simple rules for surviving Hollywood.

Step1 : Laugh at yourself and others will laugh too
”They say it takes more certainty than talent to be a star. I mean, look at John Stamos.” Those words came courtesy of Glee guidance counselor Emma Pillsbury (Jayma Mays) in an episode of the Fox musical comedy last season. While most actors on the receiving end of such a dig would take offense, Stamos took a much different approach: He joined the cast! He’s now appearing (for at least seven episodes) as a dentist who rivals Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) for the affections of — yep — Emma Pillsbury. ”I said, ‘They’re going to pay for that joke,”’ Stamos howls with mock outrage. ”’I’m going to add an extra fee!”’ In reality, Stamos has always had a great sense of humor about his place in pop culture. Like the time he showed off his…um, uniquely shaped belly button on Late Night With Conan O’Brien. Ask him about the fleshy nub (the product of a botched hernia surgery in childhood), and Stamos replies: ”It makes me happier if someone walks away saying ‘He’s funny,’ versus ‘He was good-looking.”’

Step 2: It’s all about the work…& working a lot
For his first musical number on Glee, Stamos booked time with private vocal and dancing coaches to prepare. ”Everybody says, ‘Oh, you seem so natural, so relaxed,”’ Stamos says. ”I really work hard at looking like I’m not working very hard.” That work ethic applied even during his eight-year tenure on Full House. While ”Dave [Coulier] and Bob [Saget] were more interested in making the crew laugh,” Stamos says, he and his Uncle Jesse mullet would hunker down in the writers’ room. ”I used to scream at [Coulier and Saget], ‘Put that energy into the script!”’ The actor has also found a way to keep busy in between TV gigs, headlining four Broadway revivals, including 2009’s Bye Bye Birdie. For Stamos, Broadway has been a safe haven, especially after the failure of star-vehicle TV shows like Thieves (2001) and Jake in Progress (2005). ”In the back of my mind,” he says of weathering those disappointments, ”I know that I’m going to keep working.”

Step 3: Admit your mistakes
While in Australia in 2007 promoting his role as Dr. Tony Gates on ER, Stamos rather infamously showed up drunk on a local TV talk show and claimed a journalist ”took a shot” at him because the writer ”has a small penis.” While Stamos’ camp originally insisted that his antics were caused by Ambien and jet lag, the actor later came clean. ”They’re a very friendly country,” Stamos says with a wry grin. ”’Hey, mate, let’s go drinking! Let’s go to strip clubs!’ I had a job to do there, so I was really embarrassed [by my behavior].” Stamos also regrets the ensuing cover-up. ”I got bummed about having to lie,” he says, pointing to his need ”to please everybody” for why he went along with it. ”Looking back now, I would’ve fought everybody: ‘I’m telling the truth. I was drunk.”’ He pauses. ”Sometimes I’m bored by how homogenized I am,” he says earnestly. ”I had so many people say [after Australia], ‘Wow! Now there’s some edge! There’s some flavor!”’

Step 4: Be prepared for a scandal
Last November, Stamos approached the FBI after an acquaintance he met at a 2004 party, Allison Coss, 24, and her boyfriend, Scott Sippola, 31, threatened to sell photos to the tabloids of the actor allegedly partying with strippers and doing cocaine unless Stamos paid them $680,000. ”I was really pissed off,” he says. ”I knew there were no pictures. I said [to the feds], ‘Go get them. This is wrong.”’ Then came the trial in the northern Michigan town of Marquette in July. In opening arguments, the defense claimed that Stamos sat naked in a hot tub with Coss when she was 17 and offered her oral sex. Stamos flatly denied the allegations, and the FBI maintains no incriminating photos of him were ever found. ”That first night [of the trial], I was absolutely sick to my stomach,” he says. ”Everything that I had worked for could all go out the window because of one scumbag liar.” But had Stamos not shown up in court to testify, he believes Coss and Sippola could have beaten the extortion charges. More to the point, he says, ”I had to defend myself. I got up [on the witness stand] and this moment of peace came over me, like, ‘Okay, now it’s my turn.’ And all I had to do was tell the truth. Their whole case just unraveled.” Coss and Sippola were found guilty, and could be sentenced to up to five years in prison on Oct. 8.

Step 5: When in doubt…play congas!
Just days after the extortion trial concluded, Stamos hit the road with the Beach Boys, the iconic rock band that’s counted him as an honorary member since he played congas on ”Kokomo” in the ’80s. (Go ahead and pull up the video on YouTube again. We’ll wait.) ”I didn’t even go to a therapist after [the trial],” he says. ”I went to the therapy of Mike Love and Brian Wilson. I felt all that dirtiness wash away, playing drums to ‘Good Vibrations.”’ He smiles. ”I do consider myself really lucky. Someone said, ‘The harder you work, the luckier you’ll be.’ I’ve worked pretty hard, but I’m pretty damn lucky.”