Tuesday, October 05, 2004

In Memoriam: Rodney Dangerfield

Comic Rodney Dangerfield dies in L.A. at age 82

By Steve Gorman

Dangerfield, who became a pop culture sensation in middle age with a string of broad film comedies starting with "Caddyshack" in 1980, died at the UCLA Medical Center, where he had undergone heart valve replacement surgery on Aug. 25, spokesman Kevin Sasaki said.

Dangerfield, whose initial forays into show business ended in failure, restarted his career as a comedian in his 40s. He went on to become a national sensation in his own right and helped launch the careers of such comics as Jim Carrey and Jerry Seinfeld.

Dangerfield suffered a stroke following the surgery in August and "developed infectious and abdominal complications from which he did not recover," Sasaki said.

During the past week, the entertainer emerged from a coma he had slipped into sometime after the operation, according to his wife, Joan. "When Rodney emerged, he kissed me, squeezed my hand, and smiled for the doctors," Joan Dangerfield said in a statement.

A native of New York's Long Island, Dangerfield had endured a series of health problems in recent years. Last spring, he underwent brain surgery.

A month later, Dangerfield greeted reporters at the hospital dressed in a sports shirt and Bermuda shorts and declared, "My brain is OK. I feel like a new man." Later, responding to a medical question, he answered, "Ask me about things I'm familiar with, like drugs or prostitution."


Born Jacob Cohen in Babylon, New York, in 1921, Dangerfield began writing jokes as a teenager, struggling as a comic and singing waiter in the "Borscht Belt" resorts of the Catskill Mountains under the name of Jack Roy in the 1940s.

Leaving show business to earn a living as a house painter and aluminum siding salesman, he returned to the comedy circuit about a decade later, this time as Rodney Dangerfield.

He eventually opened a New York nightclub and became a nationally recognized act with comedy albums and numerous TV appearances. Along the way he is credited with helping give a start to an impressive array of once-obscure talents who went on to become stars, among them Carrey, Seinfeld, Roseanne and the late Sam Kinison.

Moving easily from nightclubs to TV to commercials to film, Dangerfield remained popular well past the peak of his career in the 1980s, forever tugging at his tie and drawing laughs with his catch phrase "I can't get no respect."

Dangerfield made his film debut in the 1971 low-budget comedy "The Projectionist," playing the dual supporting roles of a tyrannical cinema manager and a serial villain, The Bat.

But his big-screen breakout came in a string of rowdy comedies in the 1980s -- "Caddyshack," "Easy Money" and "Back to School." His movie appearances generally have mirrored his stand-up comedy persona, with Dangerfield playing boisterous, casually ribald characters with a rapid-fire patter of one-liners.

Later film roles included the coach of a girl's soccer team in "Ladybugs" (1992), an abusive father in Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers" (1994), a tabloid TV show reporter in "Meet Wally Sparks" (1997) and a wannabe opera star in "The 4th Tenor" (2002).


Bill's Comment: To one of the masters of the one-liners, let the respect begin now. Rodney, we will catch on stage when we get there, just don't change your name! I can hear him saying this upon St. Peter letting him through the Pearly Gates- "What a crowd, what a crowd!"

... In other news, astrologer Joyce Jillson dies at age 58 from diabetes complications (kidney failure), on October 1. I wonder what her horoscope had on store? From what I have read, they will continue under the heading, "Horoscopes with Holiday". Her apprentice will take over the reins.

No comments: