Dangerfield, Rodney 1921-2004

views updated

DANGERFIELD, Rodney 1921-2004

OBITUARY NOTICE— See index for CA sketch: Born November 22, 1921, in New York, NY; died following complications from heart surgery October 5, 2004, in Los Angeles, CA. Entertainer and author. Dangerfield was a popular, self-effacing comedian and actor best known for his trademark line, "I don't get no respect." Born Jacob Cohen, this son of a Vaudevillian came from humble origins. After his parents divorced, he had to help support his mother by working odd jobs as a delivery boy and ice cream salesman. Feeling inferior to his schoolmates because of this work, he gained approval by becoming the class clown, and at age nineteen was performing standup routines in the Catskills under the name Jack Roy. By the time he married, however, Dangerfield had grown weary of struggling in show business to make ends meet, so he settled down in New Jersey to raise a family and work as a house paint and siding salesman. Eventually, however, domestic life soured for him, and his marriage ended in divorce. The performing bug was still biting, so he decided to return to show business. Not wanting to be embarrassed in front of friends and family in case his return to comedy failed, he asked George McFadden, owner of the Inwood Lounge in New York City, to give him a performing name, and Rodney Dangerfield was born. Later, the comic had his name legally changed to Dangerfield. Slowly, he began to gain more work, and then in 1967 his agent got him an audition with television variety host Ed Sullivan, and Dangerfield's career took off. He made several appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, along with guest spots on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and appearances on shows with Merv Griffin and Dean Martin. When his ex-wife passed away, the comic started a nightclub in 1969 called Dangerfield's in Manhattan so that he could provide some stability for his two sons. Next came movies, beginning with the forgettable 1971 film The Projectionist. After that, Dangerfield stayed away from movies until the hit 1980 comedy Caddyshack. That same year he won a Grammy for his record No Respect. Dangerfield made a number of other films, though he preferred performing in front of a live audience. Among these movies are Back to School (1986), the animated Rover Dangerfield (1991), Ladybugs (1992), and Little Nicky (2000). He also had a dramatic role in the 1994 movie Natural Born Killers. But comedy was his forte, and, along with his albums and television appearances, he recorded his jokes in two books, I Couldn't Stand My Wife's Cooking So I Opened a Restaurant (1972) and I Don't Get No Respect (1973). In 2004 his autobiography, It's Not Easy Bein' Me: A Lifetime of No Respect but Plenty of Sex and Drugs, was published.



Dangerfield, Rodney, It's Not Easy Bein' Me: A Lifetime of No Respect but Plenty of Sex and Drugs, HarperEntertainment (New York, NY), 2004.


Chicago Tribune, October 6, 2004, section 1, p. 5.

Los Angeles Times, October 6, 2004, p. B8.

New York Times, October 6, 2004, p. A29.

Times (London, England), October 7, 2004, p. 72.

Washington Post, October 6, 2004, p. B7.