Saturday, October 5, 2013

Remembering Rodney Dangerfield November 22, 1921 - October 5, 2004

He got his big break when the Ed Sullivan Show called him on March 5, 1967 following the cancellation of a performer asking Rodney Dangerfield to fill in that would result in the beginning of a successful career in comedy and film.

He was born Jacob Rodney Cohen in Babylon, New York to Jewish parents.  His father was a vaudevillian performer and were both descendants from Hungary.  His dad abandoned his family when Jacob was very young.  His mother moved to Queens, New York and Jacob attended Richmond Hill High School.  Jacob took on several jobs to support his family that included selling newspapers, ice cream, and delivering groceries.

When Jacob turned 15, he began to write for standup comedians and would soon perform his own standup at the age of 20 under the name of Jack Roy.  For several years, Dangerfield struggled to make ends meet and took jobs as a singing waiter and performed as an acrobatic diver.  He soon gave up his entertainment career to become an aluminum siding salesman.

In the 1960's, Dangerfield decided to give comedy another shot and returned to the stage by performing in hotels in the Catskill Mountains.  He decided he needed a unique image and style if he was to be successful.  It was then that he took on the name Rodney Dangerfield (came from a character of Jack Benny) and his character was one of never doing anything right.  Dangerfield gives Jack Benny credit for encouraging him.

Following Dangerfield's appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, Dangerfield began headlining shows in Las Vegas and continued to make appearances on the Sullivan show.  He also made numerous appearances on television including "The Tonight Show" 35 times as well as "The Dean Martin Show" He traveled on the road most of the time until he decided to build the Dangerfield Comedy Club that allowed him to stay home.  The club became very successful and hosted many television comedy shows that included many up and coming stars.

He won a Grammy Award for his album "No Respect" and a television special featured the song "Rappin Rodney" that became one of the first Hot 100 rap records.  His career began to peak in the 1980's when Dangerfield was featured in comedy movies that included "Caddyshack" "Easy Money" and "Back to School"  He also was featured in advertising campaigns for Miller Beer.  He took on a serious role as an abusive father in "Natural Born Killers"  Another film was "Little Nicky" with Adam Sandler.

Over the years, Dangerfield helped the career of several entertainers of comedy including Jim Carrey.

In 2001, Dangerfield suffered a mild heart attack while backstage of the Tonight Show.  He also began experiencing other health problems While in the hospital, it is said that someone asked him how long he had to stay in the hospital.  Dangerfield replied "if all goes well about a week.  If not, about an hour and a half."

It was reported that in September of 2004, Dangerfield was in a coma.  On October 5, 2004, Dangerfield died at the age of 82 from complications from surgery.

Dangerfield cookie and bookmark
Over Dangerfield's career, he always told his wife and agent to never book performances during the day.  When making Dangerfield's funeral arrangements, his wife, Joan decided it would be appropriate to conduct his funeral in the evening.  It has been reported that Dangerfield's funeral was one of the most elaborate funerals ever reported.  The funeral was held at Westwood Village Memorial Park and his wife created a candle-lit heaven's harvest that featured chandeliers that hung from trees and white cashmere carpet that covered the ground leading to the chapel.  A harpist performed as friends and family entered the chapel and all in attendance were presented his funeral program (pictured) that featured Dangerfield's signature red tie as well as a caricature cookie and bookmark thanking those in attendance for attending.  Bob Saget was the master of ceremonies and others who eulogized Dangerfield were Jay Leno who said that Dangerfield was the greatest standup comic of all time.  as well as Tim Allen, Roseanne, and Paul Rodriguez.  Highlighting the event, was a special memorial video created that included many of Dangerfield's special moments.  The funeral concluded with Frank Sinatra's "Come Fly With Me" that was the song playing in the hospital room the moment that Dangerfield died.  Following the service, pallbearers that included Adam Sandler, Michael Bolton, Jim Carrey, Rob Schneider, and Bob Saget carried Dangerfield's casket to its final resting place in Westwood.
Rodney Dangerfield funeral program

Academy Award producer Al Ruddy said of Dangerfield's funeral "It couldn't have been a better funeral if I had produced it.  For a man who didn't get no respect, Rodney's funeral certainly made up for it.

Dangerfield was laid to rest near several other actors and entertainers that include Carroll O'Conner, Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon.  Dangerfield's monument includes his engraved epitaph "There Goes The Neighborhood"
Dangerfield monument

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