I am saddened to report that we recently lost one of the great character actors, Vincent Schiavelli, who died of lung cancer on Dec. 26.
You may think that you don’t know who Vincent Schiavelli was, but you’re wrong. Study the photo above and you’ll recognize him from such movies as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Night Shift (or from such lesser work as Death to Smoochy, 3 Ninjas Knuckle Up, or The Gong Show Movie). He also had an extensive TV resume, including an especially memorable role as Latka and Simka’s priest on “Taxi.”
Because of his lopsided looks and size (nearly 6-foot-6), Schiavelli was generally cast as weirdoes and heavies. In real life, he was something of a renaissance man, equally renowned for his skills as a chef as for his acting. A few factoids from IMDB:
• In 2001, he received the James Beard Journalism Award.
• His grandfather, whom he grew up with, was a cook for an Italian baron before moving to the United States.
• His character Peter Panama on “The Corner Bar” (1972) was the first sustained gay character on American network television.
So long, Vincent. We shan’t see your like again.