Actor Ben Gazzara passed away on Friday of pancreatic cancer. He was 81.
The New York born character actor had a career which spanned six decades on Broadway, film and TV. Gazzara was a member of the original Broadway cast of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and worked with directors ranging from Otto Preminger in Anatomy of a Murder to the Coen Brothers in The Big Lebowski. He also collaborated with John Cassavetes in the 1970s on a trio of films – Husbands, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Opening Night. Others still might remember Gazzara as the villain in the Patrick Swayze movie Road House.
However, when I think of Ben Gazzara the first person that comes to mind is Yogi Berra. Gazzara played the Yankees legend in an Off-Broadway one man play called Nobody Don’t Like Yogi. In March 2005, Gazzara had a one week engagement at the Wilbur Theatre here in Boston and I had the chance to see a Sunday matinee performance. The Boston Globe said of Gazzara’s performance, “This Yogi is a Yankee than even a Red Sox fan can love.”