Comedy legend Rodney Dangerfield is…Dead. Hey, I had to pick somebody that was dead! If I only picked celebrities that were alive, this would be a “Where Are They Now” segment instead of a “Dead or Alive” Segment. But I will give Rodney some “Respect”.
Rodney Dangerfield (November 22, 1921 – October 5, 2004), was actually born Jacob Cohen. As a teenager, he got his start writing jokes for standup comics; he became one himself at 19 under the name Jack Roy, which is what he legally changed his name to.
However, he struggled as a comedian for many years.
So, he decided to come up with an image that audiences could relate to and that would distinguish him from similar comics. He took the name Rodney Dangerfield, which he remembered from a comedy routine on Jack Benny’s radio program in the 40s. He began to develop the image of a lovable but laughable “everyman” who gets no respect and became a nightclub hit in the 60s.
His popularity exploded at the dawn of the ’80s when he starred in 1980’s Caddyshack. He was a standout among fellow comedic actors such as Ted Knight, Chevy Chase, and Bill Murray.
He even had a music video for “Rappin’ Rodney” in 1983:
Rodney became the leading man in two more films, Easy Money (1983), and Back to School (1986) which was one of the first comedies to gross over $100 million. His first dramatic role was that of the abusive father in Oliver Stone’s successful film, Natural Born Killers (1994). He made several more films – twenty in all – but most of them went directly to video.
On April 8, 2003, Dangerfield underwent brain surgery to improve blood flow in preparation for heart valve-replacement surgery on August 24, 2004. Upon entering the hospital, he uttered another characteristic one-liner when asked how long he would be hospitalized: “If all goes well, about a week. If not, about an hour and a half.”
In September 2004, it was revealed that Dangerfield had been in a coma for several weeks. Afterward, he began breathing on his own and showing signs of awareness when visited by friends. However, on October 5, 2004, he died at the UCLA Medical Center, from complications of the surgery he had undergone in August. He was a month and a half short of his 83rd birthday. Dangerfield was buried in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. In keeping with his “no respect” persona, his headstone reads simply, “Rodney Dangerfield… There goes the neighborhood.”:
Here are some great quotes from Dangerfield:
I worked in a pet store and people kept asking how big I’d get.
My mother never breast fed me. She told me that she only liked me as a friend.
I remember the time I was kidnapped and they sent back a piece of my finger to my father. He said he wanted more proof.
I was tired one night and I went to the bar to have a few drinks. The bartender asked me, “What’ll you have?” I said, “Surprise me.” He showed me a naked picture of my wife.
I told my dentist my teeth are going yellow. He told me to wear a brown necktie.
When I was born the doctor took one look at my face, turned me over and said, “Look, twins!”
I get no respect at all – When I was a kid, I lost my parents at the beach. I asked a lifeguard to help me find them. He said “I don’t know kid, there are so many places they could hide”.
I’m getting so old my insurance company sends me 1/2 a calendar!
I told my doctor I wanna stop aging, he gave me a gun!