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Herbert Edelman

Herbert Edelman

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Also Known As: Herbert Edelman Died: July 21, 1996
Born: November 5, 1933 Cause of Death: emphysema
Birth Place: Brooklyn, New York, USA Profession: Cast ... actor radio announcer (in Okinawa) comedian copywriter longshoreman taxi driver
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BIOGRAPHY

Standing 6'5," prematurely bald and decidedly "ethnic," Herb Edelman had a long career as a character player of stage, screen and TV. He remains best known for his extensive work in the latter medium, generally in stints as a series regular or recurring character ("Welcome Back, Kotter"; "St. Elsewhere"; "Knots Landing"), very rarely as a lead. Edelman may be best recognized as Stanley Zbornak, the ne'er-do-well ex-husband of Bea Arthur's Dorothy on the hit sitcom "The Golden Girls" (NBC, 1985-92).

It is somewhat poignant to note that this nearly archetypal New Yorker grew up in Brooklyn's Coney Island with dreams of becoming a farmer. Edelman even attended Cornell University's School of Agriculture for six months before accepting his destiny. After a stint in the Army, he enrolled at Brooklyn College where he began acting. Dropping out of college and driving a cab to make ends meet, Edelman picked up a fateful fare--stage director Mike Nichols. Nichols cast him in his breakthrough Broadway role as the bewildered telephone repairman in Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park" in 1963. Edelman would reprise the role in the 1967 film version, again working with young lead Robert Redford. Even while appearing on Broadway, he kept driving a taxi, often picking up theatergoers who had just seen him on stage. Only in New York. . . . Edelman fit so comfortably into playwright Simon's world that he resurfaced in the major supporting role of Murray the Cop in the film version of "The Odd Couple" (1968) and in a smaller part in "California Suite" (1978).

The roles Edelman played are revealing as to how baldness has been represented in American pop culture--particularly in the presumably "liberated" 1960s and 70s. He tended to be a faintly ridiculous would-be participant in the sexual revolution, a Jewish "regular" guy or someone's uncle. Still some boomers may remember him as the co-star of "The Good Guys" (CBS, 1968-70), a likable sitcom which teamed him with Bob Denver, then fresh off of "Gilligan's Island." He was Bert Gramus to Denver's Rufus Butterworth, life-long buddies who pool their dough to buy a diner. Edelman again played a lead in the charming Saturday morning live-action fantasy series, "Big John, Little John" (NBC, 1976-77), as a junior high school science teacher who stumbles upon and partakes of the legendary Fountain of Youth. He subsequently finds himself transforming into a 12-year-old (Robbie Rist) at the most inopportune times. More typically, Edelman was a supporting player in short-lived sitcoms, cop dramas and numerous TV-movies. A frequent TV guest star, notably on "Murder, She Wrote," he also starred in a slew of sitcom pilots that failed to get picked up.

Edelman turned up in over a dozen features, playing the Russian premier in "In Like Flint" (1967), Barbara Streisand's radio producer in "The Way We Were" (1973) and Jerry Lewis' psychiatrist in "Cracking Up" (1983). Back on the small screen, he garnered two Emmy nominations for "Outstanding Guest Performer in a Comedy Series" in 1986/87 and 1987/88 for his work on "The Golden Girls." Edelman succumbed to a long battle with emphysema in 1996 at age 62.

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