Wednesday, July 24, 2013

July 24: comedienne and actress Ruth Buzzi - “Rowan & Martin's Laugh In”- is 77-years-old today.

Ruth Ann Buzzi was born in Westerly, Rhode Island, the daughter of Rena Pauline and Angelo Peter Buzzi, a nationally recognized stone sculptor. She was raised in Wequetequock, Connecticut, in a rock house overlooking the ocean at Wequeteqouck Cove.

Buzzi attended Stonington High School where she gained experience as head cheerleader performing before crowds at athletic events. At 17, she enrolled at the Pasadena Playhouse for the Performing Arts and graduated with honors. She studied voice, dance, and acting, and took courses in cosmetology in case her acting career didn't work out.

Her first job in show business was at the age of 19, traveling with singer Rudy Vallee in a live musical and comedy act during her summer break from college she moved to New York after graduation and was hired immediately for a lead role in an off-Broadway musical revue, the first of 19 in which she performed across the East Coast. Classmates at Pasadena Playhouse included legendary actors Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman.

In musical and comedy revues from Provincetown, Massachusetts to the Catskills of New York, to off-Broadway, she worked alongside other young, talented performers just beginning their careers at the time, including Barbra Streisand, Joan Rivers, Dom DeLuise, Bernadette Peters and Carol Burnett.

Buzzi's first national exposure came when she teamed up with Dom DeLuise in a comical magic act in which he played an incompetent magician and Buzzi was his "sidekick" named "Shakuntala." Audiences demanded more of the two and they played several major nighttime television variety shows including The Garry Moore Show, The Entertainers with Carol Burnett, and Your Show of Shows with Imogene Coca.

She was hired by Bob Fosse to perform with Fosse's then wife Gwen Verdon in the hit Broadway musical Sweet Charity. It was during the run of Sweet Charity that she auditioned for and received a permanent place in the comedy series Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, which was the top rated show on NBC for more than five years. A versatile comedienne, she played everything from dowdy old women, to tipsy drunks, to Southern belles to flashy hookers.

Among her recurring characters on Laugh-In were Busy-Buzzi, Hollywood gossip columnist; Doris Sidebottom, a cocktail-lounge habituée who always got riotously smashed with husband Leonard (Dick Martin); and one of the Burbank Airlines Stewardesses, teaming with Debbie Reynolds as two totally inconsiderate flight attendants.

Her most famous character is the dowdy spinster Gladys Ormphby, clad in drab brown with her bun hairdo covered by a visible hairnet knotted in the middle of her forehead. In most sketches, she used her lethal purse to ward off the advances of Arte Johnson's "dirty old man" character Tyrone F. Horneigh.

She also sang with The Muppets.

In 1971, Buzzi was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame. She has also received the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Pasadena Playhouse of the Performing Arts.

Five times, Buzzi was nominated by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Emmy Awards in several categories from comedy and variety to Best Performer in a Children's Television Program.

Buzzi lives primarily in Fort Worth, Texas where she and her husband raise Black Angus and longhorn cattle and quarter horses, a flock of ducks, swans, Guinea hens and chickens. Her hobby is oil painting. but has never offered her oil paintings for sale to the public. She has donated original oil paintings to charity, where they have sold for more than $6,000.


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