Fun-loving actor was a bellyful of laughs
EmptyDom DeLuise, an antic comedian whose chubby frame and daffy darting glances delighted audiences on stage, television and in the movies for five decades, died Monday night in Los Angeles. He was 75.
One of his three sons, actor Michael DeLuise, said his father died peacefully in his sleep around 6:30 p.m. after a long illness.
A native of Brooklyn, DeLuise's roly-poly energy and high hysterics garnished several movies with his pal Burt Reynolds, beginning with "The End" (1978) and including "Smokey and the Bandit II" (1980), "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" (1982) and the "Cannonball Run" films in 1981 and 1984.
For Mel Brooks, DeLuise brought his inspired mania to "The Twelve Chairs" (1970), "Blazing Saddles" (1974), "Silent Movie" (1976), 1981's "History of the World — Part I" (in which he did an uproarious spoof of Marlon Brando's Godfather), 1987's "Spaceballs" (as Pizza the Hutt) and "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" (1993).
His raucous performances also enlivened two Gene Wilder comedies: "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother" (1975)" and "The World's Greatest Lover" (1977).
The actor, who loved to cook and eat almost as much as he enjoyed acting, carved out a second career as a chef. He wrote two cookbooks and often appeared on morning TV shows to craft his favorite recipes. He also wrote a pair of children's books and was an opera buff.
"Dom always made everyone feel better when he was around," Reynolds told "Entertainment Tonight." "I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone. I will miss him very much."
With his exuberant, manic glint, DeLuise was a popular guest on TV talk shows, appearing with Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, Steve Allen, Joey Bishop and David Frost. He was a frequent guest and occasional substitute host for Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show."
In 1983, he executive produced a TV movie, "Happy," in which he played the title role, a once-famous TV clown pitted against a ruthless killer. His three sons — David, Michael and Peter — appeared with him.
More recently, DeLuise provided his voice for several projects including "The Secret of NIMH," "An American Tail," "All Dogs Go to Heaven" and "Instant Karma."
In addition to his sons, survivors include Carol, his wife of 43 years. (partialdiff)