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Sammy Petrillo, a comedian who doubled for Jerry Lewis and starred in the cult film classic “Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla,” died Aug. 15 of cancer in New York. He was 74.
Petrillo began his show business career playing Lewis’ baby in a sketch on the “Colgate Comedy Hour” in 1950. He then teamed with singer Duke Mitchell for a nightclub act meant to “approximate” the pairing of Lewis and Dean Martin.
In 1952, the duo starred opposite Lugosi and Tarzan pet Cheeta in an ultra-low-budget comedy. After the film, Mitchell and Petrillo looked to return to the nightclub circuit, but Lewis threatened to boycott anyone who booked them. That forced Petrillo and Mitchell to abandon their act.
Petrillo, though, stayed active on the stand-up circuit. He mentored young comics including Richard Pryor and Dennis Miller and did comedy onstage for more than a decade with Suzie Fiore in an act dubbed Suzie & Sammy.
The multitalented Petrillo wrote a treatment, called “My Daddy Was a Monster,” that served as the basis for 1960s TV series “The Munsters,” and he wrote lyrics for the Isley Brothers’ hit “Angels Cried.” He had a background in law.
Petrillo also appeared in low-budget films “Shangri-La” (1961), “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die” (1962) and “Keyholes Are for Peeping” (1972).
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