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Leonard Termo, a streetwise character actor who appeared in five 1980s films with soulmate Mickey Rourke and guest starred in a memorable episode of Seinfeld, has died, his friend, actor Elias Koteas, confirmed Friday. He was 77.
Koteas told The Hollywood Reporter that Termo died peacefully in his sleep Oct. 30 at his home in Santa Clarita, Calif.
The Brooklyn-born Termo had a role as a gay waiter opposite Rourke in The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984) and also played against the future Oscar nominee in Michael Cimino‘s Year of the Dragon (1985), Barbet Schroeder’s Barfly (1987), A Prayer for the Dying (1987) and Homeboy (1988).
Termo left his job as a businessman in New York’s garment district in the mid-’70s to become an actor. To join the profession, he “left it all — my wife, my kid, my money, everything,” he told New York magazine in a profile of Rourke that was published in November 1983. “I love acting. I’m broke. I sleep on a cot.”
Rourke became friends with Termo after seeing him in a Los Angeles theater production, and the two were constant companions for years.
“If they told me they’d chuck a few years off my life, but I knew when I went that Lenny would go with me, I’d do it in a second,” Rourke said in a 1987 Playboy interview.
The pair also were set to appear in a Cimino biopic at Embassy Pictures about “Legs” Diamond that never got made, with Rourke as the legendary 1930s gangster and Termo playing his bodyguard.
Attempts to reach Rourke were unsuccessful.
In 1993, on the fifth-season premiere of Seinfeld, an episode titled “The Mango,” Termo played the owner of Joe’s Fruits who bans Kramer (and later Jerry) from his store when Michael Richards‘ character complains about a bad peach. Later, George (Jason Alexander) eats one of Joe’s mangoes, which seems to cure his erectile dysfunction. “I think it moved!” George exclaims.
Termo made his film debut in Heart Like a Wheel (1983) and later found his way into such films as Francis Ford Coppola‘s The Cotton Club (1984), Johnny Dangerously (1984), Turk 182! (1985), Ruby (1992), as a makeup man in Tim Burton‘s Ed Wood (1994), David Lynch‘s Lost Highway (1997), Fight Club (1999) and Ali (2001).
He also appeared on such TV series as Wiseguy and Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
Actor Matt Dillon was honored Friday at the Savannah Film Festival and dedicated his award to Termo.
Koteas said a memorial service is planned for Jan. 15, with details to be announced.
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