Jay Fiondella dies at 82
Owned celeb hangout Chez Jay for nearly five decadesJay Fiondella, the colorful owner of the Chez Jay restaurant, a celebrity hangout in Santa Monica for nearly five decades, died Nov. 6 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 82.
Fiondella's tiny restaurant on Ocean Avenue was frequented by an endless list of showbiz icons, many of whom were Fiondella's pals, including Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Marlon Brando, Lee Marvin, Robert Stack, Natalie Wood, Warren Beatty, Elizabeth Taylor, Johnny Carson, Nancy Sinatra, Clint Eastwood, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mel Gibson, Jerry Seinfeld, Sean Penn and Drew Barrymore.
Fiondella forbade any photographers, reporters or autograph seekers from staking out his place.
As an actor, Fiondella appeared in more than 50 TV shows and feature films from the 1950s through the 1990s, including TV's "Gunsmoke," "Perry Mason," "Batman," "Mission: Impossible" and "Fantasy Island" and three "Lethal Weapon" films and "Short Cuts" (1993).
After attending the University of Miami, Fiondella moved to Los Angeles in the early 1950's hoping to become an actor. His first Hollywood roommate was Leonard Nimoy, another young, struggling actor.
In 1959, Fiondella opened Chez Jay and named it as a tribute to Sinatra, who ran a joint named "Chez Joey" in his 1957 film "Pal Joey." Chez Jay is now managed by Michael Anderson, Fiondella's co-owner.
A biography on Fiondella written by Jon Stebbins is in the works, with the hope that it will be published next year.
Fiondella is survived by his daughter, Anita Fiondella Eck, his son, Chaz Fiondella, his sister Rita Luarte and many nieces and nephews.