They say that celebrities always die in threes. I never have really believed that, although this week has seen two celebrity deaths. Actress Janet Leigh died Sunday. Comedian Rodney Dangerfield died yesterday at age 82. He had undergone heart surgery in August. He'd developed complications after the surgery.
Dangerfield was born Jacob Cohen in 1921 in New York City. He started in stand up comedy at age 19 with the stage name of Jack Roy, but found very little success. He married at age 27. He sold paint and siding. At age 42 he took up stand up comedy again, this time using his now familiar stage name of Rodney Dangerfield. It was at this point that he came up with his famous "I don't get no respect" line. That line built his career. He appeared on The Merv Griffin Show, The Ed Sulivan Show, Tonight, and The Dean Martin Show. He made his first apearance in a feature film in The Projectionist in 1971. In the Eighties, Dangerfield would have a small career in feature films, beginning with Caddyshack.
I can't say that I was a huge fan of Rodney Dangerfield's films, although I always liked his stand up comedy. I remember him from his appearances on The Dean Martin Show, particularly on Martin's Celebrity Roasts. For me the appeal of Dangerfield can be summed up in his line, "I can't get no respect." Through his routine about how he wasn't respected, Dangerfield served for an outlet for anyone who has ever felt inadequate, inferior, or underappreciated. It was very easy to identify with Dangerfield in his quest for respect. Ironically, even though his routine was built on the line "I can't get no respect,"I dare say that Dangerfield was one of the more respected comics of his time.