It hasn't been a great period for entertainers' death, but at least so far as I know we haven't yet hit the Rule of Three. Actor Richard Libertini passed away the other day at the age of 82. I first became aware of him years ago when as I kid I'd listen to the Midnight Special radio show on WFMT in Chicago, and they played recordings from their archives of The Second City. Libertini was in the cast during one of the show's many "Golden Days," but one which might be the Golden one of all, which is saying whole lot, but consider that it overlapped with Alan Alda, Mike Nichols, Elaine May, Alan Arkin, Ed Asner, Valerie Harper, Richard Schaal, Jane Alexander, Jack Burns, Avery Schreiber, Barbara Harris, Shelly Berman, Linda Lavin, Ron Liebman, Philip Baker Hall, Jerry Stiller, Anne Meara, Roger Bowen ("Colonel Henry Blake" in the movie of M*A*S*H), Anthony Holland, Tom O'Horgan (director of the original stage production of Hair), Mina Kolb, and arguably the greatest Second City performer of all, Severn Darden. And Richard Libertini. That folks is a year.
You might not recognize Richard Libertini by name, but you would be face. He had a unique look and a long, successful career, perhaps most recognized for his role as Chevy Chase's boss in the Fletch movies. And here he is as a rabbi in Lethal Weapon.
I want to include one other scene. It's not one that Richard Libertini has much to do in. Almost nothing, though it's memorable. But it's perhaps my favorite end-credit sequence in any movie, and he starts it off. And as a result, it's a role that I think a lot of people do know him for -- the guru brought in by Lily Tomlin to transfer her soul into the body of Victoria Tennant in All of Me. Here's that joyous scene with Richard Libertini at the keyboard, and the singing of Joe Williams. And the utterly life-affirming, joyous dancing of Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin. Did I say joyous? Well, that's as good a way to go out as any.
When the credits start to roll, Richard Libertini's name is on the first card, at the bottom. All of it.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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