Vincent Schiavelli

Vincent Andrew "Vince" Schiavelli (November 11, 1948 – December 26, 2005) was an American character actor, comedian and food writer noted for his work on stage, screen and television,[1] often described as "the man with the sad eyes." He was notable for his numerous supporting roles. He often linked his unique facial appearance and tall stature to Marfan syndrome.

Schiavelli gained fame as a character actor. His best-known roles include Fredrickson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), Mr. Vargas in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), the Subway Ghost in Ghost (1990), Organ Grinder in Batman Returns (1992), Chester in The People vs Larry Flynt (1996), Dr. Kaufman in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and ABC executive Maynard Smith in Man on the Moon (1999).

Before his death in 2005, Vincent Schiavelli was considered by many as one of Hollywood's best character actors. Roger Ebert stated "Schiavelli had a way of slipping into films without people knowing his name, but they remembered his great performances as unique characters."

Vincent Schiavelli
Schiavelli and then-wife actress Allyce Beasley on September 20, 1987
Vincent Andrew Schiavelli

November 11, 1948
DiedDecember 26, 2005 (aged 57)
Other namesVince Schiavelli
EducationNew York University (MFA)
OccupationActor, comedian, food writer
Years active1971–2005
1993−2005 (writing)
Allyce Beasley
(m. 1985; div. 1988)

Carol Mukhalian
(m. 1992; died 2005)

Early life

Schiavelli was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a Sicilian-American family, John Schiavelli and Katherine Coco. He attended Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School as a teen. He studied acting through the theatre programme at New York University. He began performing on stage in the 1960s.


Schiavelli's first film role occurred in Miloš Forman's 1971 production Taking Off,[1] in which he played a counselor who taught parents of runaway teens to smoke marijuana in order to better understand their children's experiences. Schiavelli's aptitude and distinctive angular appearance soon provided him with a steady stream of supporting roles, often in Miloš Forman films, including One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Valmont, and the 1999 biopic Man on the Moon.

He played Mr. Vargas, the biology teacher, in the 1982 comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a role he reprised in the 1986 television spin-off Fast Times. He was cast in a similar role in Better Off Dead in which he played Mr. Kerber, a geometry teacher.

In 1987, he starred alongside Tim Conway in the short film comedy Dorf on Golf, and then Dorf and the First Games of Mount Olympus in 1988. In 1990, he played the Subway Ghost in Ghost and in 1992, he played in Tim Burton's Batman Returns as the "Organ Grinder", one of the Penguin's henchmen. He appeared as another villain in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), as a silent monk in The Frisco Kid (1979), and as John O'Connor, one of the evil Red Lectroids in 1984's The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. In 1994 he appeared in the music video for ZZ Top's song "Breakaway", alongside Fairuza Balk and in 1997, he was named one of America's best character actors by Vanity Fair magazine. He also made several voice appearances in the animated television show Hey Arnold!. In 2002, he played a children's television show host turned heroin addict named Buggy Ding Dong in Death to Smoochy.[2]

His first television role came in 1972 as Peter Panama in The Corner Bar, the first sustained portrayal of a gay character on American television. His other television credits include The Moneychangers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, WKRP in Cincinnati and Taxi as the priest who marries Latka and Simka. He appeared in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Arsenal of Freedom" as a holographic salesman, on Miami Vice as a research scientist who conspires to steal a top-secret prototype weapon from his employer, and in an uncredited role in an episode of Punky Brewster. In 1987 he appeared as Lyle, a gangster, in the MacGyver season 2 episode "Soft Touch". In Highlander: The Series, he played Leo Atkins, a homeless Vietnam War veteran accused of murder in the Season 1 episode "Innocent Man". In The X-Files, he played Lanny, man with an underdeveloped conjoined twin in the Season 2 episode "Humbug".

He wrote a number of cookbooks and food articles for various magazines and newspapers, notably Gourmet, Saveur and the Los Angeles Times. In 1999, Schiavelli starred in a 26-episode Italian cooking show called Chefs of Cucina Amore that aired on PBS periodically for the next couple of years. He received a James Beard Foundation Journalism Award in 2001 and was nominated on several other occasions.

Vincent Schiavelli's three cookbooks are memoirs, with recipes related to personal history and anecdotes:

Papa Andrea's Sicilian Table: Recipes from a Sicilian Chef As Remembered by His Grandson, 1993

Bruculinu, America: Remembrances of Sicilian-American Brooklyn, Told in Stories and Recipes, 1998

Many Beautiful Things: Stories and Recipes from Polizzi Generosa, 2002

Vincent Schiavelli tumbstone in Polizzi Generosa Sicily small
Vincent Schiavelli's tombstone in Polizzi Generosa graveyard

Schiavelli served as honorary co-chair of the National Marfan Foundation, an organization which serves those affected by Marfan syndrome, from which Schiavelli suffered.[3]

Schiavelli also performed in a few video games, including Emperor: Battle for Dune (as Harkonnen Mentat Yanich Kobal) and as Dr. Hellman in the video game Corpse Killer.

Personal life

Schiavelli was married to actress Allyce Beasley from 1985 until their 1988 divorce. He guest-starred as the love interest of Beasley's character on one episode of Moonlighting. Their son, Andrea Schiavelli, was born in 1987. In 1992, Schiavelli married American harpist Carol Mukhalian.


Schiavelli died of lung cancer on December 26, 2005, aged 57, at his home in Polizzi Generosa, the Sicilian town where his grandfather, Andrea Coco, was born, and about which he wrote in his 2002 book Many Beautiful Things: Stories and Recipes from Polizzi Generosa (ISBN 0-7432-1528-1).[4] Schiavelli was buried at Polizzi Generosa Cemetery, near Palermo, Sicily. Two documentaries were made about Schiavelli's Sicilian life. The first, Once Upon a Time in Polizzi, was released on October 11, 2005 (two months before his death) and the second, Many Beautiful Things (Tanti Beddi Cosi is the Sicilian title), was produced by Aurelio Gambadoro and released in 2014. The film Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie is dedicated to his memory. (Schiavelli provided a guest voice appearance as the Pigeon Man in the original series.)



  1. ^ a b "Vincent Schiavelli". The New York Times.
  2. ^ "Character Actor Vincent Schiavelli Dies", NPR's Morning Edition, 2005-12-27
  3. ^ "NMF Mourns the Loss of its Honorary Co-Chair, Vincent Schiavelli" Archived 2013-06-16 at the Wayback Machine, National Marfan Foundation. Retrieved April 10, 2011
  4. ^ "Character actor Schiavelli dies". 2005-12-26. Retrieved 2009-04-14.
  5. ^ a b c "Vincent Schiavelli Filmography". The New York Times.

External links

Allyce Beasley

Allyce Beasley (born July 6, 1951) is an American actress, voice artist and comedian. She is best-known for her role as rhyming, love-struck receptionist Agnes DiPesto in the television series Moonlighting. From 2000 to March 30, 2007, she was the announcer on Playhouse Disney, a morning lineup of programming for toddlers on Disney Channel. She appeared briefly as a guidance counselor in the Reese Witherspoon film comedy Legally Blonde and played Coach's daughter, Lisa Pantusso, on Cheers. She also announced the safety video during The Simpsons Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood and Florida.

Dorf and the First Games of Mount Olympus

Dorf and the First Games of Mount Olympus is a 1988 comedy film starring Tim Conway and Vincent Schiavelli.

Dorf on Golf

Dorf on Golf is a 1987 comedy film starring Tim Conway, Vincent Schiavelli and Michele Smith. The film is the first in a series of eight films released by Conway using the Dorf sporting theme. The film had a total cast of three.

Escape to Witch Mountain (1995 film)

Escape to Witch Mountain is a 1995 American made-for-television fantasy-adventure film and a remake of the 1975 film of the same name. The film was announced by American Broadcasting Company (ABC) in September 1994, as one of four Disney film remakes to air on the channel. The film was produced by Walt Disney Television and premiered on ABC on April 29, 1995, as part of ABC Family Movie.

Game Over (2003 film)

Game Over is a 2003 television film starring Yasmine Bleeth, Walter Koenig, Woody Jeffreys and Dominika Wolski. It incorporates footage originally shot for several video games released by Digital Pictures.

Humbug (The X-Files)

"Humbug" is the twentieth episode of the second season of American science fiction television series The X-Files. It was written by Darin Morgan and directed by Kim Manners. Morgan had previously appeared in a guest role as the Flukeman in an earlier episode of that season called "The Host". "Humbug" aired in the United States on March 31, 1995 on the Fox network. The episode is a "Monster-of-the-Week" story, unconnected to the series' wider mythology. "Humbug" earned a Nielsen household rating of 10.3, being watched by 9.8 million households in its initial broadcast. The episode received generally positive reviews and critics appreciated Morgan's unique writing style.

The show centers on FBI special agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) who work on cases linked to the paranormal, called X-Files. In this episode, Mulder and Scully investigate a series of murders in a community of former circus sideshow performers. Mulder believes the murderer to be the mysterious "Fiji mermaid", which Scully argues is only a hoax—a mere humbug.

"Humbug" was the first explicitly comedic episode in the series and Morgan later wrote three more scripts for the series that continued his comic take on the show. According to critical analysis of the episode, "Humbug" explored themes of "Otherness" and difference. Guest stars included real-life sideshow performers Jim Rose and The Enigma of the Jim Rose Circus, as well as actors Michael J. Anderson and Vincent Schiavelli. "Humbug" was nominated for an Edgar Award and a Cinema Audio Society Award.


Kidco is a 1984 comedy film directed by Ronald F. Maxwell and starring Scott Schwartz, Clifton James, Charles Hallahan, Maggie Blye, and Vincent Schiavelli.

Night Shift (film)

Night Shift is a 1982 American comedy film, directed by Ron Howard, concerning a timid night shift morgue employee whose life is turned upside down by a new co-worker who fancies himself a free-spirited entrepreneur. It stars Howard's Happy Days co-star Henry Winkler along with Michael Keaton, in his first starring role, and Shelley Long. Also appearing are Richard Belzer and Clint Howard; and there are brief scenes with a young Kevin Costner as "Frat Boy #1," Shannen Doherty as a Bluebell scout, Vincent Schiavelli as a man who delivers a sandwich, and Charles Fleischer as one of the jail prisoners.

Winkler was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, while Keaton won the Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor.


Nuovomondo, literally "new world" (English world-wide title Golden Door), is a 2006 drama film based on a family's migration from Italy to New York City, U.S.A. at the beginning of the 20th century. The film, written and directed by Emanuele Crialese, opens on location in Sicily and concludes in the United States. (The Ellis Island sequences were shot at a studio in Rome and in Buenos Aires, Argentina.) Vincent Schiavelli, whose character was originally planned to play a major part, died during the filming, forcing his role to become a supporting character.

The movie premiered at the Venice Film Festival on September 8, 2006 to critical praise and seven nominations (with six wins) at the festival. Many praised the director's focus on sound and visual composition. Others focused on the lack of typical iconography of the time (such as the Statue of Liberty).

Martin Scorsese was involved in the marketing, and introduced the film at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival.

Playroom (film)

Playroom is a 1990 American horror film directed by Manny Coto in his directorial debut. The film stars Lisa Aliff, Aron Eisenberg, Christopher McDonald, and Vincent Schiavelli. Cinematography was done by James L. Carter, and the production designer was, Vicky Jenson, who later went on to direct Shrek.

Polizzi Generosa

Polizzi Generosa (Sicilian: Pulizzi) is a town and comune in the Metropolitan City of Palermo on the island of Sicily, southern Italy. The town sits in the hills at 917 metres (3,009 ft) above sea level.

The Arsenal of Freedom

"The Arsenal of Freedom" is the twenty-first episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, originally aired on April 11, 1988, in broadcast syndication. The teleplay was written by Richard Manning and Hans Beimler, based on a story by Beimler. The episode was directed by Les Landau.

Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the crew of the Starfleet starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, the crew investigates the disappearance of the USS Drake. They travel to the planet Minos, where an away team and the ship are separately attacked by the demonstration of an automated weapons system.

Maurice Hurley saw the episode as commentary on the sale of F-14 Tomcats to Iran. He intended to have Doctor Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) reveal her feelings for Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) in this episode, but Gene Roddenberry had it changed. VFX Supervisor/Producer Dan Curry created the model of the drone seen in this episode using a pantyhose container and a shampoo bottle. The opinions of critics were mixed, but singled out the appearance of Vincent Schiavelli for praise.

The Corner Bar

The Corner Bar is an American sitcom that aired on ABC from June 1972 to September 1973.

The Lurking Fear (film)

Lurking Fear is a 1994 horror film, loosely based on the H. P. Lovecraft short story "The Lurking Fear". It was produced by Charles Band's Full Moon Entertainment and written and directed by C. Courtney Joyner.

The Pooch and the Pauper

The Pooch and the Pauper is a 2000 American television film, starring Richard Karn, Fred Willard, Vincent Schiavelli, Peter MacNicol and Daryl Mitchell. It was directed by Alex Zamm.

The Prince and the Surfer

The Prince and the Surfer is a 1999 comedy direct-to-video film about a prince who switches places with a Southern California surfer and skateboarder. It was directed by Arye Gross and Gregory Gieras, and stars Sean Kellman, Robert Englund, and Vincent Schiavelli.

The Ratings Game

The Ratings Game is a 1984 cable television film directed by Danny DeVito and produced by David Jablin. The Showtime comedy stars DeVito and Rhea Perlman, and features Huntz Hall, Michael Richards, George Wendt and Jerry Seinfeld.

The Return (1980 film)

The Return is a 1980 American science fiction film directed by Greydon Clark. It stars Jan-Michael Vincent, Cybill Shepherd, Martin Landau, and Raymond Burr. It met little commercial success and was released directly to television and video.

Waiting for the Light

Waiting for the Light is a 1990 American comedy film written and directed by Christopher Monger and starring Shirley MacLaine, Teri Garr, Clancy Brown, Vincent Schiavelli, John Bedford Lloyd, Colin Baumgartner and Hillary Wolf. It was released on November 2, 1990, by Triumph Films.

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