Caddyshack star Rodney Dangerfield, the bug-eyed comic who built a career on his trademark lament of "I don't get no respect," died today, his publicist said. He was 82.
The comedian died at 1:20 p.m. at UCLA Medical Center, publicist Kevin Sasaki said. He had suffered a stroke after undergoing a heart heart valve replacement surgery on Aug. 25, and slipped into a coma two weeks later.
Dangerfield forged a career of poking fun at his troubles. He struck gold with his poor-me, "no-respect" persona, complete with nervous tie-tugging and brow-mopping.
"My wife, she told me I was one in a million. I found out she was right. That's the story of my life — no respect at all," ran a typical Dangerfield line.
A self-deprecating story would conclude with, "I mean that's the story of my life — no respect, no respect."
Comic Struggled for Years Before Success
He was born Jacob Cohen on Nov. 22, 1921, in Babylon, N.Y. He began writing jokes as a teenager. Under the stage name Jack Roy, he went on the road with his stand-up act, even doing a stint as a singing waiter. Nothing took, and finally he moved to New Jersey and became an aluminum siding salesman.
But he decided to give comedy another try, under a new name. And when he was about 40, the renamed Rodney Dangerfield hit upon the "no-respect" line — and struck gold.
It was that idea of being the guy denied even the smallest dignity that caught on.
His one-line classics include: "My wife was afraid of the dark, saw me naked and now she's afraid of the light."
Dangerfield became a hit on the stand-up circuit in the 1960s. Ed Sullivan gave him his big break on television, and later appearances on The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live gave him a national audience.
Caddyshack and His Own Comedy Club
Movie roles followed. In the 1980 hit Caddyshack, Dangerfield guaranteed his place in American comedy with his role as Al Czervik, an obnoxious rich golfer.
Dangerfield often played different versions of the same character, and audiences loved it. In 1983's Easy Money, he was a big hit as a working-class guy who suddenly becomes a millionaire. His 1986 film Back to School was one of the first comedies to earn more than $100 million.
As founder and owner of New York City comedy club Dangerfields, the comic helped a number of struggling comedians who later became stars, including Jim Carrey, Roseanne and Jerry Seinfeld.
He also proved to be a pioneer in cyberspace. In 1995 he became the first entertainer to own his own Web site.
Dangerfield won a Grammy Award in 1980 for the comedy album No Respect and in 1994 he received an American Comedy lifetime achivement award.
Dangerfield married his first wife, Joyce Indig, in 1949. They had two children, Brian and Melanie, before divorcing in 1961. In 1993 he married Joan Child, who was more than 30 years his junior.
The comedian is survived by his wife, children and two grandchildren. Memorial services were being planned in Los Angeles.