GAINES , Leonard
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Oct. 13, 1922 - Feb. 15, 2007
Actor/Producer/Writer Leonard Gaines passed away Feb. 15 peacefully in his sleep at his home in West Hollywood. He was 84.
His show business career spanned over sixty years. Some of his early jobs included writing for The Sid Caesar show, and working for the iconic producer Mike Todd with whom he co- produced the memorable first anniversary party for "Around the World in Eighty Days" which packed Madison Square Garden. With Mike Todd Jr. he produced one of the first integrated musical revues for the New York Worlds Fair in 1964, "America Be Seated." He worked with his close friend Eddie Fisher throughout his early stage and television career.
In the sixties he wrote and produced several comedy records including "At Home With That Other Family" in 1962. A takeoff on a popular album about the Kennedy First Family, it focused on the Soviet First Family. A very young George Segal played Nikita Khrushchev along with the voices of future comic stars Joan Rivers and Buck Henry. Also, the album "The Shortest Day," a satire about the Egypt Israeli Six Day War, on which Gaines voiced the part of Moishe Dayan. In 1967 he co-wrote and starred on a record for Columbia called "The Coney Island Parade," better known as "The Banana Man." It was a hit in San Francisco before being banned for promoting the smoking of bananas, which was a crazy fad at the time. Gaines also produced several closed circuit television Muhammad Ali Heavyweight Championship fights.
In the early seventies his friend Marty Scorsese cast him in his first film acting role as a record label president opposite Robert De Niro and Liza Minnelli in "New York New York." He also appeared on stage with Minnelli in "Shine It On," also directed by Scorsese. In 1978 he Executive Produced his film "Going In Style" starring George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasburg. It was Marty Brest's directorial debut. His other film credits include "Blue Collar," in a scene with friend with Richard Pryor, "Hardcore" with George C Scott, "Rocky 2," with Sly Stallone, "Where the Buffalo Roam" with Bill Murray, "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai," "The Idolmaker," "For The Boys" with Bette Midler, and "Scent of a Woman." He played the Ferrari salesman who let a sightless Al Pacino take a test drive. Gaines also appeared in several television shows as a character actor. He became a member of the Motion Picture Academy in 1993.
An original Damon Runyon character, plucked from the corner of Broadway and Fifty- Second street, Lenny Gaines is regarded by his contemporaries and everyone who knew him as the funniest guy on the corner!
Services on February 21st at Westwood Village Memorial Park.
He is survived by his daughter Stefanie and his son Michael.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Feb. 21, 2007