Sunday, February 3, 2013

Remembering Victor Buono

Charles Victor Buono was born on February 3, 1938 in San Diego, California. His interest in entertainment was originally encouraged by his grandmother, Myrtle Glied [1886-1969], who had once been a vaudevillian on the Orpheum Circuit. It was she who taught Victor how to sing and recite in front of company. His initial choice of career was somewhere in the direction of medicine but the pure joy he experienced from several high school performances (playing everything from Aladdin's evil genie to Hamlet himself) led him to dismiss such sensible thinking and take on the bohemian life style of an actor.

In 1959, a Warner Brothers agent happened to scope out the talent at the Globe Theatre and caught Victor's wonderful performance and gave him a screen test. Looking older than he was, the studio set upon using Victor in weird and wacky ways, such as his bearded poet Bongo Benny in an episode of ‘77 Sunset Strip’. His wry and witty demeanor, fixed stare, huge girth and goateed mug guaranteed his use in nearly every TV crime story needing an off-the-wall character or outlandish villain. Victor's hearty, scene-stealing antics dominated late 1960s TV shows. Recurring madmen included his Count Manzeppi on the popular ‘The Wild Wild West’ (1965) and King Tut who habitually wreaked havoc on Gotham City on ‘Batman’ (1966). Buono appeared as Frank ‘Honey’ Fisher in his only Euro-western “Boot Hill” (1969) opposite Bud Spencer, Terence Hill and Woody Strode.

Continuing with the theatre but on a more infrequent basis, his one-man stage shows included "Just We Three," "Remembrance of Things Past" and "This Would I Keep." He also appeared as Pellinore opposite Robert Goulet and Carol Lawrence in a 1975 performance of "Camelot" and earned minor cult status for his memorable performance in the play "Last of the Marx Brothers’ Writers" in a return to the Old Globe Theatre in 1977.

A well-regarded gourmet chef and an expert on Shakespeare, he died of a massive heart attack at his ranch in Apple Valley, California on January 1, 1982.

Today we remember Victor Buono on what would have been his 85th birthday.

1 comment:

  1. He was a master at playing oddball characters. If I remember right, he was the villain on the pilot episode of The Wild Wild West. And I especially liked him in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. Whatever role he played, he always brought something fresh and fun for audiences to enjoy.