Lainie Kazan

Lainie Kazan

Birth name: Lainie Levine
Born: May 15, 1940
Age: 83
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
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Lainie Kazan (born May 15, 1940)[1] is an American actress and singer. She was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for St. Elsewhere and the 1993 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for My Favorite Year. She was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her role in My Favorite Year (1982). Kazan played Maria Portokalos in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and its sequel film My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.

Kazan was born Lainie Levine in Brooklyn[2][3] as the daughter of Carole (née Kazan) and Benjamin Levine.[4] Kazan's mother Carole was of Sephardic Jewish extraction, her family having originally come from Jerusalem;[5][6] and her father Benjamin, who was of Russian Ashkenazi Jewish descent, worked as a gambling bookmaker.[7][8] Kazan has described her mother as "neurotic, fragile and artistic."[9][10][8] She attended Brooklyn's Erasmus Hall High School, where she was a senior while Barbra Streisand, whom she would later understudy, was a sophomore. Kazan went on to graduate from Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, on Long Island, in 1960. While at Hofstra, Kazan appeared in school musicals written and directed by a classmate, future Academy Award-winning director Francis Ford Coppola.[2]



Kazan made her Broadway debut in 1961 with the musical The Happiest Girl in the World. She appeared the following year in another musical, Bravo Giovanni, and understudied Barbra Streisand for the lead role of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl (1964). When Streisand herself could not perform due to a throat condition, Kazan took her place in both a matinee and evening performance for one day of the show's run.[2] Her popularity increasing, Kazan posed nude for the October 1970 issue of Playboy, which was reused in Pocket Playboy #4, issued in 1974. Her appearance in the magazine opened the door for her to headline at, and operate, two different Playboy Jazz Clubs. Overseen by Hugh Hefner himself, the clubs were called "Lainie’s Lounge East" and "Lainie's Lounge West," each on opposite coasts, with the one located in Manhattan and the other in Los Angeles. Her Playboy photographs inspired the look of Jack Kirby’s DC Comics superheroine, Big Barda.[11]

Along with appearing in numerous supper clubs across the country, Kazan guest-starred on Dean Martin’s variety series twenty-six times. Other television work includes a recurring role as Aunt Frieda on the Fran Drescher sitcom The Nanny, the mother of Kirstie Alley's character on Veronica’s Closet, and such guest roles as one on St. Elsewhere, that resulted in an Emmy nomination. Her other television work has included The Paper Chase, Touched by an Angel, and Will & Grace as Grace's Aunt Honey.

Kazan played Maria Portokalos, the mother of Toula Portokalos (Nia Vardalos) in the films My Big Fat Greek Wedding and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. Following the first film in the franchise, Kazan was featured in My Big Fat Greek Life, a short-lived series based on the film. Other recent film work includes the mother of Adam Sandler’s character in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Although the scene was deleted in the feature film, it is included on the DVD in the special features section. Kazan had appeared as the once-renowned singer Ava St. Clair with Chuck and Larry co-star Kevin James in two episodes of The King of Queens, a TV series with James in the lead role.

A life member of The Actors Studio,[12] Kazan returned to Broadway to recreate her film role for the musical adaptation of My Favorite Year, earning a Tony Award nomination for her performance. She completed a stint in The Vagina Monologues. She has also appeared in regional productions of A Little Night Music, Man of La Mancha, Gypsy, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Hello, Dolly!, and Fiddler on the Roof, among others. In 1984, she made a guest appearance on the Faerie Tale Theatre episode “Pinocchio” as Sophia the Blue Fairy.

In the Ugly Betty episode "Fire and Nice," Kazan played Dina Talercio, the mother of Bobby (Adam Rodriguez), who becomes the character’s brother-in-law.[13] In 2010, Kazan joined the cast of Desperate Housewives for Season 7. She played the role of a self-employed business owner and neighbor to Susan.[14]

Personal life

After meeting musical director-arranger Peter H.B. Daniels on the Broadway musical Funny Girl, in which Kazan was a cast-member and he was associate orchestra conductor, the two began a five-year relationship. They married sometime after the 1971 birth of their daughter, Jennifer.[15][16][2] The marriage did not last, and Kazan was single again by 1976.[15]

In the mid-1970s, Kazan was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Since then, she has dedicated time to public education about DVT.[17][18] On April 9, 2016, Kazan was injured in a head-on collision. Kazan was driving her sport utility vehicle when the collision occurred in front of a Greek restaurant in Sherman Oaks, California. Kazan was hospitalized following the crash.[19][20]

Beginning in 2012, Kazan became an adjunct professor at UCLA, teaching acting classes and directing her students in drama-department production. She has served on the boards of the Young Musicians’ Foundation, AIDS Project LA, and B'nai Brith, the California Jazz Foundation, and her alma mater, Hofstra University.[21]



Year Title Role Notes
1968 Dayton's Devils Leda Martell
1968 Lady in Cement Maria Baretto
1971 Romance of a Horsethief Estusha
1982 One from the Heart Maggie
1982 My Favorite Year Belle Carroca
1985 Lust in the Dust Marguerita Ventura
1985 The Journey of Natty Gann Connie
1986 The Delta Force Sylvia Goldman
1987 Harry and the Hendersons Irene Moffitt
1987 Medium Rare Helga Costas
1988 Out of the Dark Hooker / Nancy
1988 Beaches Leona Bloom
1989 Eternity Mother / Berneice Uncredited
1991 29th Street Mrs. Pesce
1992 I Don't Buy Kisses Anymore Sarah Fishbine
1993 The Cemetery Club Selma
1996 Love Is All There Is Sadie Capomezzo
1996 Movies Money Murder Sylvia
1996 The Associate Cindy Mason
1997 Allie & Me Camille Alexander
1998 The Big Hit Jeanne Shulman
1998 Permanent Midnight Jerry's Mother at Funeral Uncredited
1998 The Unknown Cyclist Rachel
1999 Kimberly Hanna
1999 Mike & Spike Movie
2000 What's Cooking? Ruth 'Ruthie' Seelig
2000 Bruno Sister Mary Perpetua
2000 The Crew Pepper Lowenstein
2000 The Dress Code
2002 My Big Fat Greek Wedding Maria Portokalos
2002 Eight Crazy Nights Old Woman Singing voice
2003 Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There Documentary
2003 A Good Night to Die Diane
2003 Gigli Mother
2004 Red Riding Hood Grandma
2005 Whiskey School Hedy Seligman
2007 Bratz: The Movie Bubbie
2007 Beau Jest Miriam Goldman
2008 You Don't Mess with the Zohan Gail
2009 Oy Vey! My Son Is Gay!! Shirley Hirsch
2010 Expecting Mary Lillian Littlefeather
2012 Divorce Invitation Elaine Lipnicks
2013 Finding Joy Gloria
2013 Growing Defiant
2015 Pearly Gates Millie
2015 Pixels Mickey Lamonsoff
2016 My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 Maria Portokalos


Year Title Role Notes
1962 Car 54, Where Are You? Girl at bar Episode: "Je T'Adore Muldoon"
1965 Ben Casey Della Episode: "Why Did the Day Go Backwards?"
1969 The Dean Martin Show
1977 The Bobby Vinton Show A Love Affair: The Eleanor and Lou Gehrig Story Sophie Tucker Television film
1978 Columbo Valerie Kirk Episode: "Make Me a Perfect Murder"
1980 A Cry for Love Tina Weathersby Television film
1983 Sunset Limousine Jessie Durning Television film
1984 The Jerk, Too Card Player Television film
1984 Obsessive Love Margaret Chase Television film
1985-1986 The Paper Chase Rose Samuels 15 episodes
1986 Tough Cookies Rita 6 episodes
1987 Karen's Song Claire Steiner 13 episodes
1989 Hägar the Horrible Helga (voice) Television short
1990 Earthday Birthday (voice) Television film
1992 Beverly Hills 90210 Rose Zuckerman Episode: "Down and Out of District in Beverly Hills"
1995-1998 The Nanny Aunt Freida 4 episodes
1995 Prince for a Day Rose Television film
1998 Safety Patrol Mrs. Day Television film
2001 Will & Grace Aunt Honey Episode: "Moveable Feast"
2002 Returning Lilly Television film
2003 My Big Fat Greek Life Maria Portokalos 7 episodes
2005 The Engagement Ring Alicia Rosa Anselmi Television film
2007 The King of Queens Ava St. Clair 2 episodes
2008 Boston Legal Judge Paula Stern Episode: "Dances with Wolves"
2010 Medium Rare Helga Costas Episode: "Episode #1.1"
2010 'Til Death Donna 3 episodes
2010 Desperate Housewives Maxine Rosen 5 episodes
2012 Modern Family Eleanor Episode: "New Year's Eve"
2013 Jessie Wanda Winkle Episode: "Throw Momma From the Terrace"
2013 Greys Anatomy C.J. Episode: "Two Against One"
2014 RuPaul's Drag Race Herself Episode: "Glamazon"
2018 Young & Hungry Susie Lowenstein Episode: "Young and Third Wheel"

Stage work

This section of a biography of a living person does not include any references or sources. Please help by adding reliable sources. Contentious material about living people that is unsourced or poorly sourced must be removed immediately.
  • Leave It to Jane (1959) (Off-Broadway)
  • Kittiwake Island (1960) (Off-Broadway)
  • The Happiest Girl in the World (1961) (Broadway)
  • Bravo Giovanni (1962) (Broadway)
  • Funny Girl (1964) (Broadway) (also understudy for Barbra Streisand)
  • Man of La Mancha (1972) (Westbury Music Fair)
  • Seesaw (1973) (Broadway) (replaced by Michele Lee prior to opening)
  • Show Boat (1979) (US national tour)
  • Gypsy (1992) (Westbury Music Fair)
  • My Favorite Year (1992) (Broadway)
  • The Government Inspector (1994) (Broadway)
  • Rags (2006) (World AIDS Day benefit concert)
  • Bermuda Avenue Triangle (2006) (Los Angeles)


  • Lainie Kazan (1966) SE-4385 MGMRecords (original studio album)
  • Right Now (1966) SE-4340MGM Records (original studio album; with sleeve notes by Dean Martin)
  • Love Is Lainie (1967) SE-4496 MGM Records (original studio album)
  • The Love Album (1967) SE 4451 MGMRecords (original studio album)
  • The Best of Lainie Kazan (1969)SE-4631 MGM Records (compilation album)
  • The Chanteuse is Loose (1977) LK515 Lainie & Co. (original studio album)
  • Body & Soul (1995) 65126 MusicMasters (original studio album)
  • In the Groove (1998) 65168 MusicMasters (original studio album)

[ Source: Wikipedia ]

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