Saturday, December 18, 2021

Herb Edelman


This week at Six Feet Under Hollywood, we continue our month-long look at actors who have played Santa at one point or another in their careers.

Herb Edelman
was born in Brooklyn on November 5, 1933.  Growing up, he aspired to be a veterinarian, something he'd later study at Cornell University.  During his freshman year however, Edelman dropped out of college and enlisted in the Army.  There he served as an announcer for Armed Forces Radio, his first foray into the world of show business.

After the Service, Edelman returned to New York and enrolled at Brooklyn College, where he studied theater. Once again, he dropped out, preferring to support himself through odd jobs while looking for acting roles.

During one such shift, Edelman picked up Mike Nichols, a Broadway and theatrical director. Edelman so impressed Nichols that he cast him in his first Broadway role, that of a telephone repairman in Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park.

In the 1960s, Edelman relocated to Los Angeles and began working in television.  His early roles were on such series as That Girl, The Girl From UNCLE, and Honey West.  He made his way to the big screen in 1967, appearing in the James Coburn classic In Like Flint.  That same year, he reprised his role from Barefoot in the Park in the Hollywood adaptation.

After years of making guest appearances, Edelman landed his own series in 1968, starring opposite Bob Denver in the CBS sit-com The Good Guys (right).  He played diner owner Bert Gramus, lifelong friend to Denver's Rufus Butterworth, a Gilligan-esque cab driver who always meant well, but seldom succeeded.  The series ran for two seasons before being canceled by the network.  Check out the pilot episode on YouTube.

Throughout the 1970s and into the 80s, Edelman continued working in television, appearing in such series as Happy Days, Welcome Back, Kotter, Fantasy Island and MacGyver.  Then in 1985, he landed the role for which he is probably best remembered, Stan Zbornak on the NBC sit-com The Golden Girls.  Over its seven-year run, Edelman appeared in 26 episodes, including the one that inspired this blog.  

"Have Yourself a Very Little Christmas" aired on December 16, 1989.  It sees Stan, ex-husband to main character Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur), living in a homeless shelter after his new wife kicks him to the curb.  

When the series left the air in 1992, Edelman continued working in television, with a semi-recurring role on Murder, She Wrote.  His final role was in a 1994 episode of a series no one remembers, an NBC sit-com called The Mommies.

A lifelong smoker, Edelman's habit finally caught up with him in the early 1990s as he settled into retirement.  He died of emphysema on July 21, 1996, at the age of 62.  He was laid to rest at Montefiore Cemetery in Springfield Gardens, New York.

Location: Gate 334N, Block 13, Row 001R, Grave 8
Society Name: Congregation Ohev Sholem

Rest in peace, Stan.

  • During the years that Edelman was on The Golden Girls, he also had a recurring role on another NBC series, St. Elsewhere.  There he met actress Christina Pickles (Nurse Helen Rosenthal), whom he dated for several years.

  • Edelman originated the role of Murray the Cop in the 1968 film The Odd Couple.  When the film went to series, the role was taken over by Al Molinaro, later of Happy Days fame.

  • The Good Guys was originally filmed in front of a live studio audience, but this ended shortly into the series.  According to director Leonard Stern, the fire marshal put an end to it over safety concerns, as several of the cast and crew were known to smoke pot together.

  • Although twice nominated for an Emmy Award for his work on The Golden Girls, Edelman never brought home the trophy.

  • This blogger also remembers Edelman's recurring role on The Bradys, a short-lived revival of The Brady Bunch that aired in 1990.

  • Edelman played Stan one final time in an episode of The Golden Palace entitled "One Angry Stan."  You can watch the episode in its entirety, albeit cut for syndication, on YouTube.

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