Ruth Ann Buzzi (born July 24, 1936) is an American actress, comedian and singer. She has appeared onstage, as well as in films and television. She is best known for her performances on the comedy-variety show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In from 1968–73, for which she won a Golden Globe Award and received five Emmy nominations.
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Buzzi was born at Westerly Hospital, Westerly, Rhode Island, the daughter of Rena Pauline and Angelo Peter Buzzi, a nationally recognized stone sculptor. She was raised in Wequetequock, Connecticut, in a rock house overlooking the ocean at Wequetequock Cove, where her father owned Buzzi Memorials, a business still operated by her older brother, Harold.
Her father was born in Arzo, Switzerland, in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino. He carved the marble eagles at Penn Station in New York, the granite Leif Erikson memorial in Providence, Rhode Island, the animals seen in relief on the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and made thousands of tombstones. He was asked to work on the carving of the Presidents on Mount Rushmore but declined, out of a fear of heights. Her mother was born in the United States to immigrants from northern Italy.
Buzzi attended Stonington High School, where she was head cheerleader. At 17, she enrolled at the Pasadena Playhouse for the Performing Arts and graduated with honors. She studied voice, dance, and acting, and took courses in cosmetology.
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Before graduation from college, Buzzi was already a working actress with a union card in musical and comedy revues. Her first job in show business was at 19, traveling with singer Rudy Vallee in a live musical and comedy act during her summer break from college; it allowed her to graduate with a treasured union card with Actors' Equity Association. She moved to New York City after graduation and was hired immediately for a lead role in an off-Broadway musical revue, the first of 19 in which she performed across the East Coast.
In musical and comedy revues from Provincetown, Massachusetts, to the Catskills of New York, to off-Broadway, she worked alongside other young, talented performers just beginning their careers at the time, including Barbra Streisand, Joan Rivers, Dom DeLuise, Bernadette Peters and Carol Burnett. Buzzi performed in New York musical variety shows, and she made numerous television commercials, some of which won national awards including the Clio Award.
Her first national recognition on television came on The Garry Moore Show in 1964, just after Carol Burnett was replaced by Dorothy Loudon on the series. Buzzi saw her first taste of national fame as "Shagundala the Silent", a bumbling magician's assistant to her comedy partner Dom DeLuise who played "Dominic the Great". Buzzi was a member of the regular repertory company on the CBS variety show The Entertainers (1964–65). In 1966–67, Buzzi appeared in Sweet Charity, with Fosse's wife, Gwen Verdon, in the original cast. She had several small roles, one of them "the Singing Fairy".
In the late 1960s, Ruth Buzzi appeared in every episode of The Steve Allen Show, a comedy-variety series starring Steve Allen. Her character parts in the Allen sketches led her to be cast for NBC's new show Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. She was the only featured player to appear in every episode of Laugh-In including the pilot for the show and the Laugh-In television special.
A versatile comedian and accomplished singer, Buzzi played everything from dowdy old women to tipsy drunks, from Southern belles to flashy hookers. Among her recurring characters on Laugh-In were Busy-Buzzi, a Hedda Hopper-type Hollywood gossip columnist; Doris Swizzler, a cocktail-lounge habituée who always got riotously smashed with husband Leonard (Dick Martin); and one of the Burbank Airlines Stewardesses, teaming with Debbie Reynolds as two totally inconsiderate flight attendants. Her most famous character was dowdy spinster Gladys Ormphby, clad in drab brown with her bun hairdo covered by a visible hairnet knotted in the middle of her forehead. Buzzi first used this look when she played Agnes Gooch in a school production of Auntie Mame. In most sketches, she used her lethal purse, with which she would flail away vigorously at anyone who incurred her wrath.
On Laugh-In, Gladys most often appeared as the unwilling object of the advances of Arte Johnson's "dirty old man" character Tyrone F. Horneigh. In a typical exchange, Tyrone accosts Gladys and asks, "Do you believe in the hereafter?" "Of course I do!" Gladys retorts defensively. Delighted, Tyrone shoots back: "Then you know what I'm here after!" NBC collectively called these two characters The Nitwits when they went to animation in the mid-1970s as part of the series Baggy Pants and the Nitwits. Buzzi and Johnson both voiced their respective roles in the cartoon.
Buzzi, as Gladys, was featured in most of the Dean Martin Roasts from the MGM Hotel in Las Vegas. Memorable shows included her intense comedic dialogue, ranting about notable roastees including Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra, and Lucille Ball, to name a few. In each case, Gladys Ormphby pugnaciously attacked the honoree with her flailing purse to the screams and howls of the Las Vegas audience. Martin would also suffer Gladys's purse assaults for his remarks about her unappealing looks and poor romantic prospects. In one such exchange, Gladys accusingly questioned Martin about who had been chasing her around a hotel room in the wee hours; Martin's response ("The exterminator!") earned him a beating as he broke up laughing along with the audience. Gladys then declared to the audience that, when Martin and other men looked at her, only one thing came to their minds. Martin, still laughing, could barely get out the answer: "Rabies!" This earned him an even fiercer beating from Gladys.
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Buzzi was featured as a semi-regular on the sitcom That Girl as Marlo Thomas's friend Pete Peterson. She starred with Jim Nabors as the time-traveling androids Fi and Fum in The Lost Saucer produced by Sid and Marty Krofft which aired from September 11, 1975 until September 2, 1976 (16 episodes).
Buzzi also guested as Chloe, the theretofore unseen but oft-mentioned wife of phone company worker Henry Beesmeyer (Marvin Kaplan), on Alice in 1981. She was also a guest star on the syndicated sitcom Down to Earth in 1985. Dean Martin's producer, Greg Garrison, obviously enjoyed Buzzi's work as a comedy sketch artist and hired her for his comedy specials starring Dom DeLuise. She charted the single "You Oughta Hear The Song" in 1977. It reached #90 on Billboard's national Country Music chart.
Buzzi was a guest star on many television series including Donny & Marie, The Flip Wilson Show, The Dean Martin Music and Comedy Hour, the Dean Martin Roasts, The Carol Burnett Show, Tony Orlando and Dawn, The Monkees, Emergency!, and variety series hosted by Leslie Uggams and by Glen Campbell. She also appeared occasionally on game shows and was a celebrity judge on The Gong Show. She appeared on Lucille Ball's last (but short-lived) sitcom, Life with Lucy, as Mrs. Wilcox in the episode "Lucy Makes a Hit with John Ritter". She appeared eight times on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and has made more than 200 other television guest appearances.
Buzzi is an accomplished voice actress. She voiced the character Nose Marie in the Hanna-Barbera animated series Pound Puppies (1986). She also voiced Mama Bear in Berenstain Bears (1985) and performed hundreds of guest voices for many other cartoon series, including The Smurfs, The Angry Beavers and Mo Willems' Sheep in the Big City.
She appeared frequently on Sesame Street in comedy sketch clips from her six years on that show, and is often heard as the voice of outlandish failed torch singer Suzie Kabloozie. While she was a regular performer on Sesame Street, she was nominated for an Emmy Award for her work as Ruthie, a shopkeeper. Buzzi performed in numerous national television commercials, most notably for Clorox 2, Clairol, Ban roll-on deodorant, and Santa Anita Raceway, and voicing Granny Goodwitch in television commercials for Sugar Crisp cereal. She originated the Goodwitch character in the animated TV series Linus! The Lion Hearted (1964–65).
Buzzi appeared in the "Weird Al" Yankovic video "Gump" and similarly appeared in other music videos with the rock groups B-52's and The Presidents of the United States of America. She appeared on Saved by the Bell (playing Screech Powers's wacky Elvis fanatic mother), The Muppet Show, You Can't Do That on Television (during its CTV-produced incarnation Whatever Turns You On), and numerous other television shows. She played the role of the eccentric Nurse Kravitz on NBC's daytime soap opera Passions. In 2006 and 2007, she made guest appearances on the children's TV series Come on Over.
Buzzi had a successful nightclub act across the United States, including at Las Vegas's Sahara and at the MGM Grand hotels. She performed the act for one year. Her shows all sold out and she was reportedly offered an extended stay but declined.
She had featured roles in more than 20 feature films, including Chu Chu and the Philly Flash, Freaky Friday, The North Avenue Irregulars, The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, The Villain, The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland and a number of westerns for the European market known as the Lucky Luke series in which she plays the mother of the Dalton Gang.
|1964–1965||Linus the Lionhearted||Granny Goodwitch||3 episodes|
|1967–1973||Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In||Regular Performer||141 episodes|
|1967||The Steve Allen Show||Herself|
|1967||The Monkees||Mrs. Weatherspoon||1 episode|
|1967–1968||That Girl||Pete Peterson||5 episodes|
|1969||That's Life||1 episode|
|1969||In Name Only||Ruth Clayton||TV Movie|
|1970–1982||Walt Disney anthology television series||Granny||6 episodes|
|1970–1974||The Dean Martin Show||Herself||16 episodes|
|1970–1973||Love, American Style||Beverly||2 episodes|
|1971||Night Gallery||Hungry Witch||1 episode|
|1972||The Singles||TV Movie, also starring Michele Lee and John Byner|
|1972||Here's Lucy||Annie Whipple||1 episode|
|1973–1976||Medical Center||Rose Jenkins||2 episodes|
|1974||Lotsa Luck||Wilma Wallachek||1 episode|
|1974||Paradise||TV Movie, also starring Luther Adler|
|1974||ABC Afterschool Special||Cleaning Lady||1 episode|
|1975–1976||The Lost Saucer||Fi||16 episodes|
|1976||Emergency!||Amy Merkle||1 episode|
|1977–1978||Baggy Pants and the Nitwits||Gladys||16 episodes|
|1977||Once Upon a Brothers Grimm||Queen Astrid||TV Movie|
|1978–1987||The Love Boat||Herself||2 episodes|
|1979||Legends of the Superheroes||Aunt Minerva||Part Two of a Two Part TV Special|
|1979||You Can't Do That on Television||Ms. Fitt||2 episodes|
|1979||Whatever Turns You On||Miss Fit|
|1980||"Myra"||Mrs. Paige||Animated Short|
|1981||Alice||Chloe||Henry's Bitter Half|
|1981||Aloha Paradise||Herself||1 episode|
|1982||Trapper John, M.D.||Laura Morley||1 episode|
|1983||Gun Shy||Mrs. Mound||1 episode|
|1983||Days of Our Lives||Leticia Bradford||unknown episodes|
|1983||Alvin and the Chipmunks||13 episodes|
|1984||Don't Ask Me, Ask God||Jonesey's Wife||TV Movie, also starring Pat Robertson and Steve Allen|
|1985||Paw Paws||Aunt Pruney Paw||unknown episodes|
|1985||George Burns Comedy Week||Juliette||1 episode|
|1985||The Berenstain Bears||Mama Bear||26 episodes|
|1985||The Jetsons||1 episode|
|1986||Check It Out!||Tiffany Cobb, Mrs. Cobb's Daughter||1 episode|
|1986||Life with Lucy||Mrs. Wilcox||1 episode|
|1986||Kids Incorporated: Rock in the New Year||Blanche||TV Movie|
|1986–1987||Pound Puppies||Nose Marie||26 episodes|
|1987||Milroy, Santa's Misfit Mutt||Mrs. Claus (voice)||TV Short (also starring Buddy Ebsen)|
|1988||Rockin' with Judy Jetson||Felonia Funk (voice)||TV Movie|
|1988–1990||The Munsters||Dracula's Mom||2 episodes|
|1988–1991||Out of This World||Mrs. Miller||3 episodes|
|1989||"Marvin: Baby of the Year"||Chrissy's Mother (voice)||TV Short|
|1990||Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers||Ma||1 episode|
|1990||Gravedale High||voice role||unknown episodes|
|1990||Saved by the Bell||Roberta Powers||1 episode|
|1991||They Came from Outer Space||Carol||1 episode|
|1991||The New Adam-12||Mrs. Woolridge||1 episode|
|1992||Lucky Ed's Tabloid News||Sample Lady||TV Movie|
|1992||Darkwing Duck||Alien Crow (voice)||2 episodes|
|1992||Lucky Luke||Ma Dalton||1 episode|
|1992||Major Dad||Mattie Fae Tillman||1 episode|
|1993||I Yabba-Dabba Do!||Additional Voices||TV Movie|
|1993||Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa||1 episode|
|1993||Hollyrock-a-Bye Baby||Additional Voices||TV Movie|
|1993||The Pink Panther||1 episode|
|1993–1998||Sesame Street||Ruthie||14 episodes|
|1994||All-Star 25th Birthday: Stars and Street Forever!||Ruthie (voice)||TV Movie|
|1995||Savage Dragon||Various Voices||unknown episodes|
|1997||The Jamie Foxx Show||Judge Lekeisha Roshanda Jackson||1 episode|
|1998||Sabrina the Teenage Witch||Delilah||1 episode 6 Good Will Haunting|
|1998–2001||7th Heaven||Telephone Operator||2 episodes|
|1999||Boys Will Be Boys||Mrs. Rudnick||TV Movie, also starring Randy Travis and Mickey Rooney|
|1999||Diagnosis Murder||Liz Summers||1 episode|
|2000||Rocket Power||Dog Owner||1 episode|
|2000||100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd||Old Lady||1 episode|
|2000||The Angry Beavers||Mrs. Beaver||1 episode|
|2000–2001||Sheep in the Big City||Delilah||7 episodes|
|2003||Passions||Nurse Kravitz||2 episodes|
|2006–2007||Come On Over||Ruthie||2 episodes|
|1969||It's Tough to Be a Bird||Soprano||sings "When the Buzzards Return to Hinckley, Ohio", a parody of "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano"|
|1970||The Aristocats||Frou-Frou (singing voice)||also starring Phil Harris and Eva Gabor|
|1976||Freaky Friday||Opposing Coach||also starring Barbara Harris, Jodie Foster and John Astin|
|1977||The Rescuers||German Mouse (voice) / unconfirmed/uncredited||also starring Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor and Geraldine Page|
|1979||The North Avenue Irregulars||Dr. Rheems||also starring Edward Herrmann, Barbara Harris and Susan Clark|
|1979||The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again||Old Tough Kate, aka 'Granny'||also starring Don Knotts and Tim Conway|
|1979||The Villain||Damsel in Distress||also starring Kirk Douglas, Ann-Margret, and Arnold Schwarzenegger|
|1980||I Go Pogo||Miz Beaver / Miss Mam'selle Hepzibah (voice)|
|1981||Chu Chu and the Philly Flash||Consuelo||also starring Alan Arkin, Carol Burnett and Jack Warden|
|1983||The Being||Virginia Lane|
|1984||Surf II||Chuck's Mom|
|1986||Bad Guys||Petal McGurk||also starring Adam Baldwin, and Sgt. Slaughter|
|1988||Pound Puppies and the Legend of Big Paw||Nose Marie (voice)|
|1989||Up Your Alley||Marilyn|
|1989||My Mom's a Werewolf||Madame Gypsy|
|1990||Wishful Thinking||Jody||also starring Murray Langston|
|1990||Diggin' Up Business||Widow Knockerby|
|1994||The Fight Before Christmas||Maw|
|1999||The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland||Ruthie|
|2000||Nothing But The Truth||Lois Troy|
|2004||Adventures in Homeschooling||Gertie Hemple||Short Film, also starring Dan Castellaneta|
|2017||One Month Out||Agnes||Produced and directed by John Schneider, also starring Vernon G. Welles, Barry Bostwick.|
|2017||Glenn's Gotta Go!||Produced by Brad Maule, Directed by Levie Isaacs.|
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Buzzi lives with her husband Kent Perkins on a 600-acre (200 ha) cattle and horse ranch near Stephenville, Texas. She is a charter member of the Pasadena Playhouse Alumni Association. Buzzi paints as a hobby; she has never offered her oil paintings for sale to the public, but has donated original works to charity, where they have sold in excess of $6,000.
She supports numerous children's charities including Make a Wish Foundation, the Special Olympics, The Thalians, St. Jude's Hospital, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and is a children's art summer camp sponsor through Dallas Museum of Biblical Art. She is active in fundraising for the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch in Medina, Texas and other animal causes.
Buzzi and her husband are avid automobile collectors. Their collection focuses on post-war English vehicles including Bentley and Rolls-Royce and Jaguar, although it also includes several American convertibles and muscle cars. Some of her vehicles have been in television commercials, featured in parades, and her blue Bentley convertible was featured on the cover of Vogue with Jessica Simpson behind the wheel. with some of their cars having been donated and/or loaned to and displayed at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California including a red, fuel-injected 1957 Chevrolet convertible that was exhibited (from 1993-2011) as part of the display honoring the cars of Steve McQueen. Buzzi's 1960 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud drophead coupe convertible was on display for the "Century of Elegance" exhibit.
The museum featured a 1965 Chrysler Imperial convertible previously owned by Katharine Hepburn, donated to the museum by Buzzi and Perkins in 2001 and the vehicle remains there for special exhibition. Buzzi and Perkins won first place in their category with their 1961 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II drophead coupe at the Concours d'Elegance national championship in Amelia Island, Florida. The vehicle won first place in the Los Angeles Rolls Royce Owners Club's "most elegant car" competition.
Buzzi has been name-dropped in numerous songs, including House of Pain's "I'm A Swing It", The Bled's "Ruth Buzzi Better Watch Her Back", and the Loretta Lynn/Conway Twitty duet "You're the Reason Our Kids are Ugly".
The business, which his father established in 1933, is well known locally for its iconic "Buzzi Memorials" billboard sign seen from Route 1. Many also recognize the name because Harold’s younger sister is the famous comedian and actress Ruth Buzzi, who starred on "Laugh In."
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