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Ron Carey, 71; was known for roles in 'Barney Miller,' Mel Brooks films

January 19, 2007|Dennis McLellan | Times Staff Writer

Ron Carey, the short and puckish comedic actor who played Officer Carl Levitt on the hit situation comedy "Barney Miller" and was a member of Mel Brooks' comedy troupe in films such as "High Anxiety" and "Silent Movie," has died. He was 71.

Carey died of a stroke Tuesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said Michael Ciccolini, a relative.

"Ron Carey was truly talented, very funny and one of the dearest men I've ever worked with," Brooks, who also cast Carey as Swiftus in the Roman-era segment of "History of the World: Part I," said in a statement Thursday.

The 5-foot-7 Carey became a semi-regular on ABC's "Barney Miller" in 1976, the second year of the sitcom that starred Hal Linden in the title role, and remained with the show until it ended in 1982.

As Levitt, Carey was the patrolman who was eager to transfer into the detective squad room of the 12th Precinct station house.

A former stand-up comic, Carey broke into films playing a Boston cab driver in "The Out of Towners," the 1970 comedy starring Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis.

Carey's film credits also include playing Dom DeLuise's brother in the 1980 comedy-drama "Fatso," which was written and directed by Anne Bancroft.

He had small roles in the TV sit-coms "The Montefuscos" (1975) and "The Corner Bar" (1972-73).

Carey, who also appeared in scores of commercials, took pride in being a supporting player and a character actor.

"Stars are stars," he told Newsday in 1989. "But without us, the show wouldn't go on."

Carey was born Ronald Joseph Cicenia on Dec. 11, 1935, in Newark, N.J. He launched his stand-up comedy career in New York after earning a bachelor's degree in communications from Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., in 1956.

He made his first national TV appearance a decade later, on "The Merv Griffin Show." Appearances on "The Tonight Show" and the "Ed Sullivan Show" followed.

"He's from a huge Italian family, so his stand-up was about being lost in this huge family and about being raised Roman Catholic, et cetera, and all the guilt," Ciccolini said.

DeLuise, who first met Carey about 1970, fondly remembers Carey's comedy act, particularly when he would come out dressed like a priest and deliver a "sermon" in which he'd rail against the sin of gambling -- then end by reminding his parishioners "that there will be bingo on Wednesday night."

Carey is survived by his wife, Sharon, and his brother, Jimmy Cicenia.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Christ the King Catholic Church, 624 N. Rossmore Ave., Los Angeles.

Instead of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to St. Vincent Meals on Wheels, c/o St. Vincent Foundation, 2222 Ocean View Ave., Suite 114, Los Angeles, CA 90057.

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