Photo Credit: Daniel Krieger via Wikimedia
Jerry Stiller in 2005

Actor, filmmaker Ben Stiller on Monday morning tweeted: “I’m sad to say that my father, Jerry Stiller, passed away from natural causes. He was a great dad and grandfather,and the most dedicated husband to Anne for about 62 years. He will be greatly missed. Love you Dad.”

Advertisement



Stiller was the eldest of four children of a Jewish bus driver from Williamsburg and later East New York in Brooklyn. Eventually, the family moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where Jerry attended Seward Park High School. His father’s parents immigrated from Galicia and his mother from Poland.

Stiller was married to Irish American actress Anne Meara from 1954 until her death on May 23, 2015. Anne converted to Judaism six years after the wedding and insisted that she did not convert under pressure from her husband. “Catholicism was dead to me,” she said. She took her conversion so seriously that Jerry confessed: “Being married to Anne has made me more Jewish.”

The two met in an agent’s office. Anne was upset about an interaction with the agent, so Jerry took her out for coffee and they were together ever since. Their daughter, actress Amy Stiller, was born in 1961, and their son, Ben, was born in 1965.

Jerry Stiller is loved by millions of TV fans for two unforgettable roles, both of which depicted him as an easy to anger, slightly off his rocker old man – this despite the fact that everyone of his acquaintances in and out of show business swear he was the kindest and most harmless man on the planet.

His first legendary role was as Frank Costanza, father of George Costanza in the sitcom Seinfeld, from 1993 to 1998. He was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series in 1997, and won the American Comedy Award for Funniest Male Guest Appearance in a TV Series for this role.

Next, he joined actor-comedian Kevin James in The King of Queens, where James played the leading role of Doug Heffernan, and Stiller played Heffenan’s father-in-law Arthur Spooner, father of his wife Carrie, from 1998 to 2007. Stiller said this role tested his acting ability more than any others, and that before joining The King of Queens, he only saw himself as a “decent actor.”

In 2004, Jerry Stiller launched a unique venture: Talking Street, a narrated walking tour called “The Lower East Side: Birthplace of Dreams.” The tour started at the Lower East Side Visitors Center at 261 Broome Street, and the users called a provided number (the venture’s website’s URL is for sale, so we assume it wasn’t a smashing success). Stiller then explained what life was like at that spot a century ago. “Hello,” he said, “I’m Jerry Stiller. Imagine this: the year is 1900 and you’ve just arrived from Eastern Europe, and you find yourself here, in the middle of the Lower East Side.”

Well, Jerry, the year is 2020 and we expect you just arrived in a whole new place. Hope they’ll appreciate you as much as we have done. Put in a good word, to you He’ll listen.

Advertisement