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'Breakfast Club' Actor Paul Gleason


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'Breakfast Club' Actor Paul Gleason


Actor, Athlete and Poet Paul Gleason . . . yesterday and today

BURBANK, California - Paul Gleason, best known for playing the go-to bad guy in "Trading Places" and the grumpy high school principal who presides over detention in the 1985 film, "The Breakfast Club," died on Saturday, May 27. He was 67.

Gleason died at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank on Saturday of mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer linked to asbestos, said his wife, Susan Gleason. "Whenever you were with Paul, there was never a dull moment," his wife said. "He was awesome."

Although the cancer was diagnosed only a month ago, Gleason's exposure to asbestos occurred while working on construction jobs with his father as a teenager in the 1950s, said his daughter, Shannon Gleason-Grossman.


Paul Gleason as Richard Vernon in 1985's 'The Breakfast Club' (left) and reunited with part of the 'Brat Pack'

at the 2005 MTV Movie Awards. (L-R) Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy and Paul Gleason.

Through his career, Gleason appeared in more than 60 movies. Gleason usually played detectives or minor authority figures. He was the detestable Clarence Beeks in 1983's "Trading Places" and the deputy chief of police in 1988's "Die Hard." Among his other film roles were 2005's "The Passing," 2002's "National Lampoon's Van Wilder" and 2000's "The Giving Tree."

On television, Gleason played David Thornton on ABC's "All My Children" in the late 1970s. Most recently, Gleason appeared on many prime-time television hit shows such as "Malcolm in the Middle," "Friends" and "Seinfeld."

After he and author Jack Kerouac, a friend, watched the 1961 film "Splendor in the Grass" together, Gleason decided to become an actor. Soon, Gleason honed his acting skills with his mentor, Lee Strasberg, whom he studied with at the Actors Studio beginning in the mid-1960s, according to family members.


Paul Gleason and Ryan Reynolds (left) in 2002's 'National Lampoon's Van Wilder' and Paul Gleason (right)

as Professor Ted McDoogle

On Broadway, he debuted with Maureen Stapleton in Neil Simon's "The Gingerbread Lady" in 1971. He also appeared in the revival of "The Front Page" in 1972 with John Lithgow and Richard Thomas that was staged in Los Angeles and New York.

Gleason was born on May 4, 1939 in Jersey City, New Jersey and grew up in Miami, Florida. He was an avid athlete and played football at Florida State at the same time Burt Reynolds and Robert Urich were there. Before becoming an actor, he played Triple-A minor league baseball for a handful of clubs in the late 1950s.

"My dad was an intelligent, hard-working Renaissance man," Gleason-Grossman said. "His motto was to always keep working."


Paul Gleason as Clarence Beeks in 'Trading Places'

Gleason's passions went beyond acting. He had recently published a book of poetry. "He was an athlete, an actor and a poet," said his daughter, Shannon Gleason-Grossman. "He gave me and my sister a love that is beyond description that will be with us and keep us strong for the rest of our lives."

Actor Jimmy Hawkins, a friend of Gleason's since the 1960s, said he remembered Gleason for his sharp sense of humor. "He just always had great stories to tell," Hawkins said.

Gleason is survived by his wife, Susan, two daughters, Shannon and Kaitlin and a granddaughter. Funeral plans were pending.

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