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'Barney Miller' Actor Ron Carey


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'Barney Miller' Actor Ron Carey

by Dennis McLellan


Actor Ron Carey as Officer Carl Levitt on

the popular sitcom, 'Barney Miller'

LOS ANGELES, California -- 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," died on Tuesday, January 16, of a stroke at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, according to his nephew, Michael Ciccolini. He was 71.

"Barney Miller," which ran from 1976 to 1982, starred Hal Linden as the captain of a New York City police precinct whose officers dealt with the zany characters who came, not always by choice, into the station house. Carey, as Officer Levitt, would inject unsolicited opinions on how to handle whoever was in the holding cell.

With traces of an inner-city New Joisey accent, Carey played a plainclothes cop constantly seeking a promotion by currying favor with his superiors. Besides playing roles in other less successful sitcoms, Carey appeared in 15 movies, including 1977's "High Anxiety" and 1981's "History of the World: Part I," both with Mel Brooks.


Mel Brooks and Ron Carey in 'High Anxiety'

In "High Anxiety," a parody of Alfred Hitchcock thrillers, he played Brophy, the chauffeur and foil of Dr. Richard Thorndyke, the incoming administrator of the Psychoneurotic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous. Carey's running gag in that movie was to grab something heavy and say, "I got it! I got it! I got it!" Then, unable to lift it, he would squeak, "I ain't got it."

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

The Mel Brooks movie, "History of the World: Part I" traces mankind's evolution, or lack of it, from the dawn of time. Carey played Swiftus, the agent-manager for Brooks' character, Comicus, a stand-up philosopher in ancient Rome.


Hal Linden and Ron Carey in 'Barney Miller'

The 5-foot-7-inch 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 television situation comedies such as 1975's "The Montefuscos" and "The Corner Bar" which ran from 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."


Ron Carey as Swiftus in 'History of the World: Part I'

Carey was born Ronald Joseph Cicenia on December 11, 1935, in Newark, New Jersey to parents, John and Fanny Cicenia. 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, New Jersey in 1956.

Carey started doing standup comedy in New York. His big break came in 1966 when he made his first national TV appearance on "The Merv Griffin Show." He later made multiple successful appearances on "The Jackie Gleason Show," Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" and Ed Sullivan's "Toast of the Town."

Much of Carey's comedy reflected his upbringing as the undersized, quick-witted kid on the block. "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.


Actor/Comedian Ron Carey

An Italian Catholic, he considered the priesthood at one time, his nephew said. That ambition was realized when he played Father Paglia in "Have Faith," a sitcom about inner-city priests, which ran for half a season in 1989.

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

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