Celebrating the Brilliance of Ben Gazzara on His Birthday

“The one who made the best spaghetti was Ben Gazzara,” said photographer Sam Shaw. “We used to have [a competition]…It would have take him four hours in the kitchen all by himself, steaming the tomato sauce.” It’s a charming anecdote and one that feels well-suited for the brilliantly impassioned and intense force that was Gazzara. As an actor in the truest sense—taking on the stage, television and film—he possessed a rare indefinable quality that’s difficult to articulate or pinpoint but always strongly felt in everything he did. With a presence that was at once deeply masculine and brimming with maniacal energy—yet hushed and stewing from the inside out—he worked for nearly half a century, playing roles that walked the line between everyday men and those psychologically teetering on the edge.

Born in 1930, Gazzara began his early acting days at the Lee Strasberg Actors Studio alongside the likes of Marlon Brando, appearing in the original performance of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and getting his footing in the world of theater. “When I became hot, so to speak, in the theater, I got a lot of offers,” he said. “I won’t tell you the pictures I turned down because you would say, ‘You are a fool.’ And I was a fool.”  

But in was his relationship with director John Cassavetes that brought forth his most fascinating work. Gazzara truly came to life and appeared at home in the director’s raw and emotional world, sharing the screen with Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands. They all operated in Cassavetes’ specified cinematic style—one which allowed the audience to get close to the characters in a way that almost feels intrusive—never knowing if you should turn away and allow them to have this private moment, both exposing the character while making us reveal ourselves as well.

Cassavetes said that Gazzara was always playing up to different variations on himself, and with his incredible performances in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Husbands and Opening Night, perfected characters with very particular male sensibility that could never have been portrayed by anyone but him. So as today is his birthday, we’re taking a look back on some of his tremendous work with our favorite Gazzara moments—from interviews and documentaries to his work on film and television. Enjoy.

 

The Killing of Chinese Bookie

   

Run For Your Life

     

Gazzara, Cassavetes, and Falk on The Dick Cavett Show

   

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie Opening

   

Opening Night

 

Husbands (Entire Movie)

   

Ben Gazzara New York

   

The Making of Husbands

   

Buffalo ’66

 

Saint Jack

     

Ben & Gena on Opening Night

     

The Spanish Prisoner

   

End of a Love Affair

     

Happiness 

 

Anatomy of Murder

     

Phone Scene, Killing of a Chinese Bookie

       

Tales of Ordinary Madness 

Hallelujah! ‘Never Sleep Alone’ Returns to NYC Friday

NYC’s fuckability factor just rose 60 points – and it’s not just because you moved here. With the return this Friday of Never Sleep Alone – the hit show that helps get you laid – countless New Yorkers are now on their way to never sleeping alone every Friday night, from now until Nov. 2nd, so please plan accordingly (i.e. wash your bed sheets). And in celebration of the special opening night performance, this Friday’s 9:30pm show at Joe’s Pub is Black Tie-optional, and includes luxury limo service for the entire audience to the after-party at a very secret and sexy new club.

Just to re-cap: Never Sleep Alone is The New York Times-acclaimed show led by sexual psychologist and music therapist Dr. Alex Schiller. The Dr.performs sex-infused pop songs, dispenses golden advice from her book Get Laid or Die Trying, and encourages mingling and on-stage make outs between all the rows and legions of single people in attendance. If you’re feeling timid or you’re with a date, just sign up for the more expensive “voyeur” seat in the back and watch the action unfold while you wish you were single again.

The details of this special opening night performance mean several things:

  1. It’s Black Tie-optional, ensuring that already hot people are going to look even hotter
  2. Free limo service from Joe’s Pub to The Very Secret and Sexy New Club ensures optimal bonding time and rendezvous in the leathered corners, and
  3. The cocktails from both the show and after-party locations make every bit of this all the easier!

So if you’re ready to share your bed and get laid in it too, buy a ticket, get dressed up, and make your way to Joe’s Pub this Friday. And if you’re not ready to do that yet then, well, you’re selfish and deserve to be alone. Forever.