Birdbath Playwright Leonard Melfi's 2001 Death Revealed

News   Birdbath Playwright Leonard Melfi's 2001 Death Revealed The Off-Broadway playwright Leonard Melfi, who was among rising writers Lanford Wilson, Terrence McNally and others in the 1960s and '70s, died Oct. 28, 2001, apparently of congestive heart failure, The New York Times reported.

The Off-Broadway playwright Leonard Melfi, who was among rising writers Lanford Wilson, Terrence McNally and others in the 1960s and '70s, died Oct. 28, 2001, apparently of congestive heart failure, The New York Times reported.

Mr. Melfi was 66 and reportedly died at Mt. Sinai Hospital after being taken there by ambulance. The fate of his body was unknown, however. According to a Mel Gussow story in the March 6 Times, the playwright's body is missing.

Brother John Melfi learned of his brother's death in February and has been trying to locate the body, which was apparently sent from Mt. Sinai to the city morgue at Bellevue Hospital Center, where the Times reported, there was no record of his remains. Further research is being done by Bellevue. Employees of the building where Mr. Melfi lived apparently reported the playwright's disappearance to the brother, who lives in upstate New York.

Mr. Melfi wrote many plays seen in Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway venues, and penned one-third of a trio of plays that appeared on Broadway in late 1978 under the title, Morning, Noon and Night. Israel Horovitz wrote Morning, Terrence McNally Noon and Mr. Melfi Night. Charlotte Rae, Robert Klein and John Heffeman starred.

His Taxi Tales played the Century Theatre, and he contributed to the bawdy revue, Oh! Calcutta! His most-known work may be Birdbath, which Gussow called "a late-night dialogue between a homeless waif and a prodigal poet." A television version of the 1965 work featured Patty Duke. The 1978-79 Off-Broadway season saw a staging of Mr. Melfi's comic Porno Stars at Home, about skin-flick actors at a birthday party away from work. His other plays included Fantasies at the Frick, Ferryboat, Encounters, Later Encounters, Lunchtime, Rusty & Rico, The Shirt, Club Hellfire and Halloween, among others.

— By Kenneth Jones