Buzz Miller, Original 'Steam Heat' Dancer in Pajama Game, Dead at 75

Obituaries   Buzz Miller, Original 'Steam Heat' Dancer in Pajama Game, Dead at 75
 
Buzz Miller, the former Broadway dancer who strutted to "Steam Heat" in the Broadway musical, The Pajama Game, died Feb. 23 in Manhattan, according to the New York Times. He was 75.
Eddie Phillips, Carol Haney and Buzz Miller dance
Eddie Phillips, Carol Haney and Buzz Miller dance Photo by Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Buzz Miller, the former Broadway dancer who strutted to "Steam Heat" in the Broadway musical, The Pajama Game, died Feb. 23 in Manhattan, according to the New York Times. He was 75.

The cause of death was emphysema, the Times reported.

Mr. Miller lived to see "Steam Heat," the business-filled, famous Bob Fosse trio, recreated in the new Broadway musical, Fosse. In 1954's The Pajama Game, Mr. Miller, Carol Haney and Peter Gennaro, in dark suits and bow ties, white socks and derbies, played three union members singing the specialty song at a union rally. They clucked their tongues, wagged their arms, dragged their feet and banged rhythm with their hands, singing Richard Adler and Jerry Ross' song, which seemed only thinly related to the plot. Their cry, "Come on, union, get hot!" seemed incidental to the vampy lyric ("I got steam heat, but I need your love to keep away the cold...") and the indelible, Chaplinesque dance.

The syncopated tune, recreated in Fosse at the Broadhurst Theatre to show-stopping effect by Jane Lanier, Michael Paternostro and Alex Sanchez, is signature early Fosse and also stopped the show in 1954. Mr. Miller appeared in the film version as well, with Haney and dancer Eddie Phillips.

A spokesman for Fosse told Playbill On-Line that after the show began previews in December 1998, Miller saw the show and went to the stage door, explaining who he was. He then met the three performers who recreated his number, and others in the company, and shared stories and complimented them. The number was reportedly in peril of being cut by Pajama Game director George Abbott at the time. Fosse biographer Martin Gottfried wrote that Abbott thought the smash number interrupted the flow of the story, but co-director Jerome Robbins urged him not to cut it, arguing you cannot dismiss a major sensation.

Gottfried's biography, "All His Jazz: The Life and Death of Bob Fosse," documents the creation of and influences on "Steam Heat," arguably one of the greatest post-war dance numbers in American musical theatre. Mr. Miller was a prime source for Gottfried; Ms. Haney died at 39 years earlier.

Mr. Miller was born Vernal Miller in Snowflake, AZ, according to the Times. He appeared in Broadway shows including the 1952 revival of Pal Joey, plus Two's Company, Me and Juliet, Bells Are Ringing, Hot Spot and Funny Girl.

He is survived by brothers Dean and Roy, and sister Flora, of Arizona, according to The Times.

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