Cliff Gorman, Broadway's Lenny, Is Dead at 65

Obituaries   Cliff Gorman, Broadway's Lenny, Is Dead at 65 Cliff Gorman, the stage and film actor who won a Tony Award for portraying caustic comic Lenny Bruce in Lenny, died Sept. 5 at his home in New York City. The cause was leukemia. He was 65.
Cliff Gorman in Lenny.
Cliff Gorman in Lenny.

Cliff Gorman, the stage and film actor who won a Tony Award for portraying caustic comic Lenny Bruce in Lenny, died Sept. 5 at his home in New York City. The cause was leukemia. He was 65. Mr. Gorman first attracted widespread attention in theatre circles for his performance in another edgy, semi-controversial play: Mart Crowley's The Boys in the Band, a dark potrayal of urban gay life in which he played the flamboyant Emory.

But it was with Lenny that he was forever linked. The play, by Julian Barry, played at the Brooks Atkinson in 1971. The story followed the turbulent career of the influential Bruce, who used foul language in his stand-up routines and was frequently arrested for it. The comedian spent much of his last years in courtrooms. When he wasn't in court, he was regaling audiences with a blow by blow account of the trials. All this and more was covered in the Barry play.

Mr. Gorman won a Tony Award for Lenny, but when the play was turned into a film, a repeat performance wasn't in the cards. The role in the Bob Fosse movie went to Dustin Hoffman. For years afterward, whenever Mr. Gorman's career was discussed, this injustice was mentioned. Fosse himself seemed to have regretting passing the actor over. In his autogiographical film "All That Jazz," Fosse cast Mr. Gorman as an actor playing a Lenny Bruce type in a film directed by the central character, who was patterned on Fosse himself.

Mr. Gorman was nominated for another Tony in 1978 for a far more safe play, Neil Simon's Chapter Two. In 1985, he appeared in the Broadway comedy, Doubles. His last Broadway part was in 1986's Social Security. He won an Obie Award for The Boys in the Band, and also appeared in the 1970 film of the play.

He was born Oct. 13, 1936, in Queens, and attended New York University.