Ruth Buzzi

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Ruth Buzzi
Ruth Buzzi.jpg
Ruth Buzzi, May 2008
Born Ruth Ann Buzzi
(1936-07-24) July 24, 1936 (age 85)
Westerly, Rhode Island, U.S.
Occupation Actress, comedienne
Years active 1962–present
Spouse(s) Kent Perkins (m. 1978)

Ruth Ann Buzzi (born July 24, 1936) is an American comedian and actress of theatre, film, and television. She is especially known for her performances on the comedy-variety show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In from 1968 to 1973, for which she won a Golden Globe Award and received five Emmy nominations.

Early life

Buzzi was born at Westerly Hospital, Westerly, Rhode Island, the daughter of Rena Pauline and Angelo Peter Buzzi, a nationally recognized stone sculptor.[1][2] She was raised in Wequetequock, Connecticut, in a rock house overlooking the ocean at Wequetequock Cove, where her father owned Buzzi Memorials, a business still operated by her older brother Harold. Her father was born in Arzo, Switzerland, in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, a few miles from the Italian border. He carved the marble eagles at Penn Station in New York designed by artist Adolph A. Weinman (who also designed the Walking Liberty half dollar and Mercury dime for the U.S. Mint), the granite Leif Erikson memorial in Providence, Rhode Island, the animals seen in relief on the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and made thousands of tombstones. He was asked to work on the carving of the Presidents on Mount Rushmore but declined, out of a fear of heights. Her mother was born in the United States to immigrants from northern Italy.

Buzzi attended Stonington High School where she gained experience as head cheerleader performing before crowds at athletic events. At 17, she enrolled at the Pasadena Playhouse for the Performing Arts and graduated with honors. She studied voice, dance, and acting, and took courses in cosmetology in case the acting career failed to attain success. Before graduation from college however, she was a working actress with a union card in musical and comedy revues. Her first job in show business was at 19, traveling with singer Rudy Vallee in a live musical and comedy act during her summer break from college; it allowed her to graduate with a treasured union card with Actor's Equity Union. She moved to New York after graduation and was hired immediately for a lead role in an off-Broadway musical revue, the first of 19 in which she performed across the East Coast. Classmates at Pasadena Playhouse included legendary actors Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman.

In musical and comedy revues from Provincetown, Massachusetts, to the Catskills of New York, to off-Broadway, she worked alongside other young, talented performers just beginning their careers at the time, including Barbra Streisand, Joan Rivers, Dom DeLuise, Bernadette Peters and Carol Burnett.

Buzzi's first national exposure came when she teamed up with Dom DeLuise in a comical magic act in which he played an incompetent magician and Buzzi was his "sidekick" named "Shagundala" who never spoke but always sported a wide grin. Audiences demanded more of the two and they played several major nighttime television variety shows including The Garry Moore Show, The Entertainers with Carol Burnett, and Your Show of Shows with Imogene Coca.

She was hired by Bob Fosse to perform with Fosse's then-wife Gwen Verdon in the hit Broadway Musical Sweet Charity. It was during the run of Sweet Charity that she auditioned for and received a permanent place in the comedy series Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, which was the top rated show on NBC for more than five years.


Before leaving New York for a career in Los Angeles as a television star, Buzzi played in a Bob Fosse classic Broadway show, Sweet Charity, with Gwen Verdon in the original cast; she had to leave the show in which she had several small roles, one of them "the Singing Fairy," to become a regular performer on The Steve Allen Show, on CBS. Between New York musical variety shows, Buzzi made numerous television commercials, some of which won national awards including the coveted Clio Award.

Buzzi's first national recognition on television came on The Garry Moore Show just after Carol Burnett was replaced by Dorothy Loudon on the series. Ruth Buzzi saw her first taste of national fame as "Shagundala" the silent, bumbling magician's assistant to her comedy partner Dom DeLuise who played "Dominic the Great". They were an instant hit with the public.

Buzzi was a member of the regular repertory company on the CBS variety show The Entertainers (1964–1965). In 1966–1967, she was in the Broadway cast of the musical

In the late 1960s, she appeared in every episode of a comedy-variety series starring Steve Allen. Her character parts in the Allen sketches led her to be cast for NBC's new show Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. Ruth Buzzi was the only featured player to appear in every episode of Laugh-In including the initial pilot for the show and the Laugh-In television special. She was also featured as a semi-regular on the sitcom That Girl as Marlo Thomas's friend.

A versatile comedienne, Ruth Buzzi played everything from dowdy old women to tipsy drunks, to Southern belles to flashy hookers. Among her recurring characters on Laugh-In were Busy-Buzzi, Hollywood gossip columnist; Doris Swizzler, a cocktail-lounge habituée who always got riotously smashed with husband Leonard (Dick Martin); and one of the Burbank Airlines Stewardesses, teaming with Debbie Reynolds as two totally inconsiderate flight attendants.

Her most famous character is the dowdy spinster Gladys Ormphby, clad in drab brown with her bun hairdo covered by a visible hairnet knotted in the middle of her forehead. Buzzi first used this look when she played Agnes Gooch in a school production of Auntie Mame. In most sketches, she used her lethal purse, with which she would flail away vigorously at anyone who incurred her wrath.

On Laugh-In, Gladys most often appeared as the unwilling object of the advances of Arte Johnson's "dirty old man" character Tyrone F. Horneigh. In a typical exchange, Tyrone accosts Gladys and asks, "Do you believe in the hereafter?" "Of course I do!" Gladys retorts defensively. Delighted, Tyrone shoots back: "Then you know what I'm here after!" NBC collectively called these two characters The Nitwits when they went to animation in the mid-1970s as part of the series Baggy Pants and the Nitwits. Buzzi and Johnson both voiced their respective roles in the cartoon.

Buzzi, as Gladys, was featured in most of the Dean Martin Roasts from the MGM Hotel in Las Vegas. Memorable shows included her intense comedic dialogue, ranting about notable roastees including Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra, and Lucille Ball, to name a few. In each case, Gladys Ormphby pugnaciously attacked the honoree with her flailing purse to the screams and howls of the Las Vegas audience.

Martin would also suffer Gladys's purse assaults for his remarks about her unappealing looks and poor romantic prospects. In one such exchange, Gladys accusingly questioned Martin about who had been chasing her around a hotel room in the wee hours; Martin's response ("The exterminator!") earned him a beating as he broke up laughing along with the audience. Gladys then declared to the audience that, when Martin and other men looked at her, only one thing came to their minds. Martin, still laughing, could barely get out the answer: "Rabies!" This earned him an even fiercer beating from Gladys.

Buzzi starred with Jim Nabors as the time-traveling androids Fi and Fum in The Lost Saucer produced by Sid and Marty Krofft which aired from September 11, 1975 to September 2, 1976 (16 episodes).

Buzzi also guested as Chloe, the usually never-seen but often mentioned wife of phone company worker Henry Beesmeyer on Alice.

Dean Martin's producer, Greg Garrison, obviously enjoyed Ruth Buzzi's work as a "comedy sketch artist" and hired her for his comedy specials starring Dom DeLuise.

Ruth Buzzi charted the single "You Oughta Hear The Song" in 1977. It reached #90 on Billboard's national Country Music survey.

In 1986, she voiced for the character Nose Marie in the Hanna-Barbera animated series Pound Puppies. She voiced "Mama Bear" in Berenstain Bears, and did hundreds of guest voices for many other cartoon series. She is still seen frequently on Sesame Street in comedy sketch clips from her six years on that show, and is often heard as the voice of outlandish failed torch singer "Susie Kabloozie". She was a regular performer on Sesame Street for 6 years, during which time she was nominated for an Emmy Award for her work as "Ruthie". She also appeared on Lucille Ball's last (but short-lived) sitcom, Life with Lucy, as Mrs. Wilcox in the episode "Lucy Makes a Hit with John Ritter".

Buzzi was a guest star on many television series including Donny & Marie, The Flip Wilson Show, The Dean Martin Music and Comedy Hour, the Dean Martin Roasts, The Carol Burnett Show, Tony Orlando and Dawn, The Monkees, Emergency!, and variety series hosted by Leslie Uggams and by Glen Campbell. She also appeared occasionally on game shows, and was a celebrity judge on The Gong Show.

Buzzi performed in numerous national television commercials, most notably for "Clorox 2", Liquid Swan soap, Clairol hair products, Ban roll-on deodorant, and Santa Anita Raceway, but probably most famous as the voice of "Granny Goodwitch" opposite the "Sugar Bear" in the animated commercials for Sugar Crisp cereal.

Buzzi appeared in the "Weird Al" Yankovic video "Gump" and similarly appeared in other music videos with the rock groups B-52's and The Presidents of the United States of America. She also appeared for seven years as a regular performer on Sesame Street (playing shopkeeper Ruthie, which also allowed her to revive her Gladys Ormphby character, and also voiced Susie Kabloozie), Saved by the Bell (playing Screech Powers's wacky mother as an Elvis fanatic), The Muppet Show, You Can't Do That on Television (during its CTV-produced incarnation Whatever Turns You On), and numerous other television shows. She was also a voice actress for The Smurfs, The Angry Beavers and Mo Willems' Sheep in the Big City. Buzzi also played the role of the eccentric Nurse Kravitz on NBC's daytime soap Passions. In 2006 and 2007, she made guest appearances on the children's TV series Come on Over. Ruth Buzzi recreated her own voice for the Gladys Ormphby character in its cartoon series called Baggy Pants and the Nitwits with Arte Johnson bringing his character to life on the show, as well.

Buzzi had a successful nightclub act all across the United States including in Las Vegas at the Sahara Hotel and at the MGM Grand. She only performed the act for one year because she did not like the smell of cigarette smoke and disliked traveling all the time; her shows were all sold out and she was offered an extended stay in Las Vegas but opted out.

Buzzi has had featured roles in more than 20 motion pictures including Chu Chu and the Philly Flash, Freaky Friday, The North Avenue Irregulars, The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, The Villain, The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland and a number of westerns for the European market known as the Lucky Luke series in which she plays the mother of the Dalton Gang and other roles.



Year Title Role Notes
1964-1965 Linus the Lionhearted Granny Goodwitch 3 episodes
1967-1973 Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In Regular Performer 141 episodes
1967 The Steve Allen Comedy Hour Herself 2 episodes
1967 The Monkees Mrs. Weatherspoon 1 episode
1967-1968 That Girl Pete Peterson 5 episodes
1969 That's Life 1 episode
1969 In Name Only Ruth Clayton TV Movie
1970-1982 Walt Disney anthology television series Granny 6 episodes
1970-1974 The Dean Martin Show Herself 16 episodes
1970-1973 Love, American Style Beverly 2 episodes
1971 Night Gallery Hungry Witch 1 episode
1972 The Singles TV Movie, also starring Michele Lee and John Byner
1972 Here's Lucy Annie Whipple 1 episode
1973-1976 Medical Center Rose Jenkins 2 episodes
1974 Lotsa Luck Wilma Wallachek 1 episode
1974 Paradise TV Movie, also starring Luther Adler
1974 ABC Afterschool Special Cleaning Lady 1 episode
1975-1976 The Lost Saucer Fi 16 episodes
1976 The Krofft Supershow Fi (in 'The Lost Saucer') unknown episodes
1976 Emergency! Amy Merkle 1 episode
1977-1978 Baggy Pants and the Nitwits Gladys 16 episodes
1977 Once Upon a Brothers Grimm Queen Astrid TV Movie
1978-1987 The Love Boat Herself 2 episodes
1979 Legends of the Superheroes Aunt Minerva Part 2 of a Two Part TV Special
1979 You Can't Do That on Television Ms. Fitt 2 episodes
1979-1980 CHiPs 2 episodes
1979 Whatever Turns You On Miss Fit
1980 Myra Mrs. Paige Animated Short
1981 Alice Chloe 1 episode
1981 Aloha Paradise Herself 1 episode
1982 Trapper John, M.D. Laura Morley 1 episode
1983 Gun Shy Mrs. Mound 1 episode
1983 Days of Our Lives Leticia Bradford unknown episodes
1983 Alvin and the Chipmunks 13 episode
1984 Masquerade 1 episode
1984 Don't Ask Me, Ask God Jonesey's Wife TV Movie, also starring Pat Robertson and Steve Allen
1985 Paw Paws Aunt Pruney Paw unknown episodes
1985 George Burns Comedy Week Juliette 1 episode
1985 The Berenstain Bears Mama Bear 26 episodes
1985 The Jetsons 1 episode
1986 Check It Out! Tiffany Cobb, Mrs. Cobb's Daughter 1 episode
1986 Life with Lucy Mrs. Wilcox 1 episode
1986 Kids Incorporated: Rock in the New Year Blanche TV Movie
1986-1987 Pound Puppies Nose Marie 26 episodes
1987 Milroy, Santa's Misfit Mutt Mrs. Claus (voice) TV Short (also starring Buddy Ebsen)
1988 Rockin' with Judy Jetson Felonia Funk (voice) TV Movie
1988-1990 The Munsters Dracula's Mom 2 episodes
1988-1991 Out of This World Mrs. Miller 3 episodes
1989 Marvin: Baby of the Year Chrissy's Mother (voice) TV Short
1990 Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers Ma 1 episode
1990 Gravedale High voice role unknown episodes
1990 Saved by the Bell Roberta Powers 1 episode
1991 They Came from Outer Space Carol 1 episode
1991 The New Adam-12 Mrs. Woolridge 1 episode
1992 Lucky Ed's Tabloid News Sample Lady TV Movie
1992 Darkwing Duck Alien Crow (voice) 2 episodes
1992 Lucky Luke Ma Dalton 1 episode
1992 Major Dad Mattie Fae Tillman 1 episode
1993 I Yabba-Dabba Do! Additional Voices TV Movie
1993 Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa 1 episode
1993 Hollyrock-a-Bye Baby Additional Voices TV Movie
1993 The Pink Panther 1 episode
1993-1998 Sesame Street Ruthie 14 episodes
1993-1994 Cro Nandy 20 episodes
1994 All-Star 25th Birthday: Stars and Street Forever! Ruthie (voice) TV Movie
1995 Savage Dragon Various Voices unknown episodes
1997 The Jamie Foxx Show Judge Lekeisha Roshanda Jackson 1 episode
1998 Sabrina the Teenage Witch Delilah 1 episode
1998-2001 7th Heaven Telephone Operator 2 episodes
1999 Boys Will Be Boys Mrs. Rudnick TV Movie (also starring Randy Travis and Mickey Rooney)
1999 Delilah 1 episode
1999 Diagnosis Murder Liz Summers 1 episode
2000 Rocket Power Dog Owner 1 episode
2000 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd Old Lady 1 episode
2000 The Angry Beavers Mrs. Beaver 1 episode
2000-2001 Sheep in the Big City Delilah 7 episodes
2003 Passions Nurse Kravitz 2 episodes
2006-2007 Come On Over Ruthie 2 episodes


Year Title Role Notes
1970 The Aristocats Frou-Frou (singing voice) also starring Phil Harris and Eva Gabor
1976 Freaky Friday Opposing Coach also starring Barbara Harris, Jodie Foster and John Astin
1977 The Rescuers German Mouse (voice) / unconfirmed/uncredited also starring Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor and Geraldine Page
1978 Record City Olga
1979 The North Avenue Irregulars Dr. Rheems also starring Edward Herrmann, Barbara Harris and Susan Clark
1979 The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again Old Tough Kate, aka 'Granny' also starring Don Knotts and Tim Conway
1979 The Villain Damsel in Distress also starring Kirk Douglas, Ann-Margret, and Arnold Schwarzenegger
1979 Skatetown, U.S.A. Elvira
1980 I Go Pogo Miz Beaver / Miss Mam'selle Hepzibah (voice)
1981 Chu Chu and the Philly Flash Consuelo also starring Alan Arkin, Carol Burnett and Jack Warden
1983 The Being Virginia Lane
1984 Surf II Chuck's Mom
1986 Bad Guys Petal McGurk also starring Adam Baldwin
1988 Pound Puppies and the Legend of Big Paw Nose Marie (voice)
1988 Dixie Lanes Betty
1989 Up Your Alley Marilyn
1989 My Mom's a Werewolf Madame Gypsy
1990 Wishful Thinking Jody also starring Murray Langston
1990 Diggin' Up Business Widow Knockerby
1994 The Fight Before Christmas Maw
1999 The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland Ruthie
2000 Nothing But The Truth Lois Troy
2004 Adventures in Homeschooling Gertie Hemple Short Film (also starring Dan Castellaneta)
2006 Fallen Angels Perril


Buzzi received 5 Emmy Award nominations and won the Golden Globe Award from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in 1973 for her work on Laugh-In.

On November 22, 2014 Women in Film (Dallas, Texas chapter) awarded Buzzi their highest achievement honor, the Topaz Award, at their annual gala.

Buzzi was inducted in 2002 into the Television Hall of Fame (presented by the National Broadcasters Association, which bestowed the honor to Buzzi as well as the producers, director and cast of the top rated television show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In).

Buzzi was in 1971 inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame.

Buzzi received the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Pasadena Playhouse of the Performing Arts.

Five times, Buzzi was nominated by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Emmy Awards in several categories from comedy and variety to Best Performer in a Children's Television Program; she was recognized not only for making people laugh, but for her versatility as an actress; she is remembered for a guest starring dramatic role on Medical Center with Greg Evigan in which she played the wife of a fatally ill man played by Don Rickles.

Buzzi received a Clio Award for Best Spokesperson in a television commercial for her series of Clorox-2 commercials, and was among the first of only a few Caucasian women to ever win an NAACP Image Award. Ruth Buzzi guest starred as a music and comedy performer on dozens of prime time television specials with colleagues including Jonathan Winters, Carol Burnett, Jim Nabors, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lee Lewis, Wayne Newton, Anne Murray, Rolf Harris, Dom DeLuise, Tony Orlando and was in a show created for Debbie Reynolds called Aloha Paradise, to name just a few. She appeared 8 times on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and has made more than 200 other television guest appearances.

In 2008 Ruth Buzzi was named a "Distinguished Woman of Northwood" by the Board of Regents of Northwood University.

Ruth Buzzi graduated with honors from the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California and was one of the first recipients of the Pasadena Playhouse Alumni Achievement Award along with her former classmates Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman.

Buzzi was a presenter at the 2009 Emmy Awards along with several members of her debut series, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, presenting the Emmy trophy to Jon Stewart for his work on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Personal life

Buzzi lives with her husband Kent Perkins on a 600-acre cattle and horse ranch in Stephenvillle, Texas. She is a charter member of the Pasadena Playhouse Alumni Association.[3] Buzzi paints as a hobby; she has never offered her oil paintings for sale to the public, but has donated original works to charity, where they have sold in excess of $6,000.[citation needed]

She supports numerous children's charities including Make a Wish Foundation, the Special Olympics, The Thalians, St. Jude's Hospital, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and is a children's art summer camp sponsor through Dallas Museum of Biblical Art.[citation needed] Buzzi is active in fundraising for the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch[4] in Medina, Texas and other animal causes.

Buzzi and her husband are avid automobile collectors, with some of their cars having been loaned to and displayed at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California including a 1957 Chevrolet convertible that was exhibited as part of the display honoring the cars of Steve McQueen. Buzzi's 1960 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud Drophead Coupe convertible was on display for the "Century of Elegance" exhibit.[5] The museum has also featured a 1965 Chrysler Imperial convertible previously owned by Katharine Hepburn, donated to the museum by Kent and Ruth Buzzi Perkins in 2001 and remains there for special exhibition.[citation needed] Buzzi and her husband won first place in their category with their 1961 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II drophead coupe at the Concours d'Elegance national championship in Amelia Island, Florida. That same vehicle won first place in the Los Angeles Rolls Royce Owners Club's "most elegant car" competition.[citation needed] Buzzi and her husband currently collect post-war English vehicles including Rolls-Royce and Jaguar, but their collection also holds several American muscle cars. Some of her vehicles have been in television commercials, featured in parades, and her blue Bentley convertible was featured on the cover of Vogue Magazine with Jessica Simpson behind the wheel.[citation needed]

Buzzi has been name-dropped in numerous songs, including House of Pain's "I'm A Swing It", The Bled's "Ruth Buzzi Better Watch Her Back", and the Loretta Lynn/Conway Twitty duet "You're the Reason Our Kids are Ugly".

See also


  2. Thomas Riggs, Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television: A Biographical Guide Featuring Performers, Directors, Writers, Producers, Designers, Managers, Choreographers, Technicians, Composers, Executives, Dancers, and Critics in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and the World Cengage Gale, 2006.
  3. Hernandez, Al Carlos (14 March 2011). "Golden Globe winning Comic Icon Ruth Buzzi". Herald de Paris. Retrieved 15 September 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "We Salute Our Pen Sponsors". Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch. Retrieved 15 September 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Buzzi loves pulling up in an eye-catching Rolls". Deseret News. 22 June 2003. Retrieved 15 September 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links