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'Roadhouse' villain Ben Gazzara, 81, dies



ben-gazzara.jpgBen Gazzara still gives me nightmares from his performance in 1989's Roadhouse. Not because I once had a career as a bar bouncer, or had to fight the town bully, or even lived in a barn with nature's air conditioning. No, because there's that one scene with Gazzara (as "Brad Wesley") drinking down the road, swerving side to side without a care in the world and running co-star Patrick Swayze off the road.

Every time I see a car swerve to this day, I picture Ben Gazzara behind the wheel. It's an irrational fear, but it keeps me alert while driving.

Gazzara died Friday in New York at age 81. Like his co-star Swayze, the cause of death was pancreatic cancer. He appeared in about a dozen movies in the '80s.

"If Mr. Gazzara never achieved Brando’s stature, that was partly because of a certain laissez-faire approach to his career: an early suspicion of film, a reluctance to go after desirable roles," the New York Times wrote in its obituary.

"When I became hot, so to speak, in the theater, I got a lot of offers,' he said in a 1998 interview on Charlie Rose, according to the Times. "I won't tell you the pictures I turned down because you would say, 'You are a fool.' And I was a fool."

[Last modified: Monday, February 6, 2012 11:21am]


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