Brown - Dark
New York City, New York
Place of Death
Los Angeles, California
Cause of Death
Died while on Stage
Claim to Fame
Car 54 Where Are You?
Profile Bio Text
Gravel-voiced comedian Joe E. ("Oooh! Oooh!") Ross was born in Manhattan and began his career, ironically enough, as a singing waiter in speak-easy clubs. Comedy came into the forefront, however and he steadily built up his image as a stand-up and impressionist, announcing and emceeing at burlesque clubs and various niteries around and about the Schuster circuit out of Chicago in the late 1930s. He made his inauspicious film debut in the hotsy-totsy girlie show Teaserama (1955), which featured strippers Bettie Page and Tempest Storm and female impersonator Vicki Lynn. The underground flick had Ross doing his familiar baggy-pants burlesque schtick. Another `break` came with the comedy flick Hear Me Good (1957), co-starring Hal March, but it went nowhere and did not invite other offers. The crevice-faced, roly-poly funnyman`s greatest claim to fame would be on situation comedy television, first as a third banana to Phil Silvers on his popular late 1950s series "You`ll Never Get Rich" ("The Phil Silvers Show" (1955) / "Sgt. Bilko") and in the cult hit series as "Officer Gunther Toody" in "Car 54, Where Are You?" (1961), opposite Fred Gwynne (famous as "Herman Munster"). Playing a typical dunderhead, it was Silvers himself, along with producer/partner Nat Hiken, who had discovered Ross while the floundering comedian, who was infamous for his "blue comedy" routines, was working at the Club Ciro in Miami Beach. It was Hiken who later gave the green light for Ross to co-star in the "Car 54, Where Are You?" (1961) show. His last series "It`s About Time" (1966), in which he played a caveman named "Gronk" who, out of his element in modern times, opposite Imogene Coca, was short-lived.
He fell out of favour after that and returned to the nightclub scene, appearing rather obscurely from time-to-time in shoddy, tasteless films with such dubious and promiscuous titles as: How to Seduce a Woman (1974); Linda Lovelace for President (1975); Slumber Party `57 (1976) and The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977). Ross died while on stage at the age of 68 and was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
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Full Name at Birth
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Joe E. Ross (born Joseph Roszawikz, March 15, 1914 – August 13, 1982) was an American actor known for his trademark "Ooh! Ooh!" exclamation, which he used in many of his roles. He starred in such TV sitcoms as The Phil Silvers Show and Car 54, Where Are You?.
Wiki Bio Text
Joseph Roszawikz was born to Russian immigrant parents in New York City. He dropped out of high school at age 16 when he was hired as a singing waiter at the Van Cortlandt Inn in the Bronx, eventually moving up to announcer for the hotel's song and dance acts, which allowed him to add jokes to his routine, effectively launching his career as a stand-up comic. After a stint at the Queens Terrace in 1938, Ross moved to Chicago and made the rounds as a burlesque comic until World War II broke out, during which he served in the Army Air Corps. After the war he relocated to Hollywood, appearing as an announcer and comic at Billy Gray's Band Box. His first appearance on film came in an uncredited role as a nightclub entertainer in the 1950 feature The Sound of Fury. A few more low-profile film and TV appearances followed until he was spotted by Phil Silvers and Nat Hiken performing stand-up in a Miami nightclub in 1955. Hiken had a fondness for rough-hewn, untrained characters and cast Ross as mess sergeant Rupert Ritzik on The Phil Silvers Show after the death of Harry Clark. As mentioned above, Ross was not Hiken's first choice to play Toody, but Hiken's penchant for using people he knew made Ross an acceptable Plan B. However, the success of the program seemed to go to Ross' head, causing him to complain about other cast members and engage in offensive language and behavior in front of visitors to the set. Fellow cast member Hank Garrett suggested that Ross' behavior contributed to Hiken's declining health during production of the series and his eventual heart attack.
When the series ended in 1963 Ross was not offered any new roles in television or on film and thus returned to his stand-up career, though he exploited his fame as Toody by recording an album of novelty numbers in 1964 titled Love Songs From a Cop. In 1966 he returned to TV in Sherwood Schwartz's ill-fated time-travel farce It's About Time, with Ross playing a cave man and Imogene Coca playing his wife. When the program was canceled after one season, Ross teamed up with comedic straight man Steve Rossi, who had just ended a largely successful 5-year run teamed with Marty Allen, but when Ross and Rossi appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in December 1968, they bombed, and in early 1969 Ross claimed that poor health was forcing him to break up the act. He managed to get occasional bit parts in films such as The Love Bug and The Boatniks, ironic given his seedy lifestyle and penchant for off-color humor. In the 1970s he found voicework on animated children's shows such as Help!...It's the Hair Bear Bunch, Hong Kong Phooey, and CB Bears. He also had occasional roles in exploitation fare such as How to Seduce a Woman, Linda Lovelace for President, and Gas Pump Girls. The story of his death is considered apocryphal by some: he was hired for $100 to do a stand-up routine at the housing complex where he and his eighth wife were living. While on stage August 13, 1982 he felt ill, sat down on the edge of the stage, and died of a heart attack at the age of 68. When his widow went to collect his fee, the owners of the complex paid her only $50, saying that he didn't finish the show.
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