Actor Gary Friedkin, known for his roles in Garry Marshall films as well as a three-episode arc in Happy Days, has died from COVID-19 complications.
Friedkin died at a hospice care facility in his native Youngstown, Ohio, on Dec. 2, according to an obituary in the Tribune Chronicle. His death came after “a difficult three-and-a-half weeks” in the ICU. He was 70 years old.
The actor, who was four feet tall and an active member of the organization Little People of America, was known for his comedic work.
One of his most memorable roles came in Marshall’s 1982 comedy Young Doctors In Love, where Friedkin had a minute-long bit that featured him trying to hang up a telephone that was too high to reach.
“Gary decides to play basketball with it. After numerous failures to ‘make a basket’ he slides a gurney over, climbs onto it, and slam dunks the handset,” Friedkin’s cousin Jeff Zucker wrote in a Facebook post earlier this week. “This is how Gary perceived this height handicap as a challenge but not as a source of victimhood.”
Friedkin played Clarence, a cook, on three episodes of Marshall’s sitcom Happy Days in 1982. He also had roles in the 1981 comedy Under the Rainbow and the 1992 animated comedy Cool World, and played an Ewok in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
Friedkin was known as “Kishka” to his childhood friends, according to his obituary. He was born on Nov. 23, 1952 and graduated from The Rayen School in Youngstown in 1970, where he played the piano and was a member of local bands. He graduated from Youngstown State University with a degree in music before moving to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career.
A scholarship in his name has been established at YSU, according to his family. Special attention will be given to applicants with disabilities or those in the performing arts.
He last appeared in Marshall’s 2016 film Mother’s Day as Shorty.
“As a Little Person, he had to overcome many obstacles because of his lack of height,” Zucker said. “However, he never allowed this height disadvantage to depress him.”