of the most sought-after jokesmiths in the entertainment industry, Bruce Vilanch
has become a recognizable face in his own right, thanks to the feature-length
documentary "Get Bruce!" (1999) and his one-time stint as a regular
on "Hollywood Squares" (1998 ), for which he also served as head writer.
Mr. Vilanch was born in New York on November 23, 1948, but was adopted
by the Vilanch's--his late father, Jonas, an optometrist and his mother, Henne,
a former Broadway show girl--and then grew up in Patterson, New Jersey. He has
a very special bond with Henne and according to him, gets a lot of his show biz
humour from her.
"Sheís as obsessed with image as famous people,"
Vilanch says of his mother, his hands making the kind of hyper motions that indicate
adoration of the stage veteran. "When I was little, the house had what she
called the showcase room. The furniture was all wrapped in plastic and nobody
except company could go into it. Of course she took the plastic off then. A few
years ago, the dog discovered the room, ripped through the plastic and ruined
the upholstery. She called me and said she was going to redecorate it. And when
I asked her what excuse she would use, she said, ĎIím telling people itís because
Sonny Bono died."
Known for his eclectic eyewear and collection of
unique T-shirts, he began as a child model for
Bryant, but when his initial efforts as an actor came to naught, he became an
entertainment writer for the Chicago Tribune instead. Impressed by his review
of her cabaret performance in 1970, Bette Midler hired him to punch up her act
where he gave birth to Midlerís famed Sophie Tucker jokes. He later moved to Los
Angeles where he wrote for variety shows like the original "Donny and Marie"
and "The Brady Bunch Hour" (both ABC) and provided material for Richard
Pryor, Lily Tomlin and Joan Rivers. He has maintained his connection with Midler
through the years, working on such projects as the feature "Divine Madness"
(1980) and the TV special "Bette Midler--Diva Las Vegas" (HBO, 1997),
as well as writing for her short-lived but lively sitcom, "Bette!" (CBS,
He made his feature debut as a dress manufacturer in "Mahogany'
(1975), starring Diana Ross, and also contributed material to her live act. Mr.
Vilanch put his Muppet-like persona to excellent use as Santa's number one helper
in the syndicated TV-movie "It Nearly Wasn't Christmas" (1989). On the
heels of "Get Bruce!", Vilanch performed his comedy stylings Off-Broadway
in "Bruce Vilanch: Almost
(2000). After a first act reminiscing on his odd path to almost famousness, he
opened up the floor to questions in Act II, displaying his amazing ability for
off-the-cuff one-liners. As he told US WEEKLY (June 12, 2000), there is a downside
to celebrity: "Now, I get knocked if someone tries something that doesn't
work. Before it was the fault of these anonymous people, 'the writers.'"
Vilanch began contributing to Academy Awards telecasts in 1989, collaborating
with the likes of Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg and David Letterman, and graduated
to head writer in 2000. He has roasted celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and President
Clinton. The Whoopi connection led to his providing the notorious material Ted
Danson performed in blackface at a certain 1993 Friars Club roast of his then-girlfriend
Goldberg, but his resume also includes "You Made Me Watch You", the
touching Emmy-winning valedictory Midler crooned as a send-off to Johnny Carson.
He scripted most of the Academy Awards telecasts over the last decade, two of
which won Emmys, including the one featuring Billy Crystalís Hannibal Lecter entrance.
Mr. Vilanch has also written for The Tony's, The Grammy's, The Emmy's, and just
about every other award show to brighten your television screen. He also participates
and volunteers at almost every charity function, especially those dealing with
Mr. Vilanch just capped off his 14th writing gig for the
Oscars in 2003. Currently he is writing for
Bette Midler's 2003 Fall Tour and in September he will debut in the popular Broadway
hit, "Hairspray". He will be in the touring company which opens in Baltimore,
September 9, 2003 at the Mechanics Theatre.
For the part of Edna Turnblad,
Mr. Vilanch will have to shave off his famous 30 year old beard. No telling what's
lurking in there...but one thing it has never been able to hide....TALENT!!!