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'Law & Order' Star Jerry Orbach Dies

Oh, this is sad news for an L&O; fan like me. (AP):

Actor Jerry Orbach, who played a sardonic, seen-it-all cop on TV’s “Law & Order” and scored on Broadway as a song-and-dance man, has died of prostate cancer at 69. Orbach died Tuesday night in Manhattan after several weeks of treatment, Audrey Davis of the public relations agency Lippin Group said Wednesday.

When his illness was diagnosed, he had begun production on NBC’s upcoming spinoff “Law & Order: Trial By Jury,” after 12 seasons playing Detective Lennie Briscoe in the original series.

On Broadway, Orbach starred in hit musicals including “Carnival,” “Promises, Promises” (for which he won a Tony Award), “Chicago” and “42nd Street.” Earlier, he was in the original cast of the off-off-Broadway hit “The Fantasticks,” playing the narrator. The show went on to run for more than 40 years. Lights on Broadway marquees were expected to be dimmed for one minute at curtain time Wednesday night in Orbach’s memory.

Among his film appearances were roles in “Dirty Dancing,” “Prince of the City” and “Crimes and Misdemeanors.” In the animated “Beauty and the Beast,” he voiced the role of the candlestick and sang “Be Our Guest.”

Orbach still is expected to appear in early episodes of “Law & Order: Trial by Jury,” for which he continued as Briscoe in a secondary role, when the show premieres later this season, Davis said.

“I’m immensely saddened by the passing of not only a friend and colleague, but a legendary figure of 20th century show business,” said Dick Wolf, creator and executive producer of the “Law & Order” series. “He was one of the most honored performers of his generation. His loss is irreplaceable.”


UPDATE: 12/31/2004: Friends, Co-Stars Mourn Jerry Orbach (AP):

Jerry Orbach was mourned with music, memories and meditation Friday during a funeral where he was eulogized as the quintessential New Yorker on the long-running police drama “Law & Order.”

“He always knew his lines — and yours too,” joked co-star Sam Waterston, who joined about 300 people for the hourlong secular service at Riverside Memorial Chapel on Manhattan’s West Side.

Orbach, a Broadway song-and-dance man who achieved his widest fame as wisecracking Detective Lennie Briscoe on TV’s “Law & Order,” died of prostate cancer Tuesday at 69.

The secular service drew dozens of show business figures, including Chris Noth, Olympia Dukakis, Danny Aiello, Tony Roberts, Michael Imperioli, Brian Dennehy, Benjamin Bratt and Malachy McCourt.

Broadway legend Chita Rivera remembered Orbach from their “Chicago” onstage partnership in the 1970s. “This huge silhouette would appear in a fedora, smoking a cigar,” she said. “There was our anchor. There was our rock in a pinstriped suit.”

Ed Sherin, executive producer of “Law & Order,” called Orbach “my best friend — and I imagine there are a lot of people here who would say the same.”

He described Orbach as a man who would “break into song” at any moment, while also enjoying a reputation as “a deadly poker player” and avid golfing partner.

“I loved playing golf with Jerry more than I loved golf,” said Sherin, adding that Orbach was not a strict scorekeeper when playing with a friend.

The actor was equally gracious on the set of “Law & Order,” the director said, pouring juice for nervous, dry-mouthed colleagues or whispering lines to them if they forgot them.

Orbach lay in a simple wooden coffin draped with white blossoms under the chapel’s blue and gold vaulted ceiling. A half dozen pews marked “Friars Club” were filled with fellow members of the New York organization famed for its celebrity roasts.

The service was led by family friend Elizabeth Hepburn, who started and closed the ceremony by leading mourners in a breathing meditation, interspersed with John Denver’s “Perhaps Love” played on a guitar.

The service ended with a guitar rendition of “Lullaby of Broadway” and “Try to Remember” — the signature song of the off-Broadway hit “The Fantasticks” that launched Orbach’s rise in New York theater in 1960, as El Gallo.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding