Patrick O’Neal; Versatile Actor, Restaurateur
Patrick O’Neal, the genial actor and restaurateur who established himself on Broadway as the defrocked cleric named Shannon in Tennessee Williams’ classic “Night of the Iguana,” has died. He was 66.
O’Neal, who also was a regular in the television series “Kaz” and a supporting actor in several films, died Friday at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City. He died of respiratory failure after suffering from tuberculosis and cancer, said Cynthia O’Neal, his wife of 38 years.
In 1963, O’Neal and his brother, Michael, opened a restaurant called the Ginger Man near Manhattan’s Lincoln Center. He started the restaurant, O’Neal said, to “take some of the insecurity out of show biz.” Last year, the name was changed to O’Neal’s.
For a few years, he co-owned another Ginger Man restaurant in Beverly Hills with actor Carroll O’Connor. That later became Carroll O’Connor’s Place.
O’Neal chose the name for eateries on both coasts after playing the lead role of Sebastian Dangerfield in the 1963 off-Broadway play “The Ginger Man.”
Over the years, O’Neal also owned several other restaurants that flopped. He discussed his business failures with The Times in 1983: “Don’t try to do people good. People don’t want to be done good. When I stopped eating meat, I opened a seafood place. The world still wanted cheeseburgers. So the place failed.
“When I became a real vegetarian,” he said, “I opened a vegetarian place (the StrEATcar) that also flopped. So my advice to any budding restaurateur is, ‘Give them carbohydrates and pecan pie. Don’t try to be smart.’ ”
Throughout his varied career, O’Neal was equally unruffled about films that flopped. Asked about “The Kremlin Letter,” which was panned by critics when it opened in 1970, O’Neal quipped: “I liked it better before the reviews.”
O’Neal was born and brought up in Ocala, Fla., and educated at the University of Florida and Actors Studio in New York.
Among his films were “In Harm’s Way” and “King Rat” in 1965, “The Way We Were” in 1973 and “The Stepford Wives” in 1975.
He was eager to tackle any role, including many unsympathetic ones, and any stunt the script called for. He posed as a hard-riding cavalry officer in a Civil War Western, “Alvarez Kelly,” even though he was not an expert horseman.
“If I had to go out to Griffith Park and get on a horse,” he told The Times in 1966, “I’d probably kill myself. But on that movie horse, I acted as though I really knew what I was doing. That’s the trick--act it.”
In 1976, O’Neal portrayed George Washington for a Bicentennial short feature.
In addition to “Kaz” from 1978 to 1979, he was a regular in the 1957 television series “Dick and the Duchess” and the 1983 series “Emerald Point N.A.S.”
O’Neal directed training shorts for the Air Force during World War II and returned to directing, mostly stage productions, in recent years.
“I enjoy directing,” he said in 1983. “It’s what I call grown-up work, as distinct from acting, which is what children do. I liked playing daddy. And I liked creating the kind of atmosphere on the set that I rarely enjoy as an actor.”
In addition to his wife and brother, O’Neal is survived by two sons, Maximilian of New York and Fitzjohn of Redondo Beach.
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