Steve Landesberg dies; comic actor played intellectual detective on sitcom ‘Barney Miller’

Los Angeles Times

Steve Landesberg, a comic actor who played the intellectual Det. Arthur Dietrich in the long-running ABC sitcom " Barney Miller,” has died. He was believed to be 74.

Steve Landesberg: In the Dec. 21 LATExtra section, the obituary of actor Steve Landesberg, who played Det. Arthur Dietrich in the sitcom “Barney Miller,” misspelled the last name of Max Gail’s character, Det. Stanley “Wojo” Wojciehowicz, as Wojohowicz. —

Landesberg died early Monday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said his agent, Jeff Leavitt. No cause was given.

“Barney Miller” starred Hal Linden in the title role as a New York police captain managing his offbeat group of officers in a Greenwich Village police station.

The show, which ran from 1975 to 1982, included Abe Vigoda as Det. Phil Fish, Ron Glass as Det. Ron Harris and Max Gail as Det. Stanley “Wojo” Wojohowicz.

Landesberg joined the cast in 1976 as Dietrich, whom a Times reviewer once referred to as “infuriatingly cerebral.”

“I’m not really much like Dietrich,” he told the Washington Post in 1979. “He reads everything. Science, technology, economics. I have no interest in that stuff.… I try to play him as a cop. Intellectual and funny, but a good cop.”

Landesberg said police officers “tell me they know guys like Dietrich … most cops never fire their guns. That’s why they like our show.”

Landesberg was born in New York on Nov. 23, 1936, according to public records. In the Washington Post profile, he wouldn’t disclose his age. “Let’s just say I started late,” he said. “It hurts you with casting directors.… If you tell them your age — let’s say you’re middle-aged — and they’ve never heard of you, they figure you’re no good, or else they would’ve heard of you already. I tell my friends not to tell their ages.”

Landesberg said he was quiet growing up. " And when I was in the service I was quiet, but in the barracks I’d get crazy,” he told the Alameda (Calif.) Times-Star in 2003. “And then one day I took it onstage.”

He started doing stand-up comedy in New York clubs in 1969, working on the same stages as David Brenner and Jimmie Walker.

“Before that I worked in a lot of hotels, as an assistant credit manager,” he told the Detroit Free Press in 1997. “That’s part clerk, cop and manager. To check out scam artists and bad credit cards, that was my early police training to train for playing a fictional cop.”

Landesberg made his first appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” in the early 1970s and became a familiar face on television.

Before “Barney Miller,” he also appeared on " Dean Martin Presents the Bobby Darin Amusement Co.” in 1972 and “Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers” in 1974-75.

He had guest roles on “The Golden Girls” in 1991 and “That ‘70s Show” in 2007. His most recent film role was as pediatrician Dr. Rosenbaum in the 2008 comedy “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” starring Jason Segel and Kristen Bell.

Landesberg also did commercials, including one for a truck company in 1985. During filming he met his wife, Nancy, a producer who survives him along with a daughter.