Taylor Negron dies at 57; comedian, actor, playwright
He was the surly pizza man who interrupted a class at Ridgemont High to deliver a double-cheese-and-sausage to the cool-guy student played by Sean Penn.
He was the Olsen twins’ prissy, Spanish-accented nanny, Manuelo, on “So Little Time.” He was the nutty hairdresser on “Seinfeld” who suggested drenching Elaine’s hair with tomato sauce. He was a sadistic, would-be assassin chewed up by a churning helicopter rotor in “The Last Boy Scout” (1991).
A comedian and an actor, Taylor Negron wrote plays and delivered acerbic, hilarious, story-length monologues but his name wasn’t nearly as well known as his face.
“I’m not famous,” he said in a 2013 Ted talk. “I’m fame-ish.”
Negron, a Los Angeles native who nostalgically recalled his hometown “when the palm trees were short and Tomorrowland was modern,” died Saturday as his L.A. home, surrounded by friends and family members. He was 57.
Negron had battled liver cancer for seven years, his mother, Lucy Negron, said.
In his monologues, Negron cherished the show business lore he was steeped in as a boy. Influenced by a Puerto Rico-born grandmother he described as a movie-loving free spirit, he developed an early admiration for Mae West, an interest that was mentioned in print by a Hollywood columnist who lived next door to his aunt.
When West surprised the starstruck 13-year-old with a telephone call, she gave him two show biz tips in her trademark, va-va-voom cadence: “Pay attention to the box office,” she said. “And be yourself.”
Decades later, Negron said West inspired him to become a stand-up comic when he was 19. “She was my muse,” he told interviewer Richard Balzer.
Over the years, Negron worked in films including “Punchline” (1988), “Angels in the Outfield” (1994), “Stuart Little” (1999), “The Aristocrats” (2005) and “The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas” (2000). His TV credits included “Hill Street Blues,” “ER,” “Hope and Gloria,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Reno 911" and “Friends”.
Negron also was an accomplished painter, earning pocket money early in his movie career by sketching other extras on movie sets.
“I’d say, ‘Your mom would love a painting of you!’” he told the Times in 1995. “A salesman! I’d hawk paintings.”
Born in Glendale on Aug. 1, 1957, Negron modeled as a child for Hanna-Barbera artists sketching characters in for cartoon based on the life of Evel Knievel.
“I was on lunchboxes, bedspreads, drapes…,” he later recalled.
He left high school for the San Francisco Art Institute but dropped out to pursue comedy. While a student, Brad Stephen Negron adopted the first name Taylor, after his San Francisco street, his mother said.
Negron became Lucille Ball’s personal assistant and worked comedy clubs with Robin Williams, Sandra Bernhard and other aspiring stars. As his reputation for witty banter grew, he became one of the most consistently losing bachelors on TV’s “The Dating Game,” going home with “enough Rice-A-Roni to clog San Francisco Bay.”
Over the years, Negron developed a storytelling technique that was likened to that of Spalding Gray, drawing listeners in with vivid images and piquant humor.
He tried to define his success in an essay on freshyarn.com.
“I have been on the Tonight Show,” he wrote. “I have also performed in a roller rink for Jewish singles in Syracuse. My stage patter is tireless, kinetic, and I sometimes exhaust myself…Hey babe — trust me on the subject — I haven’t done too bad for a Struggling Cartoon Model from Glendale.”
In 1993, he wrote, with Lawrence Justice, “Gangster Planet,” a play about a family conflict set during the riots after the Rodney King verdict.
The Times praised the theatrical production, saying that the play, “by lampooning liberal pieties and anxieties,” could “contribute more to ‘rebuild L.A.’ than all the high and mighty rhetoric of the past year.’'
In addition to his mother, Negron’s survivors include his father Conrad, a former mayor of Indian Wells; and his brothers Alex and Conrad A. Negron. He is also survived by his cousin Chuck Negron, formerly of the rock group Three Dog Night.
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