Partner Wayne Tripp

Queer Places:
Princeton University (Ivy League), 110 West College, Princeton, NJ 08544
The Actors Studio, 432 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036
Forest Lawn Memorial Park Glendale, Los Angeles County, California, USA

Benito Daniel “Ben” Piazza (July 30, 1933 – September 7, 1991) was an American actor. Piazza was married to actress Dolores Dorn from 1967 until 1979.[7] Piazza was in a committed relationship with Wayne E. Tripp (May 26, 1928 - April 21, 2000), who was mentioned as his partner in Piazza’s Los Angeles Times obituary, from 1973 until Piazza died of AIDS-related cancer in 1991.[8]

Benito Daniel “Ben” Piazza was born in Little Rock, AR, the son of Charles Piazza (1881–1944) and Elfreida Sylvian Spillman (1901–1949).

Compared to the young Marlon Brando, Piazza began acting in 1952 during his college days at Princeton University. He was accepted as a member of New York’s famed Actors Studio and made his professional debut off-Broadway in 1956. Ben made his Broadway debut in 1958 in Winesburg, Ohio, a play penned by Sherwood Anderson.

Piazza made his film debut in Sidney J. Furie's Canadian film A Dangerous Age (1959) followed by his Hollywood debut in The Hanging Tree (1959). The film The Hanging Tree (1959) is a Western character study of a doctor (Joseph Frail) who saves a local criminal (Rune) from a mob that is trying to hang him. The doctor, played by Gary Cooper, then tries to control the life of the young man, promising to keep his criminal past secret in exchange for his labor. Ben Piazza played Rune in his Hollywood debut, and although Piazza was being groomed for movie stardom, he never attained true leading man status. Instead, he ended up with a steady, if unsensational, career of supporting roles and TV guest shots. Though he signed contracts with Warner Bros. and Gary Cooper's production companies for five years, he did not make another film until No Exit (1962).[3]

Piazza had some notable success on Broadway, where he replaced fellow gay actor George Grizzard in the role of Nick in the original production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962). Ben appeared in two other Edward Albee plays, The Death of Bessie Smith and The Zoo Story.

A prolific television and film character actor, Piazza is perhaps most widely recognized as the wealthy restaurant patron in John Landis' 1980 comedy hit The Blues Brothers from whom Jake (John Belushi) offers to purchase his wife and daughter. Prior to that, he also played the violent boyfriend who scars Liza Minnelli's character's face in Otto Preminger's Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (1970). Piazza's other film appearances include The Candy Snatchers (1973); Piazza played a dramatic role in an episode of Barnaby Jones, titled “Bond of Fear” (04/15/1975),The Bad News Bears (1976), I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1977), Nightwing (1979), Peter Bogdanovich's Mask (1985), Clean and Sober (1988), and Guilty by Suspicion (1991), in which he portrayed Hollywood film director/mogul Darryl F. Zanuck. In 1986, Piazza had a three-month stint on the daytime soap opera Santa Barbara as Dr. A.L. Rawlings.[4] Piazza also played the role of Walt Driscoll in the sixth season of Dallas (1978 TV series), between 1982 and 1983.[5]

Piazza also wrote plays and a novel, The Exact and Very Strange Truth (1964), a coming-of-age story about an Italian-American boy in Little Rock, Arkansas, which was Piazza's hometown.[2][6] However, Ben wrote in the book's introduction that any resemblance between the characters and real people was “irrelevant”, although the parallels to his own life were unmistakable. Piazza dedicated the book to openly gay playwright Edward Albee, who was a close friend.

Ben Piazza died of AIDS-related cancer at the age of 57 in Sherman Oaks, California, and is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

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