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Lainie Kazan

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Lainie Kazan
Kazan in February 2007
Lainie Levine

(1940-05-15) May 15, 1940 (age 84)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
EducationErasmus Hall High School
Alma materHofstra University
  • Actress
  • singer
Years active1958–present
Known forMy Favorite Year
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3
Peter H. B. Daniels
(m. 1971; died 1989)

Lainie Kazan (born Lainie Levine; May 15, 1940)[1][2] is an American actress and singer. She was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for St. Elsewhere and the 1993 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for My Favorite Year. She was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her role in My Favorite Year (1982). Kazan played Maria Portokalos in the My Big Fat Greek Wedding franchise. She also played Aunt Freida on The Nanny.

Early life[edit]

Kazan was born Lainie Levine in Brooklyn,[3][4] the daughter of Carole (nee Kazan) and Ben Levine.[5][6][7] She is of Ashkenazi Jewish and Sephardic Jewish descent with Russian and Turkish roots.[6] Some of her grandparents lived in Jerusalem before moving to Manchester, England and settling in Brooklyn.[8][9] Kazan has described her mother as "neurotic, fragile and artistic."[10][11][9] Kazan attended Brooklyn's Erasmus Hall High School with Barbra Streisand, for whom she would later understudy. She graduated in 1956. Kazan studied theatre at HB Studio[12] and graduated from Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York in 1960. While at Hofstra, Kazan appeared in school musicals written and directed by a classmate director Francis Ford Coppola as well as actor James Caan.[3]


Kazan made her Broadway debut in 1961 with the musical The Happiest Girl in the World. She appeared the following year in another musical, Bravo Giovanni, and understudied Barbra Streisand for the lead role of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl (1964). When Streisand could not perform due to a throat condition, Kazan took her place in a matinee and evening performance for one day of the show's run.[3] Her popularity increasing, Kazan posed nude for the October 1970 issue of Playboy, which was reused in Pocket Playboy #4, issued in 1974. Her appearance in the magazine opened the door for her to headline and operate two different Playboy Jazz Clubs. Overseen by Hugh Hefner, the clubs were named Lainie's Room West and Lainie's Room East, each on opposite coasts, with the first one located in Los Angeles and the other in Manhattan. Her Playboy photographs inspired the look of Jack Kirby’s superheroine Big Barda.[13]

Along with appearing in numerous supper clubs across the country, Kazan guest-starred on Dean Martin’s variety series 26 times. Other television work includes a recurring role as Aunt Frieda on the Fran Drescher sitcom The Nanny, the mother of Kirstie Alley's character on Veronica's Closet, and various guest roles, including one on St. Elsewhere that resulted in an Emmy nomination. Her other television work has included The Paper Chase, Columbo,[14] Touched by an Angel, and Will & Grace.

Kazan played Maria Portokalos, the mother of Toula Portokalos (Nia Vardalos) in the My Big Fat Greek Wedding franchise. Following the first film in the franchise, Kazan was featured in My Big Fat Greek Life, a short-lived series based on the film series. Other recent film work includes the mother of Adam Sandler’s character in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Although the scene was deleted in the feature film, it is included on the DVD in the special features section. Kazan appeared as singer Ava St. Clair with Kevin James in two episodes of The King of Queens.

A life member of The Actors Studio,[15] Kazan returned to Broadway to recreate her film role for the musical adaptation of My Favorite Year, earning a Tony Award nomination for her performance. She completed a stint in The Vagina Monologues. She has appeared in regional productions of A Little Night Music, Man of La Mancha, Gypsy, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Hello, Dolly!, and Fiddler on the Roof. In 1984, she made a guest appearance on the Faerie Tale Theatre episode “Pinocchio” as Sophia the Blue Fairy.

In the Ugly Betty episode "Fire and Nice," Kazan played Dina Talercio, the mother of Bobby (Adam Rodriguez), who becomes the character's brother-in-law.[16] In 2010, Kazan joined the cast of Desperate Housewives for season 7. She played the role of Mrs. Maxine Rosen, a self-employed business owner and neighbor to Susan Delfino.[17]

Personal life[edit]

After meeting musical director-arranger Peter H.B. Daniels on the Broadway musical Funny Girl, in which Kazan was a cast member and he was associate orchestra conductor, the two began a five-year relationship. They married sometime after the 1971 birth of their daughter Jennifer.[9][18][3] The marriage did not endure, and Kazan was single again by 1976.[9]

In the 1970s, Kazan was diagnosed with a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Since then, she has dedicated time to public education about DVT.[19][20]

Beginning in 2012, Kazan became an adjunct professor at UCLA, teaching acting classes and directing her students in drama-department productions. She has served on the boards of the Young Musicians’ Foundation, AIDS Project LA, the B'nai Brith, the California Jazz Foundation, and her alma mater, Hofstra University.[6]

On April 9, 2016, Kazan was injured in a head-on traffic collision. Kazan was driving her car when the collision occurred in Sherman Oaks, California, which necessitated hospitalization.[21]

In December 2017, outside a California supermarket, Kazan was arrested for shoplifting.[22][23] Prosecutors reached a plea deal with her.[24][25]



Year Title Role Notes
1968 Dayton's Devils Leda Martell
1968 Lady in Cement Maria Baretto
1971 Romance of a Horsethief Estusha
1982 One from the Heart Maggie
1982 My Favorite Year Belle Carroca
1985 Lust in the Dust Marguerita Ventura
1985 The Journey of Natty Gann Connie
1986 The Delta Force Sylvia Goldman
1987 Harry and the Hendersons Irene Moffitt
1987 Medium Rare Helga Costas
1988 Out of the Dark Hooker / Nancy
1988 Beaches Leona Bloom
1989 Eternity Mother Berneice Uncredited
1991 29th Street Mrs. Lainie Pesce
1992 I Don't Buy Kisses Anymore Sarah Fishbine
1993 The Cemetery Club Selma
1996 Love Is All There Is Sadie Capomezzo
1996 Movies Money Murder Sylvia
1996 The Associate Cindy Mason
1997 Allie & Me Camille Alexander
1998 The Big Hit Jeanne Shulman
1998 Permanent Midnight June Stahl Uncredited
1998 The Unknown Cyclist Rachel
1999 Kimberly Hanna
1999 Mike & Spike Movie Estelle Kazan
2000 What's Cooking? Ruth 'Ruthie' Seelig
2000 Bruno Sister Mary Perpetua Also known as The Dress Code
2000 The Crew Pepper Lowenstein
2002 My Big Fat Greek Wedding Maria Portokalos
2002 Eight Crazy Nights Oda Singing voice
2003 Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There Documentary
2003 A Good Night to Die Diane
2003 Gigli Mother Susie
2004 Red Riding Hood Grandma
2005 Whiskey School Hedy Seligman
2007 Bratz: The Movie Bubbie
2007 Beau Jest Miriam Goldman
2008 You Don't Mess with the Zohan Gail
2009 Oy Vey! My Son Is Gay!! Shirley Hirsch
2010 Expecting Mary Lillian Littlefeather
2012 Divorce Invitation Elaine Lipnicks
2013 Finding Joy Gloria
2013 Growing Defiant Leslie cameo appearance
2015 Pearly Gates Millie
2015 Pixels Mickey Lamonsoff
2016 My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 Maria Portokalos
2018 The Amityville Murders Nona
2021 Tango Shalom Leah Zlotkin
2023 My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 Maria Portokalos


Year Title Role Notes
1962 Car 54, Where Are You? Girl at Bar Episode: "Je T'Adore Muldoon"
1965 Ben Casey Della Episode: "Why Did the Day Go Backwards?"
1969 The Dean Martin Show Ella 11 episodes
1977 The Bobby Vinton Show Edna 19 episodes
1978 A Love Affair: The Eleanor and Lou Gehrig Story Sophie Tucker Television film
1978 Columbo Valerie Kirk Episode: "Make Me a Perfect Murder"
1980 A Cry for Love Tina Weathersby Television film
1983 Sunset Limousine Jessie Durning Television film
1984 The Jerk, Too Card Player Television film
1984 Obsessive Love Margaret Chase Television film
1985–1986 The Paper Chase Rose Samuels 15 episodes
1986 Tough Cookies Rita 6 episodes
1987 Karen's Song Claire Steiner 13 episodes
1987-1988 St. Elsewhere Frieda Fiscus 3 episodes
1988 The Van Dyke Show Bunnie Episode: "Fatal Condo"
1989 Hägar the Horrible Helga Voice, television short
1990 Earthday Birthday Voice, television film
1992 Beverly Hills 90210 Rose Zuckerman Episode: "Down and Out of District in Beverly Hills"
1993 Tales from the Crypt Mrs. Grafungar Episode: "People Who Live in Brass Hearses"
1994 Animaniacs Molly Voice, episode: "Pigeon on the Roof"
1995 Murder, She Wrote Anna Grimaldi Episode: "Crimson Harvest"
1995 Prince for a Day Rose Television film
1995–1998 The Nanny Aunt Freida 4 episodes
1998 Safety Patrol Mrs. Day Television film
1998 Touched by an Angel Doris Bernstein Episode: "Deconstructing Harry"
2001 Will & Grace Aunt Honey Episode: "Moveable Feast: Part 1"
2002 Touched by an Angel Aunt Meg Episode: "The Princeless Bride"
2002 Returning Lilly Dana Television film
2003 My Big Fat Greek Life Maria Portokalos 7 episodes
2005 The Engagement Ring Alicia Rosa Anselmi Television film
2006 Living with Fran Cookie (Fran's mom) 1 episode
2007 The King of Queens Ava St. Clair 2 episodes
2008 Boston Legal Judge Paula Stern Episode: "Dances with Wolves"
2010 Medium Rare Helga Costas Episode: "Episode #1.1"
2010 'Til Death Donna 3 episodes
2010 Desperate Housewives Maxine Rosen 5 episodes
2012 Modern Family Eleanor Episode: "New Year's Eve"
2013 Jessie Wanda Winkle Episode: "Throw Momma From the Terrace"
2013 Grey's Anatomy Catherine "C.J." Jackson Episode: "Two Against One"
2014 RuPaul's Drag Race Herself Episode: "Glamazon by Colorevolution"
2018 Young & Hungry Susie Lowenstein Episode: "Young and Third Wheel"
2018 Fuller House Irma Episode: "Angels' Night Out"

Stage work[edit]


  • Lainie Kazan (1966) SE-4385 MGM Records (original studio album)
  • Right Now (1966) SE-4340 MGM Records (original studio album; with sleeve notes by Dean Martin)
  • Love Is Lainie (1967) SE-4496 MGM Records (original studio album)
  • The Love Album (1967) SE 4451 MGM Records (original studio album)
  • The Best of Lainie Kazan (1969) SE-4631 MGM Records (compilation album)
  • The Chanteuse is Loose (1977) LK515 Lainie & Co. (original Live album)
  • Body & Soul (1995) 65126 MusicMasters (original studio album)
  • In the Groove (1998) 65168 MusicMasters (original studio album)

As guest vocalist[edit]

With Benny Carter


  1. ^ "Lainie Kazan: Performer". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved December 26, 2017.
  2. ^ "Lainie Kazan papers 1960-1998". The New York Public Library.
  3. ^ a b c d Klein, Alvin (May 3, 1992). "Lainie Kazan Goes Back to Her Roots". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 28, 2017. Retrieved May 7, 2010. Her 21-year-old daughter, Jennifer Daniels...
  4. ^ Kazan, Lainie. "Lainie Kazan". Actors' Equity Association. Archived from the original on June 22, 2018. Retrieved December 26, 2017. I had just changed my name from Lainie Levine to Lainie Kazan (Kazan being my mother's maiden name).
  5. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths — Levine, Carole". The New York Times. March 16, 2001. Retrieved November 6, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c Miller, Gerri (March 23, 2016). "Lainie Kazan happily goes 'Greek' again for comedy sequel". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  7. ^ Avasthi, Surabhi (June 16, 1996). "Down Memory Lainie How a Nice Jewish Girl From Brooklyn Bared All For Playboy .. And Survived The Aftermath". New York Daily News. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  8. ^ "Q&A with Lainie Kazan". Palm Beach Illustrated. December 1, 2016. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d Breslauer, Jan (February 2, 1997). "You Can't Pin Her Down". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 9, 2016. Retrieved December 27, 2017. In 1971, she became pregnant by her companion of five years, Peter Daniels, whom she'd met when he was the associate musical conductor on 'Funny Girl'. Kazan's daughter, Jennifer Bena, who now lives in L.A., was born at the end of 1971. After Jennifer's birth, Kazan and Daniels were married, but the match only endured a few more years. In 1976, newly single and a mother...
  10. ^ Pfefferman, Naomi (April 11, 2003). "Lainie Kazan's 'Big Fat' Jewish Life". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved November 11, 2020.
  11. ^ Pine, Dan (March 31, 2006). "Lainie Kazan bringing cabaret classics to S.F." J. The Jewish News of Northern California. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  12. ^ "Alumni". HB Studio. Retrieved November 11, 2020.
  13. ^ Evanier, Mark. "The Jack F.A.Q." POVonline.com. Archived from the original on December 17, 2010. Retrieved January 15, 2011.
  14. ^ "Columbo" Make Me a Perfect Murder (TV Episode 1978) - IMDb, retrieved 2022-04-08
  15. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan. p. 278. ISBN 978-0025426504.
  16. ^ Abrams, Natalie (January 22, 2010). "Ugly Betty Casts Bobby's Parents". TV Guide. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  17. ^ Abrams, Natalie (August 17, 2010). "Lainie Kazan to Guest-Star on Desperate Housewives". TV Guide. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  18. ^ "Peter H.B. Daniels; Musical Director, Arranger". Los Angeles Times. February 11, 1989. Archived from the original on April 2, 2016. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  19. ^ "Still Kicking: Lainie Kazan". Ability. August–September 2008. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  20. ^ Georgia Thrombosis Forum Members (May 4, 2017). "Spreading Awareness of Blood Clots". Atlanta Jewish Times. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  21. ^ Guglielmi, Jodi (April 14, 2016). "My Big Fat Greek Wedding Star Lainie Kazan on the Mend After Car Accident". People. Retrieved November 11, 2020.
  22. ^ Lovece, Frank (December 27, 2017). "Lainie Kazan arrested for shoplifting, report says". Newsday. Retrieved October 17, 2021.
  23. ^ "'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' star Lainie Kazan allegedly shoplifted groceries before". Fox News. December 29, 2017.
  24. ^ "Lainie Kazan gets plea deal in shoplifting case". Hollywood.com. January 28, 2018. Retrieved October 17, 2021.
  25. ^ Bitette, Nicole (27 January 2018). "'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' star Lainie Kazan reaches deal after shoplifting arrest". nydailynews.com.

External links[edit]