An unmistakable character player with a prominent chin, a shock of thick, dark hair and eyebrows to match, the explosive Cliff Gorman has typically played tough, loud-mouthed and somewhat sleazy cops...
Marginalized communities throughout history have had ways of communicating that are proof of clanship. But did you know the street slang used by queens the world over is at least two centuries old, and that you already know a few words of it?
There is disagreement about the exact origins of the gay ghetto slang known as Polari, but it rose in popularity during the 19th century in London's East End, and shares words with other street vernaculars like Cockney rhyming slang and Yiddsh. The language was common in professions that employed traveling male tradesmen, like the merchant marines and the theater. Gay men adopted it as a way to have sexual conversations safely and in secret.
If you feel ignorant, don't. You're already speaking Polari when you use words like butch, camp, and drag — and if you're paying attention, chicken, cottaging and zhoosh. Theater slang that is part of the lexicon, such as referring to dancers as "hoofers," also comes from Polari.
But if you hear someone say, "Vada the eek on that naff omi-palone," ask your local queen for a translation. And pray they aren't talking about you.
Received top billing in his third feature film, "Cops and Robbers"
Starred in "Down Came a Blackbird" for Showtime
Made TV pilot, "Desert Breeze" for Fox
Acted onstage in New York in the play, "Ergo"
Was a member of Jerome Robbins' American Theatre Laboratory
Acted onstage in "Social Security"
Earliest TV-movies included "The Trial of the Chicago Seven" (1970) and "Class of '63" (1973)
Made feature film debut in "Justine", directed by George Cukor
Recreated his stage role in William Friedkin's film adaptation of "The Boys in the Band"
Returned to features to play prominent supporting roles in the films, "Night and the City" and "Hoffa"
Succeeded Ron Liebman in the role of Lennie in the Broadway production "Doubles"
Breakthrough stage role as Lenny Bruce in "Lenny"; won Tony Award as Best Actor
Acted onstage in New York in the play, "Hogan's Goat", opposite Faye Dunaway
First TV miniseries, the two-part crime drama, "Doubletake"; also marked the first time he played Detective Sergeant Aaron Greenberg in an ongoing series of TV-movies opposite Richard Crenna
Acted on Broadway in the Neil Simon comedy-drama, "Chapter Two"; received a Tony nomination for Best Featured Actor
Played Joseph Goebbels in the CBS war drama TV-movie, "The Bunker", starring Anthony Hopkins as Adolph Hitler
Had first important stage success Off-Broadway in the landmark comedy-drama, "The Boys in the Band"
Played a leading role in the feature, "Angel", his last film for nine years
An unmistakable character player with a prominent chin, a shock of thick, dark hair and eyebrows to match, the explosive Cliff Gorman has typically played tough, loud-mouthed and somewhat sleazy cops and crooks, or overly confident and rather obnoxious studs who aren't as attractive as they think. All his characters also seem to have a thick New York accent and an edge no matter the part of the globe in which they toil. After receiving a degree in education from NYU, Gorman worked as a truck and ambulance driver, and was also employed by a collection agency and as a probation officer for young delinquents. He began acting Off-Broadway in the mid-1960s and was part of Jerome Robbins' American Theatre Laboratory from 1966-67.
In 1968, Gorman delivered an OBIE-winning performance in the controversial landmark play, "The Boys in the Band". Important in dramatizing gay themes and yet often reviled for its vitriolic portrait of a group of self-hating homosexuals, "Boys" attracted a great deal of attention, not least for Gorman's lisping and limp-wristed Emory. After making his screen debut as another gay character in George Cukor's "Justine" (1969), he recreated Emory for William Friedkin's stagy 1970 film version. He finally broke out of typecasting with another very noticed stage role: Lenny Bruce in "Lenny" (1972). As the foul-mouthed, bitterly hilarious, trailblazing and ultimately tragic standup comic, Gorman won both a Tony and a Drama Desk Award for this showcase role.
Gorman lost the role to Dustin Hoffman for Bob Fosse's screen "Lenny", but his feature work picked up with the lead in "Cops and Robbers" (1973). (Fosse later cast him in a very Bruce-like role in "All That Jazz" 1979). While not a prolific actor, Gorman's roles are usually large and invariably vivid, as in "Hoffa" (1992), as the club owner who insults the eponymous anti-hero. He was especially splendid chasing Jill Clayburgh in "An Unmarried Woman" (1978).
Gorman has periodically returned to the stage. His sharp, urban image suited him for Neil Simon banter; he received a Tony nomination for his supporting work in "Chapter Two" (1978). Continuing to demonstrate a flair for comedy, he replaced Ron Liebman in "Doubles" (1985) and starred opposite Marlo Thomas in "Social Security" (1986) His TV work, meanwhile, has ranged from telefilms "Brink's: The Great Robbery" (CBS, 1976) to "The Bunker" (CBS, 1981), in which he played Joseph Goebbels. Gorman first played Detective Sgt. Aaron Greenberg opposite Richard Crenna's Lt. Frank Janek in the miniseries "Doubletake" (CBS, 1985). The two weathered actors have reprised the roles for several sequels, including "Internal Affairs" (CBS, 1986), and "A Silent Betrayal" (CBS, 1994).