Chick Vennera, a prolific actor and voice actor perhaps most recognizable for his scene-stealing disco dance performance atop parked cars in the 1978 hit comedy Thank God It’s Friday, died from cancer yesterday at his home in Burbank.
Vennera, who voiced characters for Animaniacs and Batman Beyond, among many other series, and appeared during the late 1980s in the recurring role of Enrique on the NBC sitcom The Golden Girls, was 74. His death was confirmed by his daughter Nicky Vennera.
Born Francis Vennera in Herkimer, New York, the actor known professionally as Chick Vennera moved to California after high school, studying at the Pasadena Playhouse. After a stint in the Army, Vennera returned to the West Coast to perform musically in nightclubs and, for two years, as a singer and dancer in the Disney on Parade tour. He also toured in the national company of Grease as well as performing a stint in the musical on Broadway during the early 1970s.
Vennera began a long and busy TV career with appearances in 1975 on the dramas Lucas Tanner and Baretta. He recurred the following year on the miniseries Arthur Hailey’s the Moneychangers and Once an Eagle.
The actor garnered significant attention for his performance as Marv Gomez, a disco devotee clad in a head-to-toe brown leather leisure suit in the comedy Thank God It’s Friday starring Donna Summer. In his most memorable scene, a stoned Gomez climbs atop parked cars outside the disco and performs an athletic, cartwheeling dance routine to the delight of onlookers. “Dancing!,” he proclaims after falling through the roof of one car. “Everything else is bullsh*t!”
Subsequent credits would include a recurring role in the 1978-81 Robert Urich drama series Vega$, as well as appearances in such series as T.J. Hooker, Diff’rent Strokes and Night Court. In 1979 he was featured in the John Schlesinger film Yanks starring Richard Gere.
In 1988, he was cast in a significant role in Robert Redford’s Milagro Beanfield War, and the following year returned to television with two roles in The Golden Girls, the first as a boxer and the second, in a two-episode arc, as an egotistical reporter named Enrique Mas.
Vennera had a prolific career in the 1990s as a voice actor, working on animated series including Capitol Critters, Batman: The Animated Series, The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain.
He also founded and taught at Los Angeles’ Renegade Theatre and Film Group.
In addition to his daughter, Vennera is survived by his wife Suzanne Vennera.
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