Chick Vennera, ‘The Golden Girls’ and ‘Milagro Beanfield War’ Actor, Dead at 74

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Chick Vennera, famous for portraying a bean farmer in Robert Redford’s The Milagro Beanfield War and starring in hits like Thank God It’s Friday and Golden Girls, has died. The Broadway and screen actor died yesterday (July 7) in his home in Burbank after a battle with lung cancer, his daughter, Nicky Vennera, told The Hollywood Reporter. He was 74.

Vennera’s resume was stacked with animated credits, working on shows like Animaniacs (where he created the Pesto and God Pigeon characters), FoofurCapitol CrittersDarkwing DuckThe Real Adventures of Jonny QuestCow and Chicken, and Batman Beyond.

Born on March 27, 1947 in Herkimer New York as Francis Vennera, the star studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse. After serving in the U.S. Army, he moved back to showbiz with a gig at Disney on Parade as a dancer, acrobat, and clown. He also appeared on Broadway in Grease. In 1975, he landed his first TV roles, starring in episodes of Lucas Tanner and Baretta.

The actor got his big break when he was noticed in an off-Broadway production of Jockeys in 1977. Famed casting director Marion Dougherty caught a show and hired him to play Sgt. Danny Ruffelo alongside Richard Gere in the World War II play Yanks just two years later in 1979.

His most notable on-screen role was as the happy-go-lucky Marv “Leatherman” Gomez in the 1978 musical comedy Thank God It’s Friday. In the film, he’s seen dancing atop parked cars outside of an L.A. disco while wearing leather — hence the nickname — from head to toe. A few years later, he starred in Redford’s The Milagro Beanfield War as Joe Mondragon, a bean farmer.

Vennera played consumer reporter Enrique Mas on two episodes of Golden Girls in 1989, also snagging roles on Vega$T.J. HookerNight Court, and Mad About You. Most recently, he taught acting at the Beverly Hills Playhouse where he had studeid years earlier. From 2009 until the onset of the pandemic last year, Vennera served as an acting coach.

He is survived by his daughter, Nicky Vennera, along with his wife of 40 years, Susanne, and his son-in-law, Jason.

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