Lainie Kazan

Last updated
Lainie Kazan
Academy Awards afterparty CUN Lainey Kazan.jpg
Kazan in February 2007
Lainie Levine

(1939-05-15) May 15, 1939 (age 81)
Alma mater Hofstra University
  • Actress
  • singer
Years active1958–present
Peter H. B. Daniels(m. 19711976)

Lainie Kazan (born May 15, 1939 [1] or 1940 [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 My Big Fat Greek Wedding and its sequel film My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 .


Early life

Kazan was born Lainie Levine in Brooklyn [3] [4] as the daughter of Carole (née Kazan) and Benjamin Levine. [5] Kazan's mother Carole was of Sephardic Jewish extraction, her family having originally come from Jerusalem; [6] [7] and her father Benjamin, who was of Russian Ashkenazi Jewish descent, worked as a gambling bookmaker. [8] [9] Kazan has described her mother as "neurotic, fragile and artistic." [10] [11] [9] She attended Brooklyn's Erasmus Hall High School, where she was a senior while Barbra Streisand, whom she would later understudy, was a sophomore. She studied theatre at HB Studio [12] and graduated from Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, on Long Island, in 1960. While at Hofstra, Kazan appeared in school musicals written and directed by a classmate, future Academy Award-winning 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 herself could not perform due to a throat condition, Kazan took her place in both 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 at, and operate, two different Playboy Jazz Clubs. Overseen by Hugh Hefner himself, the clubs were called "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 DC Comics superheroine, Big Barda. [13]

Along with appearing in numerous supper clubs across the country, Kazan guest-starred on Dean Martin’s variety series twenty-six 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 such guest roles as one on St. Elsewhere, that resulted in an Emmy nomination. Her other television work has included The Paper Chase, Touched by an Angel, and Will & Grace as Grace's Aunt Honey.

Kazan played Maria Portokalos, the mother of Toula Portokalos (Nia Vardalos) in the films My Big Fat Greek Wedding and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. Following the first film in the franchise, Kazan was featured in My Big Fat Greek Life, a short-lived series based on the film. 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 had appeared as the once-renowned singer Ava St. Clair with Chuck and Larry co-star Kevin James in two episodes of The King of Queens, a TV series with James in the lead role.

A life member of The Actors Studio, [14] 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 also 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, among others. 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. [15] In 2010, Kazan joined the cast of Desperate Housewives for Season 7. She played the role of a self-employed business owner and neighbor to Susan Delfino, mrs Maxine Rosen. [16]

Personal life

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. [17] [18] [3] The marriage did not last, and Kazan was single again by 1976. [17]

In the 1970s, Kazan was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Since then, she has dedicated time to public education about DVT. [19] [20] On April 9, 2016, Kazan was injured in a head-on collision. Kazan was driving her sport utility vehicle when the collision occurred in front of a Greek restaurant in Sherman Oaks, California. Kazan was hospitalized following the crash. [21] [22]

Beginning in 2012, Kazan became an adjunct professor at UCLA, teaching acting classes and directing her students in drama-department production. She has served on the boards of the Young Musicians’ Foundation, AIDS Project LA, and B'nai Brith, the California Jazz Foundation, and her alma mater, Hofstra University. [23]



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
1987Medium RareHelga Costas
1988 Out of the Dark Hooker / Nancy
1988 Beaches Leona Bloom
1989EternityMother / BerneiceUncredited
1991 29th Street Mrs. Pesce
1992 I Don't Buy Kisses Anymore Sarah Fishbine
1993 The Cemetery Club Selma
1996 Love Is All There Is Sadie Capomezzo
1996Movies Money MurderSylvia
1996 The Associate Cindy Mason
1997Allie & MeCamille Alexander
1998 The Big Hit Jeanne Shulman
1998 Permanent Midnight Jerry's Mother at FuneralUncredited
1998The Unknown CyclistRachel
1999Mike & Spike Movie
2000 What's Cooking? Ruth 'Ruthie' Seelig
2000 Bruno Sister Mary PerpetuaAlso known as The Dress Code
2000 The Crew Pepper Lowenstein
2002 My Big Fat Greek Wedding Maria Portokalos
2002 Eight Crazy Nights Old WomanSinging voice
2003 Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There Documentary
2003 A Good Night to Die Diane
2003 Gigli Mother
2004 Red Riding Hood Grandma
2005 Whiskey School Hedy Seligman
2007 Bratz: The Movie Bubbie
2007Beau JestMiriam Goldman
2008 You Don't Mess with the Zohan Gail
2009 Oy Vey! My Son Is Gay!! Shirley Hirsch
2010 Expecting Mary Lillian Littlefeather
2012Divorce InvitationElaine Lipnicks
2013Finding JoyGloria
2013Growing Defiant
2015Pearly GatesMillie
2015 Pixels Mickey Lamonsoff
2016 My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 Maria Portokalos
2018 The Amityville Murders Nona


1962 Car 54, Where Are You? Girl at barEpisode: "Je T'Adore Muldoon"
1965 Ben Casey DellaEpisode: "Why Did the Day Go Backwards?"
1969 The Dean Martin Show
1977 The Bobby Vinton Show
1978A Love Affair: The Eleanor and Lou Gehrig StorySophie Tucker Television film
1978 Columbo Valerie KirkEpisode: "Make Me a Perfect Murder"
1980A Cry for LoveTina WeathersbyTelevision film
1983 Sunset Limousine Jessie DurningTelevision film
1984The Jerk, TooCard PlayerTelevision film
1984Obsessive LoveMargaret ChaseTelevision film
1985–1986 The Paper Chase Rose Samuels15 episodes
1986 Tough Cookies Rita6 episodes
1987 Karen's Song Claire Steiner13 episodes
1989 Hägar the Horrible Helga (voice)Television short
1990Earthday Birthday(voice)Television film
1992 Beverly Hills 90210 Rose ZuckermanEpisode: "Down and Out of District in Beverly Hills"
1995–1998 The Nanny Aunt Freida4 episodes
1995Prince for a DayRoseTelevision film
1998 Safety Patrol Mrs. DayTelevision film
2001 Will & Grace Aunt HoneyEpisode: "Moveable Feast"
2002Returning LillyTelevision film
2003 My Big Fat Greek Life Maria Portokalos7 episodes
2005The Engagement RingAlicia Rosa AnselmiTelevision film
2006 Living with Fran Cookie (Fran's mom)Television film
2007 The King of Queens Ava St. Clair2 episodes
2008 Boston Legal Judge Paula SternEpisode: "Dances with Wolves"
2010Medium RareHelga CostasEpisode: "Episode #1.1"
2010 'Til Death Donna3 episodes
2010 Desperate Housewives Maxine Rosen5 episodes
2012 Modern Family EleanorEpisode: "New Year's Eve"
2013 Jessie Wanda WinkleEpisode: "Throw Momma From the Terrace"
2013 Greys Anatomy C.J.Episode: "Two Against One"
2014 RuPaul's Drag Race HerselfEpisode: "Glamazon"
2018 Young & Hungry Susie LowensteinEpisode: "Young and Third Wheel"
2018 Fuller House IrmaEpisode: "Angels' Night Out"

Stage work


As guest vocalist

With Benny Carter

Related Research Articles

Barbra Streisand American singer, actress, writer, film producer, and director

Barbara Joan "Barbra" Streisand is an American singer, actress, and filmmaker. In a career spanning six decades, she has achieved success in multiple fields of entertainment and has been recognized with two Academy Awards, ten Grammy Awards including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the Grammy Legend Award, five Emmy Awards including one Daytime Emmy, a Special Tony Award, an American Film Institute award, a Kennedy Center Honors prize, four Peabody Awards, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and nine Golden Globes. She is among a small group of entertainers who have been honored with an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award – though only three were competitive awards – and is one of only three artists in that group who have also won a Peabody.

<i>Funny Girl</i> (musical) musical

Funny Girl is a 1964 musical with a book by Isobel Lennart, music by Jule Styne, and lyrics by Bob Merrill. The semi-biographical plot is based on the life and career of Broadway star, film actress and comedian Fanny Brice featuring her stormy relationship with entrepreneur and gambler Nick Arnstein. Its original title was My Man.

<i>My Big Fat Greek Wedding</i> 2002 film by Joel Zwick

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a 2002 independent romantic comedy film directed by Joel Zwick and written by Nia Vardalos, who also stars in the film as Fotoula "Toula" Portokalos, a middle class Greek American woman who falls in love with non-Greek upper middle class White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Ian Miller. The film received generally positive reviews from critics and, at the 75th Academy Awards, it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

Andrea Martin American and Canadian actress

Andrea Louise Martin is an American actress, singer, author and comedian, best known for her work in the television series SCTV and Great News. She has appeared in films such as Black Christmas (1974), Wag the Dog (1997), Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001), My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002), My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016), and Little Italy (2018). She has also lent her voice to the animated films Anastasia (1997), The Rugrats Movie (1998) and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001).

Fanny Brice American actress, singer and comedian

Fania Borach, known professionally as Fanny Brice or Fannie Brice, was an American comedienne, illustrated song model, singer, and theater and film actress who made many stage, radio, and film appearances. She is known as the creator and star of the top-rated radio comedy series The Baby Snooks Show.

Nia Vardalos Canadian-born American actress, screenwriter, director, and producer of Greek descent

Antonia Eugenia "Nia" Vardalos is a Canadian actress, screenwriter, and producer. Her most notable work is the 2002 film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which was based on a one-woman stage play she dramatized and in which she starred.

Rita Wilson Actress, producer

Margarita Ibrahimoff, known professionally as Rita Wilson, is an American actress, singer, songwriter, and producer. Her film appearances include Volunteers (1985), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), Now and Then (1995), Jingle All the Way (1996), The Story of Us (1999), Runaway Bride (1999), It's Complicated (2009), and Larry Crowne (2011), and she appeared in the television series The Good Wife and Girls. Wilson has performed on Broadway, and has produced several films, including My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002). As a singer/songwriter, Wilson has released the albums AM/FM, Rita Wilson, Bigger Picture, and Halfway to Home. In March 2019, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Michael Constantine American actor

Michael Constantine is an American actor of Greek descent.

<i>My Big Fat Greek Life</i> television series

My Big Fat Greek Life is an American sitcom television series that ran on CBS from February 24 to April 13, 2003. The series is a continuation of the 2002 movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding and was produced by Sony Pictures Television and Tom Hanks's Playtone Productions for CBS. The two lead characters' names are changed, from Toula and Ian, to Nia and Thomas.

<i>The Barbra Streisand Album</i> 1963 studio album by Barbra Streisand

The Barbra Streisand Album is the debut album by Barbra Streisand, released February 25, 1963, on Columbia Records, catalogue CL 2007 in mono and CS 8807 in stereo. It peaked at #9 on the Billboard pop albums chart, and has been certified a gold album by the RIAA.

<i>The Second Barbra Streisand Album</i> 1963 studio album by Barbra Streisand

The Second Barbra Streisand Album is the title of Barbra Streisand's second solo studio album. It was released in August 1963, just six months after the release of her debut album, The Barbra Streisand Album, and was recorded in four days in June 1963.

Laura Benanti American actress and singer

Laura Ilene Benanti is an American actress and singer.

<i>My Favorite Year</i> (musical) Musical by Joseph Dougherty, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahren

My Favorite Year is a musical with a book by Joseph Dougherty, music by Stephen Flaherty, and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. It is based on the film of the same name.

Lea Michele American actress, singer and author

Lea Michele Sarfati is an American actress, singer, and author. She began her career as a child actress on Broadway, appearing in productions of Les Misérables (1995–1996), Ragtime (1997–1999), Fiddler on the Roof (2004–2005), and Spring Awakening (2006–2008). Michele came to major prominence playing Rachel Berry on the Fox series Glee (2009–2015), for which she received an Emmy Award nomination and two Golden Globe nominations. She earned three Grammy Award nominations for music she recorded for Glee, also spawning multiple hits on the Billboard charts. She subsequently starred as Hester Ulrich on the Fox series Scream Queens (2015–2016) and as Valentina Barella on the ABC sitcom The Mayor (2017).

<i>Funny Girl</i> (film) 1968 film by William Wyler

Funny Girl is a 1968 American biographical musical comedy-drama film directed by William Wyler. The screenplay by Isobel Lennart was adapted from her book for the eponymous stage musical. It is loosely based on the life and career of Broadway and film star and comedian Fanny Brice and her stormy relationship with entrepreneur and gambler Nicky Arnstein.

<i>My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2</i> 2016 film by Kirk Jones

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is a 2016 American romantic comedy film directed by Kirk Jones and written by Nia Vardalos. The film stars Vardalos, John Corbett, Lainie Kazan, Michael Constantine, Andrea Martin, Ian Gomez and Elena Kampouris. It is the sequel to the 2002 film My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Filming began in late May 2015 in Toronto.

Elena Kampouris is an American actress. She is known for her roles as Allison Doss in the 2014 drama Men, Women & Children, Maya Decker in the NBC drama series American Odyssey, Paris Miller in the 2016 romantic comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, and Juliet Sykes in the 2017 drama Before I Fall. In 2016, Kampouris made her Broadway debut in Les Liaisons Dangereuses as Cécile Volanges.

David Hein is a Canadian librettist, composer-lyricist, musician, and actor best known for co-writing the Broadway musical Come from Away with his writing partner and wife, Irene Sankoff.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a franchise that consists of two films, My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016), and a TV series, My Big Fat Greek Life (2003).

Irene Sankoff is a Canadian librettist and composer-lyricist, best known for co-writing the Broadway musical Come from Away with her writing partner and husband, David Hein.


  1. "Lainie Kazan: Performer". Internet Broadway Database (The Broadway League). Retrieved December 26, 2017.
  2. "Lainie Kazan papers 1960-1998". The New York Public Library.
  3. 1 2 3 4 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 . 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. Miller, Gerri (March 23, 2016). "Lainie Kazan happily goes 'Greek' again for comedy sequel". Jewish Journal. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  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. 1 2 Breslauer, Jan (February 2, 1997). "You Can't Pin Her Down". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved November 6, 2016.
  10.; accessed July 18, 2014. Archived September 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  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. HB Studio Alumni
  13. Evanier, Mark. "The Jack F.A.Q." Archived from the original on December 17, 2010. Retrieved January 15, 2011.
  14. 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 Publishing Co., Inc. p. 278. ISBN   978-0025426504.
  15. Abrams, Natalie (January 22, 2010). "Ugly Betty Casts Bobby's Parents". TV Guide . Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  16. Abrams, Natalie (August 17, 2010). "Lainie Kazan to Guest-Star on Desperate Housewives". TV Guide . Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  17. 1 2 Breslauer, Jan (February 2, 1997). "You Can't Pin Her Down". Los Angeles Times . p. 2. 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, although the match was only to last a few more years. In 1976, newly single and a mother...
  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. Thrombosis Forum Members, Georgia (May 4, 2017). "Spreading Awareness of Blood Clots". Atlanta Jewish Times. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  21. "'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' star Lainie Kazan in car crash". New York Daily News . Retrieved 2016-04-19.
  22. "'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' star Lainie Kazan reportedly hospitalized after car crash". Fox News. April 14, 2016.
  23. 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.