Joey Faye, a burlesque comic who appeared in 36 Broadway shows, performed with stripper Gypsy Rose Lee and played the dancing grapes in Fruit of the Loom commercials, died April 26 of complications from heart failure at the Actor’s Home in Englewood, N.J. He was 87.
Born Joseph Palladino to a sideshow barber for the Barnum & Bailey circus, Faye began in burlesque in the early ’30s on the Borscht Belt, the theater circuit known for its mainly Russian Jewish audience in the Catskill Mountains.
Faye headlined with Abbott & Costello, Phil Silvers and Rags Ragland, usually appearing as the sidekick who is on the receiving end of a comic’s punchline.
“He was one of the last of the great burlesque fellows. He was a mine of information for all the old sketches. He knew them by heart,” said actor Tony Randall, who worked with Faye in 1993 in the National Actors Theater Broadway revival of “Three Men on a Horse.”
In a 65-year career that included film, vaudeville, Broadway and television, Faye performed “Guys and Dolls” at the White House for President Lyndon Johnson and toured overseas with Marlene Dietrich, Gypsy Rose Lee and the USO.
Faye performed in 36 Broadway shows, including “High Button Shoes” (1947), “Top Banana” (1951), and “Little Me” with Sid Caesar in 1962. He had parts in movies like “That Touch of Mink” (1962) starring Cary Grant, and “North to Alaska” (1960) with John Wayne.
Faye also starred in numerous television shows, including the premiere of the “Kraft Music Hall” program.
On TV throughout the 1980s, Faye appeared as the dancing grapes in the Fruit of the Loom underwear commercials.
He is survived by his wife and two sisters.