Dick Latessa, Tony-Winning ‘Hairspray’ Star, Dies at 87

Dick Latessa, the Tony Award-winning actor who co-starred in the original Broadway production of “Hairspray,” has died. He was 87.

The stage veteran, who also had screen credits on film (“Alfie,” “The Substance of Fire”) and television (“Get Smart,” “Law & Order,” “The Sopranos,” “True Blue”), was best remembered for creating the role of Wilbur Turnblad, the novelty-store owner who is the loyal, loving patriarch of the Turnblad clan in “Hairspray.” His tender performance, opposite Harvey Fierstein as his wife Edna, earned him a Tony in 2003; his death came just a couple of weeks after “Hairspray” returned to the public consciousness in a big way with the broadcast of NBC’s “Hairspray Live!”

Born in Cleveland in 1929, Latessa served in the army in the 1950s before moving to New York to try his hand at acting, eventually making his Broadway debut in 1968 musical “The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N.” His other Broadway credits included the original 1971 production of “Follies” as well as “The Will Rogers Follies,” “Damn Yankees” and stints in Neil Simon comedies such as “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “Broadway Bound,” “Rumors,” “Chapter Two” and “Proposals.” His most recent appearance there was in the Nicky Silver’s 2012 play “The Lyons.”

Latessa’s death was announced by the Broadway League’s Tony Awards.

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