Ruth Buzzi: Comedienne and Former Stonington High School Cheerleader!

One of the most accomplished comedic actresses ever to grace the small screen had her humble beginnings by the sea in southeastern Connecticut.

By Patch Columnist Philip R. Devlin.

The former star of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In TV show and regular on the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast Series was born in Westerly, RI, in 1936 and spent her formative years right here in CT.

One of the more memorable characters from TV's popular series Rowan and Martin's Laugh- In (1969-74) was Gladys Ormphby. Gladys's signature garb was drab brown with a close-fitted hair net drawn up tightly in the middle of her forehead. She also carried a brown purse, which she was quick to employ as a weapon against anyone who bothered her; in fact, her purse-beatings became her best-known comedic reaction to others within flailing range and were often hilarious.

Gladys, played by Stonington native Ruth Buzzi, was also a regular on the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast Series (1974-84), which began 39 years ago this week. On that show, Gladys would usually participate as a roaster and would often pretend to be the rejected lover of the person being roasted. She would then inflict a purse beating on the person being roasted and anyone else who dared to intervene, much to the delight of the audience.

Ruth Buzzi also appeared as a regular for six years on Sesame Street, where she was nominated for an Emmy for her work as the character "Ruthie," and played the voice of the character "Susie Kabloozie." Buzzi also has appeared in dozens of TV commercials, several movies, and many TV variety shows.

For her extensive TV work, Ruth Buzzi received five Emmy nominations and won a Golden Globe in 1973 for her work on Laugh-In. She has been inducted into the Television Hall of Fame (2002) and into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame (1971). Her work in Clorox 2 commercials garnered her a Clio Award for "Best Spokeswoman."

Raised in the Wequetequock Cove section of Stonington, Buzzi's dad was a talented sculptor who ran a stone memorial business named "Buzzi Memorials," which is still run today by Ruth's brother, Harold (see gallery photo). Her father, Angelo Buzzi, was a very talented sculptor whose best-known works include the marble eagles at Penn Station, the Leif Erikson Memorial in Providence, and the animals seen in relief at the Museum of Natural History in New York City. Angelo Buzzi was also asked to work on Mt. Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota during the 1930s, but he declined due to his fear of heights.

Both Harold and Ruth Buzzi seem to have inherited their dad's artistic gifts, as Harold continues to carve stone memorials, and Ruth is noted for her oil paintings, which she often donates for sale at one of her many favorite charities.

Following her graduation from Stonington High School — where she was captain of the cheerleading squad — Ruth entered the Pasadena Playhouse For the Performing Arts in California. She graduated from there with honors, along with her classmates Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman. After traveling with music and comedy shows, she finally got attention in a comedic magical act that she performed with Dom DeLuise. She soon found her way onto many TV variety shows and from there to Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In in 1969. She was one of the few Laugh-In regulars to last for the entire run of the show.

After that, her career exploded with offers.

Retired now at age 77, Ruth Buzzi lives on a 220-acre ranch near Fort Worth, Texas, where she raises cattle and quarterhorses. (She has a horse named Gladys!) Ruth and her husband collect classic automobiles, including the "muscle" cars of the 1960s. She reportedly has a net worth exceeding $10 million, which she is quick to share with many of her favorite charities, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Special Olympics, St. Jude's, Big Brothers and Sisters, and numerous animal-rescue charities.

Given all of her accomplishments and her charitable nature, one wonders why Ruth Buzzi has not been inducted into the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame.

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