Judy Tenuta, the gleefully astringent comedian whose hellishly clever characters have earned her the nicknames “The Love Goddess” and “Aphrodite of the Accordion,” died Thursday, her publicist said.
Tenuta had battled stage 4 ovarian cancer. She was 72.
Her age was initially incorrectly listed as 65 in some outlets, with publicist Roger Neal telling the Associated Press that this matched Tenuta’s “old” design. “She would never tell her real age,” he explained, “but now that she’s gone we can tell her real age.”
A touring mate of George Carlin and a frequent collaborator with fellow accordionist “Weird Al” Yankovic – and often the only woman in the room – Tenuta has carved a place for herself as a scathing, gritty-voiced comedienne who never strays too far from her trademark accordion, a musical instrument, which they used as a near-weapon weapon of mass destruction.
Tenuta was born in 1949 (not 1965 as she might have you believe) and was one of nine children in her Catholic family. Judy, named after Garland, developed a love of comedy at an early age, taking improv classes with the famous Second City group and eventually joining their troupe. She studied theater at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she was the first in her family to graduate from college.
Tenuta launched a solo standup career and moved to New York City in the 1980s, where she performed in 1987 women of the night, a comedy special from HBO, starring Ellen DeGeneres and Paula Poundstone. It was one of many she would eventually grace with her presence, including several at Showtime and Lifetime.
As she honed her performances in clubs across the country, her roster of campy personalities grew to include The Petite Flower, Empress of Elvis Impersonators and Buffer of Foreheads. A two-time Grammy nominee for Best Comedy Album, Tenuta became the first female comedian to win Best Female Comedian at the American Comedy Awards.
Tenuta has been a fierce supporter of gay rights throughout her career, often participating in or even organizing Pride marches. She called herself an ordained minister — of Judaism, a religion she invented — and claimed on her website that she was “available for same-sex marriages!”
In addition to a handful of wickedly outlandish television commercials that ran for MTV and Diet Dr The Weird Al ShowSPace Spirit from coast to coast, and Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide. Her cinematic forays included rotations in the 1996s butch camp and 1998 Boulevard of Despair.
She also hit the boards in Los Angeles and Chicago in shows like The Vagina Monologues and Menopause The Musical.
Tenuta is survived by life partner Vern Pang, six siblings, and a scattering of nieces and nephews. She is buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
“Devastated to hear of the death of my dear, dear friend, the lovely Miss Judy Tenuta,” Yankovic wrote on Thursday. “I can’t believe she’s gone. Earth has truly lost a goddess.”
https://www.thedailybeast.com/publicist-reveals-real-age-of-love-goddess-judy-tenuta-after-death?source=articles&via=rss Publicist Reveals True Age of ‘Love Goddess’ Judy Tenuta After Death