Obituary: Larry Villani / Bridgeville native who spent his life acting in New York City

May 26, 1920 - Aug. 25, 2012

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His nickname was "Babe," because, his nephew said, he loved Babe Ruth.

But when Larry Villani, a Bridgeville native, died last Saturday in Manhattan at age 92, he had lived a life almost as colorful as his baseball hero -- as an actor in the theater, movies, soap operas and commercials, said his nephew, Terry Zinger, also of Bridgeville.

Mr. Villani, the son of August and Emira Villani and one of 13 children, graduated from Lincoln High School, then joined the Army, where he served as a medic during World War II.

Afterward, he left for New York "with only $100 in his pocket," Mr. Zinger said, adding that as a child, Mr. Villani loved to dance and perform and later studied at the old Pittsburgh Playhouse in Oakland.

Once Mr. Villani got to New York, a chance tip by an acquaintance led him to audition for showbiz impresario Mike Todd, landing a role in the 1948 musical "As the Girls Go." That led to a lifelong career in show business, including a long run in the popular soap, "The Edge of Night," where, his nephew said, he played a doctor.

He also had bit parts in films, including "Hello, Dolly!" and "The Way We Were," Mr. Zinger added. While Mr. Villani returned to Pittsburgh frequently, he loved life as an actor in New York, regaling his relatives with stories about appearing in shows featuring such stars as Marilyn Monroe, Mae West, Cary Grant and Billie Holiday.

"Some of Larry's last comments were that he had spent his life living his dream."

Besides Mr. Zinger, Mr. Villani is survived by two sisters, Olga Watson of Virginia and Mafalda Garner of Bridgeville, and numerous other nieces and nephews. A funeral was held Wednesday at the Beinhauer-Fryer Family Funeral Home in Bridgeville, with interment at Queen of Heaven Cemetery.

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Mackenzie Carpenter: mcarpenter@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1949.


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