Roman made his name performing at hotels and resorts in the Catskill Mountains, later performing to huge crowds in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.
BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. – Comedian Freddie Roman, former dean of The Friars Club And a staple of the Catskills comedy scene has died. He was 85 years old.
Roman died Saturday afternoon at Bethesda Hospital in Boynton Beach, Florida, his booking agent and friend Alison Chaplin said Sunday. His daughter told the entertainment trade Deadline that he suffered a heart attack that morning.
Roman made his name performing at hotels and resorts in the Catskill Mountains, also known as the Borscht Belt for the large crowds of Jewish vacationers there, and comedians such as Mel Brooks and Don Rickles who entertained him. . He later performed at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and at Bally’s Grand in Atlantic City, and he roasted the likes of Rob Reiner, Chevy Chase, Jerry Stiller and Hugh Hefner. He also conceived “Catskills on Broadway,” where he and his friends Dick Capri, Marlon Michaels and Mal Z. Lawrence brought their nostalgic, Catskills-flavored stand-up to New York. He also appeared in various television shows and movies over the years, including “Red Oaks” on Amazon.
“A huge loss to the world of comedy,” Paul Reiser wrote on Twitter. “He was such a great supporter and mentor when I was starting out. A great comic, the ultimate pro with the biggest heart. I’ll miss our phone calls and his great laughs.
Born Fred Kirshenbaum on May 28, 1937 in Newark, New Jersey and raised in Jamaica, Queens, Roman got an early taste of stand-up comedy thanks to his family. His uncle and grandfather owned the Crystal Spring Hotel in the Catskills, where Roman began going out at age 15.
In “Catskills on Broadway,” Roman comments on everything from his childhood in Queens to his “retirement life” in Florida.
“I took a cholesterol test,” Roman said. “My number came back to 911.”
The New York Times wrote in its review of the show in 1991, “Catskill Resorts is battling the recession, but Catskill comedy hasn’t lost its flair.”
The show, he later said, changed his life. It went to Broadway and then toured the country, and Roman would continue to perform for years to come. He was also made dean of the New York City Friars Club, where he mentored many aspiring comedians and infused the private club with young talent.
One of those young comedians was Geoffrey Ross, who said of Roman in 2003, “When I was joining, there weren’t many of us who were young. But Freddie would always come and do my And spending time with my friends and being real cute.
Capri said in the same interview that Roman was the best ambassador of comedy.
“They are the social directors of the world,” Capri said. “And he loves every second of it.”
This position lasted a little longer than he expected. Roman joked about his tenure, saying, “Eleven years ago I was president for two years. I’m like the Fidel Castro of comedians. I’m president for life.” In 2014, Larry King replaced him.
But, he told Atlantic City Weekly in 2011, the biggest job he ever had was opening for Frank Sinatra, when his regular opening act, comedian Tom Dressen, was unavailable. Roman learned of the opportunity for a layover in Chicago, got off the plane and took another one to Philadelphia with only a few hours left before a show in Atlantic City.
Seeing Sinatra laughing, he left the stage. The singer even called him back for another bow.
“Frank hugged me, and I looked at my wife and daughter and they were crying,” Roman said. “It was incredible. … Working with Sinatra has never been topped.”