Len Lesser, best known for playing the role of Uncle Leo on the hit show Seinfeld, has died. The character actor and comedian was 88.
And though he’s no longer with us, I think it’s safe to say that he’ll live on in virtually every family on the planet. For most of us have an Uncle Leo, don’t we?
You know, the crazy, eccentric fellow who is always bragging about that cousin you never liked? Or never even met for that matter? That was one of Uncle Leo’s standard bits, you know — bragging about his son and his career at the Parks Department.
I had an eccentric uncle growing up. Uncle Oscar. Like Uncle Leo, he had the propensity for grabbing my arm while he spoke, often in a voice that was way too loud. Only here’s the catch. I’m not even sure the guy was legitimately related to me. I’m pretty sure he was just one of those “uncles” that parents sometime bestow upon their kids.
Uncle Oscar visited Seattle when I lived in the Emerald City during the mid 90s. My parents gave me no warning. (Thanks, Mom.) So when I was surprised by his phone call, the next thing I knew I was eating dinner with him at a posh restaurant in Belltown called the Queen City Grill — just up the hill from the famous Pike Place Market. My girlfriend at the time, who had met Uncle Oscar once before, opted out of the uncomfortable encounter. No wonder we broke up. Anyway, Uncle Oscar was unhappy with his salmon. Instead of simply telling our server, he walked back to the kitchen, plate in hand. Pretty bad, right? Did I mention that his napkin was still tucked into his shirt collar? Or that his fly was down?
Didn’t think so.
I suppose now’s a good time to tell you that Uncle Oscar liked the booze. A lot. I suppose now’s also a good time to tell you that his unexpected and comically contentious appearance in the kitchen brought about our hasty departure. At our server’s insistence. Good news? Uncle Oscar’s salmon was on the house. Bad news? His four vodka martinis were not.
Uncle Oscar passed about ten years ago. I’m sometimes sad that my kids never got the chance to meet him. You couldn’t have written a better character in a five-act play. Or a sitcom for that matter.
Wait. Yes you could. Uncle Leo, as portrayed by Len Lesser, was a classic. Just like Uncle Oscar. Rest in peace, Len. And thank you for all the laughs.
Do you have an Uncle Leo in your family? Have your kids met him?