Prolific character actor Richard Libertini, whose black-bearded visage graced dictators, rabbis, Polonius and priests, died Jan. 7 at 82, his family announced Sunday. A veteran trouper who fought cancer for two years, he worked as recently as two episodes of NBC’s “Aquarius” this summer, playing the father of star David Duchovny’s character.
Among Libertini’s best-known roles are the manic Central American dictator Gen. Garcia in the 1979 comedy classic “The In-Laws,” attorney Barry Slotnick in PBS’ 1988 “American Playhouse” production “The Trial of Bernhard Goetz” and three roles as part of the informal repertory company of ABC’s “Barney Miller.” A member of the pioneering improv-comedy company The Second City, Libertini was a cast member of the group’s acclaimed 1970-71 Broadway production “Paul Sills’ Story Theatre.”
He played characters ranging from Mafia don The Godfather in the satirical sitcom “Soap,” to alien poet Akorem Laan in an episode of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” to a Middle Eastern sheik on “Columbo” to Shakespearean roles in three Joseph Papp productions.
Richard Joseph Libertini was born May 21, 1933, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Esther and Rocco Libertini. He graduated from Emerson College in nearby Boston, and with MacIntyre Dixon and Linda Segal formed the coffeehouse act Stewed Prunes, which went on to play 280 performances off-Broadway at Circle in the Square beginning November 1960. That led to him and Dixon being invited to join Second City, where he met future Oscar nominee Melinda Dillon. The two were married from 1963 until their divorce in 1978.
Billed as Dick Libertini, he made his Broadway debut in 1966 playing Father Drobney in Woody Allen’s “Don’t Drink the Water.” His other Broadway work includes “Conversations With My Father,” “Sly Fox” and “Honeymoon Hotel,” one of three one-act plays in Allen’s 2011 “Relatively Speaking.”
He made his film debut in William Friedkin’s “The Night They Raided Minsky’s” (1968) and appeared in “The Out of Towners” (1970), “Catch-22 (1970), “Days of Heaven” (1978), “All of Me” (1984), “Fletch” (1985) and “Fletch Lives” (1989), as Chevy Chase’s boss, “Awakenings” and “The Bonfire of the Vanities” (both 1990) and other movies. His countless TV roles covered comedies like “The Bob Newhart Show,” “Murphy Brown” and “The Drew Carey Show,” dramas such as “L.A. Law” and “ Numb3rs” and genre fare like “Supernatural.”
His survivors include his son Richard, with Dillon; a sister, Alice Langone; and a brother, Albert. Libertini and Dillon had a second child who died at birth.