‘Golden Girls’ Star Chick Vennera Got Start in a Broadway Version of a Popular ’70’s Musical

by Leanne Stahulak
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Before he premiered in a three-episode stint on “Golden Girls,’ actor Chick Vennera toured on Broadway for a 1970s production of “Grease.”

Born in 1947, Vennera started his acting career early, taking dance lessons at the age of three and performing at nightclubs while in high school, according to his IMDb bio. Sadly, the Hollywood star died of lung cancer in his Burbank, California, home on Wednesday, July 7. His only daughter Nicky Vennera broke the news about the 74-year-old’s death to The Hollywood Reporter.

Though he was born in Herkimer, New York, Vennera moved to the West Coast shortly after graduating high school to start his career in entertainment. After serving in the U.S. Army, the “Golden Girls” actor took a job with Disney on Parade, traveling around North America for two years. Then, in the early 1970s, Vennera finally traveled back to New York to audition for a new show called, “Grease.”

Vennera landed the role of Sonny LaTierri, a friend of Danny Zuko’s, member of the T-birds, and boyfriend to Marty. According to his IMDb profile, Vennera “performed first in the ‘Bus and Truck’ Tour, and then later in the second National Tour. When ‘Grease”‘broke the record of longest-running musical, Chick performed the role of ‘Sonny’ on Broadway.”

The “Golden Girls” star toured with the Broadway cast from October 1973 to November 1974. After that, it was back to Los Angeles to get back into television and film.

Chick Vennera’s ‘Golden Girls’ Performances and Other Acting Credits

Vennera actually played two different characters on seasons four and five of the beloved 1980s sitcom. In episode 18 of season four, “Fiddler on the Ropes,” Vennera stars as young Cuban boxer Pepe, a fighter who Sophia Petrillo (played by Estelle Getty) trains in the hopes of making some money. In episodes four and 10 of season five, Vennera plays the egotistical reporter Enrique Mas. He offers a job to Rose Nylund (played by Betty White) at the local TV station when she loses her pension.

But “The Golden Girls” isn’t Vennera’s biggest acting credit, according to IMDb. The star also made a name for himself in the 1978 film “Thank God It’s Friday” as well as the 1988 Robert Redford-directed movie “The Milagro Beanfield.”

But it was in the late 1980s that Vennera discovered one of his key talents: voice acting. The “Golden Girls” star started out by voicing 16 episodes of a TV show called “Foofur.” Vennera dabbled in a few other animated shows in the early 90s before hitting big with “Animaniacs.”

Vennera performed the voices for three roles in the show: Pesto, Sparrow, and Joe P. He worked on 22 episodes of the cartoon from 1993 to 1998, his longest acting stint by far. He also performed several roles for nine episodes of the 1996 cartoon “The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest.”

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