Singer/comedy actress Lu Leonard was a plus-sized talent who came in an equally plus-sized package. Born May Lou Price in Long Beach, California on June 5, 1926, to vaudevillian parents, Lu (as she was called almost from birth) was on the road with her mom and dad as an infant. She was named after her father's sister Lulu. Her actress/mother, Amy Goodrich, was her father's second wife. Amy died in July of 1939 when Lou was only 13. Her father, "Happy" Hal Price, by this time had settled comfortably into Hollywood movies as a character player, finding hundreds of small roles in Republic and Monogram westerns.
As a young singer and entertainer, Lu stuck with the business and advanced into more prominent roles as an adult. A short-lived marriage to another actor gave her the impetus to switch her stage moniker to "Lu Leonard", keeping the name even after their divorce. She eventually spent two decades in New York and brightened up Broadway with noticeable parts in "The Pajama Game," "Happiest Girl in the World," "The Gay Life," "Bravo Giovanni" and "Drat! The Cat." In between she went on tour with such shows as "Plain and Fancy," "The Music Man," "Oliver!" and "Man of La Mancha."
TV took advantage of Lu's hard-looking features and obesity after her return to the Southern California area, her fine sense of comic timing utilized in numerous guest appearances over the years. A good sport despite the fact that the laughs often came at her own expense, she was a lively, cheerful and fun-loving presence offstage in marked contrast to her somewhat hard, imposing character typecast. There were ups-and-downs and some lean years, but she tried to make the most of whatever she was given. She had a recurring role as William Conrad's wry, wise-cracking secretary in "Jake and the Fatman" (1987), in addition to guest parts on such series as "Buffalo Bill", "Laverne & Shirley" (1976) and "Married... with Children" (1987). Most of her stereotypical roles in films were small and low-brow in nature, but she did make one of her more memorable appearances in Micki + Maude (1984) really stand out.
Lu's strongest fanbase came from her offbeat stage performances. She earned a devoted cult audience for her hatchet-faced prison matron in the campy L.A.-based musical spoof "Women Behind Bars" during the late 1980s and was a steady fixture in L.A. theater revues, musicals and comedy shows. Health problems (including diabetes) eventually set in and she left Hollywood in the mid-1990s, living primarily in Oregon. Lu eventually decided to move into the Motion Picture Country Home in Woodland Hills, California, where she spent her remaining years. She died of a heart attack on May 14, 2004 at age 77, and a bench in the Roddy McDowall garden at the Motion Picture Home has been dedicated in her memory.
Harsh and thickset New Yorker singer/comedienne first noticed in 60s Broadway musicals; later in slapstick films.
Developed a cult L.A. following in the early 80s with the campy, small-scale musical "Women Behind Bars".
Remained fairly obscure for much of her career until a choice comedy role in the film Micki + Maude (1984) opened the door to a number of sardonic fun parts in film and TV.
Her beloved infamous stage role as the Matron in the cult LA production of "Women Behind Bars" was a direct take-off on Hope Emerson's grotesque role in the acclaimed women's prison film Caged (1950).
Daughter of actor Hal Price.
Her older half-brother was Harry Franklin Price, Jr.
She was working in a secretarial job at Debbie Reynolds's rehearsal studios in North Hollywood when she was nabbed for the hilariously campy warden role in the cult stage hit "Women Behind Bars.".
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