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RIP, Jerry Orbach

Jerry Orbach, best known for playing Lennie Briscoe on Law and Order, has died from cancer.

Orbach died Tuesday night in Manhattan after several weeks of treatment, Audrey Davis of the public relations agency Lippin Group said.

When his illness was diagnosed, he had begun production on NBC’s upcoming spinoff Law & Order: Trial By Jury, after 12 seasons playing Detective Lennie Briscoe in the original series. His return to the new show had been expected early next year.

On Broadway, the Bronx-born Orbach starred in hit musicals including Carnival, Promises, Promises (for which he won a Tony Award), Chicago and 42nd Street.

Earlier, he was in the original cast of the off-off-Broadway hit The Fantasticks, playing the narrator. The show went on to run for more than 40 years.

Among his film appearances were roles in Dirty Dancing, Prince of the City and Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Orbach is expected to appear in early episodes of Law & Order: Trial by Jury, for which he continued as Briscoe in a secondary role, when the series premieres later this season, Davis said.

“I’m immensely saddened by the passing of not only a friend and colleague, but a legendary figure of 20th Century show business,” said Dick Wolf, creator and executive producer of the “Law & Order” series, in a statement. “He was one of the most honored performers of his generation. His loss is irreplaceable.”

My dad knew a lot of New York detectives in his time as a judge. He told me once that there was one particular homicide cop he knew who was just like the Lennie Briscoe character. For sure, New York cops loved the character and the actor behind him.

It’s gotten to the point that Orbach literally stops traffic, because drivers hit the brakes to give him a shout-out. But his biggest fans are the men in blue.

“The police? Oh, my God. It’s a straight-up love affair with the man,” says Jesse L. Martin, who plays Briscoe’s partner, Detective Ed Green. “It’s as if he really is a detective.”

“The police treat me very nicely,” Orbach, 68, confirms. “If it’s raining and I can’t get a cab, sometimes a squad car will come by and they’ll say, `Where you going?’ I say, `I don’t want to get you guys in trouble.’ They say, `Get in the back. We’ll pretend you’re under arrest.’ ”

[…]

Last year, the New York Landmarks Conservancy decreed Orbach a Living Landmark, an honor generally bestowed only on quintessential New Yorkers. “It means they can’t tear me down,” Orbach says.

Rest in peace, Jerry Orbach.

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One Comment

  1. Powerful thoughts

    Brandy and I have been running out of TV to watch, so we started tivoing Law & Order on TNT (they really know drama, but don’t know not to buy a dot tv domain) a few weeks ago. Since the show has been on for over a decade TNT can afford to play it a …