Chick Venera, a prolific actor and voice actor perhaps most recognizable for his scene-stealing disco dance performance atop parked cars within the 1978 hit comedy Thank God It’s Friday, died from cancer yesterday at his range in Burbank. Venera, who voiced characters for Animaniacs and Batman Beyond, among many other series, and appeared during the late 1980s within the recurring role of Enrique on the NBC sitcom The Golden Girls, was 74. His death was confirmed by his daughter Nicky Venera.
Born Francis Vennera in Herkimer, New York, the actor known professionally as Chick Vennera moved to California after high school, studying at the Pasadena Playhouse. After a stint within the Army, Venera returned to the West Coast to perform musically in nightclubs and, for 2 years, as a singer and dancer within the Disney on Parade tour. He also toured within the national company of Grease also as performing a stint within the musical on Broadway during the first 1970s.]
Venera began an extended and busy TV career with appearances in 1975 on the dramas Lucas Tanner and Baretta. He recurred the subsequent year on the miniseries Arthur Hailey’s the Moneychangers and Once an Eagle. The actor garnered significant attention for his performance as Marv Gomez, a disco devotee clad during a head-to-toe brown leather leisure suit within the comedy Thank God It’s Friday starring Donna Summer. In his most memorable scene, a stoned Gomez climbs atop parked cars outside the disco and performs an athletic, cartwheeling dance routine to the delight of onlookers. “Dancing!,” he proclaims after falling through the roof of 1 car. “Everything else is bullish*t!”
Subsequent credits would come with a recurring role within the 1978-81 Robert Urich drama series Vega$, also as appearances in such series as T.J. Hooker, Diff’rent Strokes, and criminal court. In 1979 he was featured within the John Schlesinger film Yanks starring Richard Gere. In 1988, he was cast during a significant role in Robert Redford’s Milagro Beanfield War, and therefore the following year returned to television with two roles within the Golden Girls, the primary as a boxer and therefore the second, during a two-episode arc, as an egotistical reporter named Enrique Mas.
Venera had a prolific career within the 1990s as a voice actor, performing on animated series including Capitol Critters, Batman: The Animated Series, the important Adventures of Jonny Quest, Animaniacs and Pinky, and therefore the Brain. He also founded and taught at Los Angeles’ Renegade Theatre and Film Group. In addition to his daughter, Venera is survived by his wife Suzanne Venera.