Making her stage bow at age five in a community production of Alice in Wonderland, Linda Lavin spent the next ten years studying piano under the watchful eye of her stage mother. After majoring in theater arts at William and Mary College, Lavin appeared in stock in New Jersey, then weathered the chorus-audition rounds in New York, making her off-Broadway debut in a 1960 revival of Oh, Kay (1960). Two years later, she reached Broadway in A Family Affair. She went on to play Lois Lane (a la Ethel Merman) in the short-lived 1965 Broadway musical It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman, and when that show folded she starred in the off-Broadway production Wet Paint, which earned her a Theatre World Award. The musicomedy review The Mad Show followed, then Lavin was selected by director Alan Arkin to play Patsy Newquist (one of her favorite roles, and one that earned her the New York Critics' Outer Circle Award) in Jules Feiffer's Little Murders (1968). She subsequently played all the female roles in 1969's Cop-Out (another of her favorites) and Elaine Navazio in Neil Simon's Last of the Red Hot Lovers. From 1968 onward, Lavin made periodic trips to Hollywood. Her work as detective Janice Wentworth during the 1975-76 season of TV's Barney Miller led to a supporting role in the pilot episode of the proposed series Jerry. CBS nixed Jerry but signed Lavin to a development deal, which of course developed into her ten-season (1976-85) hitch as waitress Alice Hyatt in the popular sitcom Alice. Recalling that her counterpart in the 1975 film Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore was an aspiring singer, Lavin inked her Alice contract on the assumption that the producers would permit her to sing--which they did, on practically every other network program except Alice. Returning to Broadway after her series folded, Lavin won a Tony award for her performance in Neil Simon's Broadway Bound, and also starred in Gypsy and The Sisters Rosensweig. She also made a brief return to TV as Edie Kurland in the one-season comedy Room for Two (1992). Linda Lavin was at one time married to actor Ron Leibman.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Mother was an accomplished opera singer in New York.
- Went to college to become a French interpretor but instead chose to major in the performing arts.
- Lived with Olympia Dukakis in New York when the two were struggling stage actors.
- Made her feature film debut in The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984).
- In 1997, founded The Linda Lavin Arts Foundation, dedicated to the development of performing and visual arts.
- Inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame during a ceremony in New York City's Gershwin Theatre on January 24, 2011.
- Taught master classes in acting and singing at New York University.