Art Metrano, a comedian and actor who appeared in more than 120 television shows and films, including the “Police Academy” films, was seriously injured by a fall from a ladder, an ordeal he took. Turned into a one-man show, he performed all over the country, he died on September 8 at his home in Aventura, Fla. He was 84 years old.
His son Harry confirmed his death. Reason not given.
Mr Metrono first grabbed attention with a spoof magic act. Introduced as Amazing Metrono or with some equally grand appellation, he would come out and do many tricks that weren’t really tricks. He would present each hand to the audience, raising the index finger, then clasping his hands together behind his back and offering them again—now, two fingers on one hand would be raised, none on the other.
Scholar featured them on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and mixed other shows in the early 1970s. By then he was also pursuing an acting career, landing small parts on “Manix,” “Enchanted” and other series in the late ’60s; The race continued into the ’70s with “Barney Miller,” “Movin’ On,” “Starsky & Hutch” and dozens of other shows.
More acting work followed in the 1980s, including a recurring role on “Johnny Love’s Aunt” and, in 1985, a part in “Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment”, the follow-up to the 1984 hit comedy. He played Mauser, a career-driven officer who becomes a captain and is the butt of jokes; in a scene, he shampoos his hair with epoxy resin. He reprized the role in 1986 in “Police Academy 3: Back in Training”.
But on September 1, 1989, Mr. Metrono’s career was interrupted. He and his wife had a house up for sale at the time, and he stopped by a real estate agent to examine it before showing up. He had worked on the pool, and he noticed that the result was gray cement spray on the back walls and balconies. They decided to close the drain.
“I held the leaning ladder against the wall and set it firmly against the balcony,” he wrote in a memoir, “Blessed Twice” (with Cynthia Lee, 1994, later “Metrano’s Accidental Comedy”) renamed).
Something went wrong, and Mr. Metrano fell off the ladder, hitting the ground head-first, breaking his neck. He couldn’t move. He lay there, imagining the scene to see if he was still lying there when the real estate agent showed up.
“I’ll look up and say, ‘Hi, I’m the boss,'” he wrote in his book. “‘I just broke my neck, but not to worry. The house looks great, doesn’t it? Nice gourmet kitchen!'”
Humor was characteristic of the way he later told the story in print and on stage (a neighbor eventually came to his aid before the real estate agent arrived), but the injury was serious. He had fractured several vertebrae, and was prone to permanent paralysis.
During the stage show he said, “When you are paralyzed in a hospital bed, your past becomes your constant companion because your future is a question mark.”
At first he could neither move nor speak, but eventually he was able to talk and walk again, sometimes with the help of crutches. Within a few years he was telling his story in a one-man show co-written with Ms. Lee, which was screened under various names across the country.
When it was played at the Union Square Theater in Manhattan in 1996 under the title “The Amazing Metrono: An Accidental Comedy,” Vincent Canby, in The New York Times, said that Mr. Metrono “gives new meaning to the term stand-up comedy: it is not the comedy that amazes, but the fact that Mr. Metrono stands out. UP.”
“The Amazing Metrono is therapeutic, inspiring theater,” wrote Mr. Canby. “Mr. Metrono is now publicly working through his trauma, finding in himself resources he never knew he had.”
Arthur Messistrano was born in Brooklyn on September 22, 1936, and grew up in the Bensonhurst section of that city. His father, Aaron, worked in the apparel industry, and his mother, Rebecca (Russo) Messistrano, was a housewife.
He played football at Lafayette High School in Brooklyn and attended the College of the Pacific in California on a football scholarship, but dropped out of college to return to New York to study acting and work on his stand-up comedy. He moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting in 1958.
In his book, he tells of trying to scuttle his way into show business by selling a phone system that helped speed-dial numbers to busy people; Which he found on the studio lot.
“That plan was,” he wrote, “sell the product, make some money, meet the producers and directors, and then show them my 8×10 glossy and fake resume.”
It appeared to be working, as by 1960 he was getting smaller roles. In 1971, he landed a leading role in the CBS sitcom, “The Chicago Teddy Bear”, although the show was short-lived. She had another major role in the 1986 sitcom, “Tough Cookies,” but that show didn’t work as well.
After his accident, he continued to receive occasional TV roles, including “L.A. Law,” “The District” and “Party of Five.”
Mr. Metrono married Rebecca Chute in 1972; They got divorced in 2005. His survivors include his wife, Jamie Golder Metrano; two children from his first marriage, Harry and Zoe Bella Metrano; a daughter from an earlier relationship, Roxanne Elena Metrano; And many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
In 1977, Mr. Metrano came across a son to whom he had been born when he was young, but who had been given up for adoption. That son, Howard the Bald, now a rabbi, held a memorial service for her over the weekend in Florida.