Requiscat In Pace, Larry...
Lawrence Tierney died in his sleep on Tuesday, 26 February 2002, at 3:15 AM.
He was sometimes a difficult man, but he was good to his friends,
and was one of the greats in Hollywood.
I'll miss him, as will his many fans and friends.
by Todd Mecklem
"Don't kiss me, kid." Todd & Larry: Hollywood 1992
I met famed tough-guy actor Lawrence Tierney several times. Our first meeting was in 1992, when mutual friend C. Courtney Joyner (screenwriter & director par excellence) arranged a lunch, which took place at a sidewalk cafe in Hollywood. This was followed by a tour of the Hollywood Athletic Club, where Larry had lived briefly during the '40s.
Larry mentioned that in the old days, actors would take ladies up to the private rooms and have, ah, trysts atop the pool tables. He laughed racously at the memory. "Those were the days."
Courtney Joyner strangles Larry, fulfilling the dream of many a Hollywood director,
Hollywood Athletic Club, 1992. Photo (c) 1992 by Todd Mecklem.
I got along rather well with Larry. The old man liked the fact that I used to raise goats. Larry talked about classic character actor Elisha Cook Jr. ("We used to go fishing together, he and I...") whom he brutally murdered in "Born to Kill" (1947).
"You remind me of Prince Valiant," Larry said at one point. "Oh, my (long) hair?" I said. "No, not just the hair."
"Again (in BORN TO KILL) the big lug is a squinty-eyed killer, a rock-hard devil with women, the big brute fantasy come alive in all of his horrifying glory...there's no decency at all in Lawrence Tierney's face, the most cruelly handsome visage on film. Unlike Mitchum's face there's no relief in sight, a man incapable of compromise."
-- Barry Gifford, "The Devil Thumbs a Ride & Other Unforgettable Films" (Grove Press, 1988)
Larry as Dillinger on a German film magazine cover I had him sign.
I met Larry again at the 1993 Fangoria Weekend of Horrors in L.A., where Larry signed photos for me (and for other fans) and had to be dissuaded from beating up an Elvis impersonator. This was soon after Quentin Tarantino's first film "Reservoir Dogs" appeared, with Larry in the role of the old crime boss, Joe Cabot. Larry was at the convention as a guest of Hollywood Book and Poster store owner Eric Caidin. Caidin had a stack of photos for fans to buy...unfortunately, they were all prints of a photo of a young Larry, uncharacteristically grinning--a photo that Larry disliked intensely.
Larry as "Joe Cabot" in RESERVOIR DOGS, 1992.
In January of 1999, Courtney and I went with my friend Dan Hooker to visit then 79-year-old Larry at his apartment in Hollywood. We watched "The Devil Thumbs a Ride" and talked about the old days. Larry laughed at his own hijinks on the screen, and for a moment, the years rolled away and he was a young man again, living the wild life onscreen and off. Then the movie was over, and he was old again, but he will be young (and mean) forever on movie and TV screens.
Postscript: One of the last times I saw Larry he showed the caring side that his friends occasionally glimpsed. He had found a stack of clothes in the alley behind his apartment in a mostly working-class section of Hollywood. While I was visiting, some of his Latino neighbors were out in the alley, and Larry wanted me to go and ask if they'd left the clothes out by mistake. His concern for his neighbors' well-being was quite genuine, as real as the tough-guy persona that got him into so much trouble during his lifetime.
If you knew Larry, feel free to send me reminiscences of Larry, or statements about what he meant to you. Send them to me at:
But first, exciting news: a full-length biography of Larry was published in late 2022 by the University Press of Kentucky! LAWRENCE TIERNEY: HOLLYWOOD'S REAL-LIFE TOUGH GUY was written by producer/director/journalist Burt Kearns. See his webpage at https://www.lawrencetierneybook.com. (It's also available on Amazon.)
The book even features a photo of me with Larry, and has a few quotes from me; Burt found this memorial webpage and was kind enough to contact me. My friend, the many-talented C. Courtney Joyner, and many other friends and acquaintances of Larry were interviewed. I couldn’t be more thrilled with this amazing book, and you owe it to yourself to get ahold of a copy and read it!
Yes, I have memories of Larry, since he was my father, Vito’s, best friend. Larry lived with us for a very long time & both my dad & Larry were nearly inseparable. Larry had a great deal of respect for my dad & family...& he was fun to be around. He also could be a pain sometimes...but in a caring way. I have so many wonderful & funny memories of him along with knowing he had anger issues and had an alcohol problem. But...while living with us, he didn’t drink because my dad was against alcohol. When Larry would get into problems my dad would always help him. I loved Larry & he was devastated when my dad passed away. That’s when Larry moved back to California. A few years ago, Larry’s nephew Michael contacted me to talk about Larry but we’ve since lost touch. Yes, Lawrence Tierney had so many problems...but I can honestly say, he was a tough guy, but a lovable teddy bear to his friends. I’m proud to have been blessed to know him, & I miss him still.
-- AnnMarie Jackie Frisina Guertin
I met Lawrence Tierney at Abbot's Habit, a Venice coffee shop around 1996-7 I think. He had a young, pretty black woman, a nurse of some kind with him. I knew who he was and acknowledged it and we sat outside sipping our joes. He asked me what I did and I told him I trained big cats for the movies and tv (it wasn't true) and I owned a small ranch in Malibu with a lion, two tigers, a leopard, a jaguar, and a black panther, and he thought this was wonderful and asked if he could visit. "Sure, anytime", I said. We shot the shit for a while amiably and when I was getting ready to go home he asked for my number and I gave it to him. About a week later my phone rang at midnight and it was him. We had a nice, uneventful conversation for about 10-15 minutes about what I can't recall. I could tell he was lonely and I considered it a honor to hear from him.
-- Ross Vachon
My friend Nick used to run the Movieland Book Store on Burbank's Golden Mall. One night we were driving around Hollywood. Scott Brady was laid out at the Cunningham & O'Connor Funeral Home in Hollywood and we wanted to stop by and pay our respects. It was around ten when we drove by and saw Larry in the parking lot. We jumped out of Nick's van and headed to where LT was standing. Nick reminded him who he was—they’d met at the bookstore—and introduced me. I told him that I sorry about his brother and called him “Sir.”
Well, Larry, who was in his 70s at the time, came alive. “Don't call me sir,” he said with a gravelly voice. “'My mother wasn't knighted by the fuckin' Queen.” As he was saying this he was kiddingly punching me in the arm. Now, I'm no weakling and can hold my own in a fight, but I've got to say that for an old man he had one hell of a punch. I'd hate to have been on the other end when he was in a bad mood.
He told us that before leaving the funeral home the last thing he did was he took off his tie, put it around Scott's neck, and told him that he (Scott) was now on his own. We talked for about fifteen or twenty minutes before leaving.
A few weeks before this Nick had been in the bookstore helping a few customers when Larry walked in. They were near the front of the store and LT headed toward the back where boxes of movie star photos were. All of a sudden the sound of Larry's loud voice busted the quietness of the store, as he started throwing photos in the air. “Goddamn wife beatin' bastard!” he was yelling. When Nick asked him what was wrong LT bitched that he had found some photos of himself in the same area as photos of actor Howard Duff. “How come you have my pictures near that wife beatin' son of a bitch?” he said as he continued throwing pictures in the air. Nick calmed him down, got him to sign a few things and sent him on his way. Very unnerving.
Not long after meeting Larry at the funeral home, I attended the yearly tribute to Tyrone Power at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Speaking for the film community was - you guessed it - Lawrence Tierney. He was sober this time and spoke of the dead beat writers who have written trash books on Power and Errol Flynn and if Flynn had been alive, those writers wouldn't be.
I heard a story that a cab driver took LT out to Scott Brady's house. Larry knocked on the door and a few minutes later it flew open and Brady shot at his brother with the bullet going between LT's legs and into the grass. The cabbie hightailed it out of there. Larry was once called the most feared man in Hollywood and I'm proud to have been able to meet him twice—once drunk and once sober. He was one interesting character and it’s a shame that a book hasn't been written about him. Hell, he played Dillinger and yet, he spent more time in jail and was more feared than the great Dillinger.
-- Bob Siler
I had a rather strange encounter with Lawrence Tierney sometime in either September or October 1980. I was working for NBC News' presidential election coverage team at the time and staying at the Hotel Bryant in midtown Manhattan. It was on a Saturday night, one of my rare nights off, and I was heading uptown to Elaine's, one of my regular hangouts. I hailed a cab at the corner of Central Park South and 5th Avenue, outside the Plaza Hotel and, just as I did, this elderly, balding, heavyset stranger came up behind me and asked if he could share the ride. Naturally I was suspcious and somewhat fearful but I figured it was safe since the cab driver had access to a two-way radio if there was any trouble.
Lawrence told me his name but it didn't ring any bells with me. He was an actor from a generation before mine. All he had in his pocket at the time was three quarters, a few pennies and a subway token, so I felt sorry for him and offered to pay the full fare. I had been poor myself at various times in my life and knew what it was like.
Whatever we chatted about during the ride up to Elaine's I can't recall but he had an old, beat-up photo album with him and he proudly showed it to me. I guess it included pictures of some of his earlier film roles but I can't exactly remember. I was never a big film buff and none of it meant anything to me back then.
When we got to Elaine's it was very crowded so we went across the street to Croney's and ordered drinks from a sidewalk table. I ordered my usual Tom Collins but he surprised me by only ordering a Perrier water. When I asked him if he wanted anything stronger, he replied, "I gave up the hard stuff awhile back." Then he engaged the waitress in conversation and found out she wanted to be an actor. Once again he brought out the photo album and showed it to her, telling her if she needed any help getting film work to give him a call. I remember thinking to myself, "He can't even help himself; how can he help anyone else?"
I don't remember too much else about what we might have discussed. I do recall telling him that I worked for NBC and he said he knew people there too, "years ago." I also remember him saying he was getting ready to audition for a small part in a new Dudley Moore film that was being shot in New York at the time, which turned out to be "Arthur." Lawrence was cast in the bit part of a crusty old codger sitting at the counter of the luncheonette where Liza Minelli worked, reading a newspaper and ordering a hard roll, getting surly and impatient when it wasn't brought to him quickly enough. It was, I later realized, consistent with his on- and off-screen persona.
After we left Croney's we went back to Elaine's, which was less crowded by that time and I ordered a drink. He didn't want anything and he left right after that, writing his name and phone number down on the inside of a matchbook cover for me. I never saw him again in person -- only on the screen several times. When I got back to my room that night I threw the matchbook cover with his name and phone number away, thinking he could never do me and my screenwriting aspirations any good. To this day I wish I hadn't.
Only later on, when I did some research on him in the NBC Library, did I realize who he was and why he wouldn't drink anything stronger than Perrier. I read about his drunken brawls and other bad incidents that likely cost him what was turning out to be a promising career. I didn't blame him for going off the wagon once I found all this out.
My one memory of Lawrence Tierney was that of a tough-talking but nice, down-to-earth guy; down on his luck but still proud of his accomplishments. I was sorry to hear about his death six months after it happened in 2002, but I was happy that he was able to somewhat revive his career toward the end. God bless him.
-- Dean M. Shapiro, New Orleans, LA
(Webmaster's note: thanks to Stephan Morrow for permission to publish this section of a book that he's writing about his experiences working with Norman Mailer and Arthur Miller. Stephan, an actor and theater director, played "Stoodie" in Mailer's film TOUGH GUYS DON'T DANCE.)
Norman had bet that Larry would fill the shoes of Ryan O'Neal’s father in Tough Guys better than anyone else - if he could handle him - and I think that gave the film yet another dimension of authenticity : The original Dillinger, bar room brawler par excellence and Lothario, all wrapped up in one. And Larry came through - he was that and more, playing Madden notably well. I mean how many guys could be convincing as someone who in his life, had taken five slugs and still chased his shooter down the block.
I can’t recall exactly how we hooked up in L.A. a couple of years after the film, but we became, dare I say, best friends for awhile, if such a term could be applied to Larry - at war with the world as he was - even at eight-three. But I was always flattered that he sanctioned what I did in T.G.D.D. and so I never felt the whip of contempt that he could so easily lash out at someone with. That would include even someone who had given him a chance to act again like the young Quentin Tarantino who had just made Reservoir Dogs with him. Made sense really. Larry had grown accustomed to rubbing shoulders with the criminal element like it was breathing and then there was that famous N.Y. Post front page of a man, covered in blood, being held down by five cops, also covered in blood. That was Larry at the height of his bar room brawling days. So a self-described video geek, as clever as Tarantino might be, wouldn’t hold much water with the original Dillinger. Norman, I might add, he thought OK - and that was saying a lot in his book. So there I was, meeting Larry’s fellow denizens in the middle of the kind of brouhaha you would expect from ex-addicts and parolees in a halfway house which was where he was residing when I first knew him out there. There he was carrying on like an equal even though most of them were a third of his age - not even. He was like some deadly grandfather amongst them, a raging cyclops.
As near as I could get from him the story went like this: when he was in fact, filming Tarantino’s ‘Reservoir Dogs’, and in which he was playing the godfather of a crew of professional bank robbers, somehow a real gun had ended up in his room and it had gone off with the round going through the wall and almost decapitating someone sitting in the next room. Apparently it just missed. Did I mention that the gun was in Larry’s hand? So he ended up in the valley in said group house. The occasion for my being there was that I was taking him out to a gathering of some fellow actors who made up the stable of a manager I had at the time, at the famous Jerry’s Deli on Ventura Blvd. When we arrived, one of the bunch who fancied himself a cut above the rest because he was an aficionado of old films was struck dumb when I introduced Larry. ‘You mean, the Lawrence Tierney’. Like he’d seen someone from the dead. And God knows he could’ve been back from Hades, because as Larry once put it, ‘Ahh. I lost five careers to the bottle.’ And meant it. But I confirmed the young actor’s suspicion, yes, no impostor, this was the man himself. So far a few minutes Larry basked in the adulation that an ikon is given in the film capital. Then the conversation went on to other things, as is the wont amongst young folks in Hollywood - to mostly career considerations. So never one to miss an opportunity, Larry flirted with a young redheaded actress and cutting her off from the herd, faded off out of sight. I forgot about him. Not a good idea. Suddenly, someone was tugging at my sleeve. She had returned and very nervous now, was whispering that I might want to check on my ward - I don’t know if that’s how she put it or I did, but that’s certainly what it felt like shepherding Larry around. And so I went into an adjoining banquet room that was empty and there he was: stuffing mustards from the tables into the large pockets of his garment of choice - a dark raincoat. I got us out of there ASAP.
In the many hours we would spend together going to places - none of them alcoholic - he would throw out tidbits about his history, but there was no way to figure out what had really happened or even if they were invented. He would often invite me to an event or screening like the premier of his film ‘Reservoir Dogs’ which at the time was before the reputation of Tarantino had exploded. And Larry was always good about introducing me to people, though he used the shortened version of my name, the Americanized version, ‘ This is Steve’. Stephan was just a little too affected sounding or European exotic, not street enough. It was a given that Larry hadn’t driven, at least with a license, for a long, long time and though I always felt a camaraderie between us, it was understood that I was his ride. With what I knew about his drinking it wasn’t hard to imagine that particular document, his driver’s license, as the mustiest, most decayed document buried in the deepest, darkest vaults of City Hall. In fact, I couldn’t really imagine him driving. With my own experience as a kid whose father was willing to jump out of the car at any given moment at the slightest driving offense like a turn without a blinker, and duke it out with all comers, I could only imagine what Larry would do behind the wheel. He would have been the original inventor of road rage. Hadda be.
So I would get a call from Larry and we were off to the races, whether it was one of the normal Hollywood functions where there was sure to be a spread so we could feast on shrimp, or even to the more exotic environs of Catalina Island where there was some kind of convention based on a Laurel and Hardy episode 'The Sons of the Desert' or some such. Larry was one of the guests of honor among the other zombies resurrected for the occasion. I wasn’t sure exactly who they were, but it looked like that scene in Sunset Boulevard where the octogenarian stars show up for other octogenarians to adore. But I would have to say, the peak moment of these excursions or at least the oddest, was when I found myself standing in a suburban house in the valley having a congenial conversation with Joey Buttafuco and his wife while they watched Larry play his father for the TV movie of their story. They seemed to enjoy how they were being portrayed and discussed the finer points of departure from the facts, academically. As I’ve said, TV like this reminded me of nothing less than a weird costume pageant of a civilization reenacting moments of itself.
I think what was interesting is that his ferocity brought out the zen in me. The rational, peaceable citizen, ready to soothe the rough waters whenever they would rise up. And echoes of his rage only caught up with me years later after we had parted ways and my own impatience with how bastard unjust the world was, began to grow.
But as I said, with Larry, I never knew what was real or invented. For example, I had asked if he had ever been close to a woman. Yes, there had been several in his life but there was this one that had been argumentative, wild, suicidal even. And they had been in a hotel room and in one of their many fights, he paused and looked away - and then he said, ‘And she went out the window’... I slowly and carefully said, in a very non judgmental tone, like a therapist might have, ‘How do you mean?’ ‘She went out the window. What the hell do you think I mean?’ There was a long pause. ‘She ... fell out?’ Long silence until he shook his head back and forth in exasperation. ‘It wasn’t that she just jumped. It was complicated.’ Larry had a habit of shaking his head side to side, trying to explain how something had happened to the pathetic simpleton who couldn’t grasp what was so obvious to him. This happened often - people misunderstanding him and he having to patiently explain the obvious. Some people took it, others headed for the nearest exit. He wouldn’t say anything more definitively about this woman’s nightmarish demise, except to make clear that he wasn’t ultimately responsible for her death.
So the question that always hovered around Larry was what came first - his rage at the world or his experience in it that had shaped him into the role of professional ogre. Once he mentioned that his father had been a cop. Or part of the Sing Sing administration. He was certainly capable of throwing someone out the window. I had felt that myself. And he wasn’t the kind of guy to be defiant with the way a woman might pick at a man, ‘You want to get ridda me? Go 'head trow me outta the window.’ No, that was not the kind of dare to make around Larry. But it could as easily have been another note in the myth Larry created about himself. The point was to give the appearance of being capable of dark monstrous things. In the end, that was one factoid he carried to his grave.
There are more memories of Larry I have and not all of them quite so pungent but that would occasion a longer piece on him alone. Some people break ground by writing, others just break the ground. Let’s just say, it was one of God’s little jokes that he would pass peacefully from this plane in his sleep.
-- Stephan Morrow
I met Larry Tierney when he resided in a modest two or three storey apartment building, not far from the Hollywood Ranch Market. I'd been visiting a friend, Carola Conde and her husband, who lived in the same structure, and on leaving discovered that my car had a flat tire. I believe it was when I was about 22 yrs old, so it would have been 1960 or '61. Larry was, I would judge, in his early forties, and I found him to be friendly, un-bullshitty and downright gallant.
I was standing at the curb, regarding my tire and probably looked stricken--I was wearing some beloved garment and was anticipatorily lamenting what messing with a tire might do to it. Larry strolled up, looking ruggedly handsome and muscular, without a pause, he rolled up his sleeves and said "Do you have a jack, a spare, and a tire iron?" He was almost in the 'pit crew league'-- deftly efficient, demonstrating both skill and economy of words and action. Within fifteen minutes he'd exchanged my flat with the spare and my little Dodge convertible was ready to roll. We then got around to the amenities, and now that we were 'properly' acquainted he invited me up to his apartment.
My friends (his co-tenants) were invited to join us and we were all watching "The Tonight Show" when Jack Paar started to have a highly emotional public meltdown--this weirded out my friends, and they split to their own quarters.
Somehow, it seemed perfectly normal to have a film star change one's tire, and then sit about sipping scotch and nibbling cheese 'n crackers. Watching Jack Paar's torment, was worse than seeing a bad comic die onstage--he was a demonstrably decent guy and I could tell that Larry was highly empathic, and sympathized with Paar's frustration, and loss of control. It was all rather akin to watching a train wreck in slow-mo--it held an outre fascination while simultaneously making me feel embarrassed by such raw emotion. At this point, I no longer recall what precipitated Paar's outburst, but it was obviously cumulative and things had gotten to the point that he couldn't contain it. I seem to recall that he inveighed against someone or thing, and I believe there was an aspect that might have been betrayal, but it's all pretty much faded from my memory. What hasn't faded away is the knowledge that Larry Tierney was one hell of a sweet guy--you're right, he was kind to his friends, even the ones that just slipped en passant through his life.
By the way, I didn't find him gruff, merely terse. It was evident that he welcomed company. Larry was totally unselfconscious, indifferent to the mess and rumpled bed, I found him a gracious and conscientious host. He was also a true gentleman--at the time I was chock fulla pulchritude--cops had pulled me over just to ask for my phone number, and once I'd caused a minor fender bender just crossing the street. Larry never put any moves on me or came off as a letch--merely, an appreciator. Had I picked up a predatory vibe, or anything potentially awkward, I'd not have gone up to his room.
At that time I was engaged to the man I eventually married, the writer Jerome Bixby. Larry had even seen one of Jerry's early films, and had been underwhelmed...he said the only reason he'd caught that particular dog was that it had opened on a double bill with Susan Hayward's highly touted role in "I Want To Live"-- the story of Barbara Graham, who was tried for complicity in the Monahan murder. By coincidence that crime had happened, half a block from my home, when I was still a school kid in Burbank.
I told Larry how Bixby and I had seen the first showing of "The Lost Missile" at the Pantages and that the opening credits were still happening when somebody said "I think I've seen this before..." All through the film a fat, happy guy seated behind us was laughing and commenting..."This is a terrible movie...this is a horrible movie..." Finally, Bixby turned around and said "As the author, I concur." He'd written it in collaboration with Johnny McPartland, of "No Down Payment" fame and had entertained hopes that it would be a decent credit. However, the Director dropped dead on the second day of filming, and his idiot son had taken over. Some over-emoting actors also made a contribution, so that lines that were supposed to be grim came out as boff lines, i.e., "Thank God, there is a Dew Line." Still brings giggles, and/or winces, depending.
The only other time I saw Larry was as he was leaving a restaurant that I was entering he raised his chin my way winked and said "How ya doing, kid?" He had a great smile. I was happy that he remembered me. Just as I'm happy to be remembering him.
-- Lin Bixby, Quincy, CA
I used to hang out at Boardner's a while back, and I met him while on a date. I had always heard about the guy, heard he was a tough guy (Brad used to tell me that). Shit, I was tough too, I used to battle it out with those Mexicans (can I say "Mexicans"???) down on Cherokee and Selma when leaving Boardner's, and I could hold my own. So I walked in one summer afternoon, with my date who wanted to meet him as well. It escapes me at this moment, he was supposed to be in some movie around 1992 or so about a pissed off bartender that people used to prank call, or some shit like that, anyway she'd heard the bit.
So anyway, Brad says something like "There he is." I said all cocky, "Who?" And he introduced me to Lawrence. Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit, that guy looked at me as if he was ready too. I said "Hi" and he looks at me shakes my hand and said, "Hi..." He takes a look at this hottie I was with (Tricia Althen) and that's when I thought we were gonna go (the whole black boy white girl thing)--he looked REAL intense--but I just told him I hoped to see him in the movie I had heard about, and my date thought he was hilarious. I don't think he liked that too much and he kinda gave me a "Thanks Asshole," or something to that effect, reply.
Anyway, I'm glad that he had the amount of booze in him that he did, because I am here to type this today.
I'll never forget that...Hollywood needs guys like him.
-- Rob Herndon, Burbank CA, 2006
I met Larry in 1988 and ran into him occasionally up until shortly before he passed away.
At that time I was working as a flight instructor at Santa Monica airport when one day Larry showed up looking for a ride in an airplane. While I was somewhat used to calls or visits from Larry when I least expected, I'm sure this gruff and strident bull of a man absolutely scared the daylights out of the flight school personnel. Things calmed down when I arrived with my student, Larry Gilman. Recognizing Lawrence Tierney, Gilman quickly agreed to bring him along on our training flight.
We hadn't lifted 100 feet off the runway when I looked to see Larry sound asleep in the back seat. He slept the whole flight.
Larry told me of all sorts of odd jobs that he took between films, sanitized accounts of travels with the likes of Flynn, and gritty stories of being a homeless drunk on the streets of New York.
Larry was a contradiction. He told me that in 1944 he was waiting to hear if he had secured the "Dillinger" role. During his lunch break, he found a pay phone, called his agent, got the good news, and didn't return to his job. He said that he had been digging post holes for the billboard company, Foster and Kleiser along Santa Monica boulevard. "Where you see F, you see K.", is what he had to say about the firm. Gruff and clever indeed, but that missive belied his broad classical knowledge, in that it was a less than subtle reference to the line, "If you see Kay...", in Joyce's 'Ulysses'.
I must admit that on occasion the phone will ring at an odd hour, and I pick up half expecting to hear his voice on the other end.
-- Derek Bell, Pilot / Reporter, KCBS 2 and KCAL 9 (Los Angeles)
When I first met Larry I was staying in an apartment on Venice Beach with some friends. I was the only girl in the house and often played mom to all of them. I was in the kitchen scooping ice cream for all the "boys" when I asked Larry if he wanted some. He said in his naturally gruff tone, "What flavors ya got?"
I said to him, "This isn't 31 flavors Larry, I've got one kind."
Larry was not amused. He jumped up yelling, "You bitch!!!" as he came toward me. My roommates grabbed him and threw him out. We lived on the beach and there were a lot of windows, so around he came still yelling at me through the windows. After a few minutes he finally wandered down the boardwalk, still yelling.
I saw Larry again around 3 AM. We were sitting on the couch watching a movie when he climbed through the window, stinking drunk, wanting to apologize. We all just looked at him, and finally someone said, "Larry, it's three in the morning, go home, we'll talk about it tomorrow."
After that night we became friends. He used to pay me to massage his scalp. He'd say, "Hey kid, come rub my head, I'll pay ya ten bucks." I was a starving artist at the time so I needed the money. Then he asked me up to his apartment. I went up and he showed me some stills from his old movies. I never "rubbed his head" in his apartment, that would've been too weird.
Anyway, Larry ended up becoming sort of a father figure to me. When I moved into his building with my (unknown to me at the time) Drug Addict Boyfriend, he always looked out for me. When my boyfriend finally went to jail Larry helped my mom move me out, and he informed her that I wasn't involved with crime and didn't belong in that "roach trap" as he so affectionately described our building. What I'm trying to express is that Larry was not all gruff and trouble. Deep down if he really cared about someone he was sweet, vulnerable and protective. I loved him dearly, and will miss him always.
-- Stefani Sasser Henry
My first and only personal encounter with Mr. Tierney:
I was visiting my sister Stefani in Venice Beach. You could climb out her window and be walking along where all the vendors are. I was from Boulder, Colorado, and was a little shell shocked by all of the activity. Arrests, gunshots, food sold from a cart, etc. One night late (like midnight) I was sitting alone in Stefani's living room waiting for her to come home from work. Suddenly, the window opened and this huge man I had never seen climbed in and demanded "Where's Stefani?" I freaked. He explained. I recognized and relaxed.
It was great!
-- Laura in Reno
I knew Larry in the late fifties in NYC. He lived on 95th and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan. He lived in a ground-floor apartment in a walkup. I lived across the street from him. I was about 18-19 years old then. I think at that time he was working as a sandhog, and I drank with him a few times.
Larry was a pretty decent guy. And he could handle himself. He did get into some bad fights when he was zonked out, and took some lumps. But when he was sober, the punks did not venture close. I liked him, and did feel a bit sorry for him--he had a lot going for him at one time, and more or less blew it. At that time he was still a goodlooking guy. I lost touch with him, and heard later he went back out to the west coast.
-- Walter Orloff
When I moved to Hollywood in '96, a friend of my roommate's called and said he needed a ride to the eye doctor. It turned out to be Mr. Tierney. Larry and I quickly became friendly. He often asked me to pick him up from his Venice apartment to help him run his daily errands and keep him company. That was no problem for me because at the time I wasn't working and liked spending time with him. Although he had a gruff exterior, it was his inside that made him special. He taught me how to play chess properly and introduced me to some of the better restaurants on Sunset. We stopped hanging out after I became married, but we still kept in contact via telephone... and he was the first one to congratulate me on the birth of my daughter.
It was a sad day for me when I learned of his passing.
-- Carl Waxman
He was a mean old man on the outside, but a kind and sincere man on the inside. He stayed at our apartment on several occasions. One time he came close to burning our apartment building down because he fell asleep while boiling an egg on the stove.
One of the funniest things I remember is when he had fallen asleep on our couch while sitting up. He only had his underwear on (I guess because it was so hot). I walked in the door after returning from work and my hamster was sitting on his shoulder. Wish I had a picture of that!
-- Jeniece Babineau
I once had the pleasure of meeting this "cranky" old guy in 1963! I had just been discharged from the USAF and was on my way home to Endicott, NY by way of New York City.
I went to the Port Authority to inquire about a bus to my home and was told the next one left in 4 hours, so with time on my hands I decided to have a few beers and wound up in a bar (the name escapes me now) off Broadway.
I went into the place and walked up to the bar and order a bottle of Bud. The bartender was "busy" talking to a frazzled looking gentleman who looked very familiar. I continued to wait and after another few minutes I became agitated and asked where my drink was. The bartender brought it to me and when I attempted to pay, he said, "It's taken care of son, Mr. Tierney paid!"
Being the movie buff that I am, I immediately struck up a conversation with him (Tierney), and had one of the most enjoyable two hours I've ever had! He kept me laughing at his stories, and even told me some about his brother Scott Brady...I bought him a few also, and by the time I left to catch my bus to upstate NY, I was a "wee" bit under the weather...and if I remember correctly he was not "feeling any pain" himself. I even got his autograph on a bar napkin, which of course has been lost.
I'm 63 now, retired from the USAF (decided to go back in), and I remember the events as they happened like it was yesterday! I saw a lot of his movies, and I will surely miss him!
-- Jim Fitzpatrick
Sometime in the early 80's I was drinking in a bar in LA ... off of Wilshire and near Hollywood Boulevard.
It was quiet and in the afternoon. At a table in the corner by himself, was one tough looking old guy reading a newspaper and drinking double VSQ's.I recognized him, walked over to his table and said, "You're Lawrence Tierney and I'd like to buy you a drink." He folded his paper, scowled at me and growled, "What if I'm not Lawrence Tierney?" Somewhere I got the cojones to say, "I'll buy you two." He roared with laughter and growled again, "Sit down kid, we got some serious drinking to do!"
I did and had the best bout of my life. By the way, Larry threatened to kick my ass out the window if I didn't let him pick up the tab. I decided not to argue;^)
-- Jim Ward
Back around 1993 or so, me and a couple buddies went to the Formosa (bar in Hollywood, natch) for a few drinks. Larry was there and in rare form. A few beers later and we asked him to join our posse for more barhopping. We hit a bunch of other places but soon it was past last call. Never one for wanting an evening to end, Larry invited us back to his place for a drink. When we got to his apartment (not exactly the cleanest or neatest place in the world), all Larry had was a half-empty bottle of a bitter plum brandy called "Slivovitz." He gave a glass a perfunctory rinsing, filled it to the rim with this rock gut and handed it to me. I took a big gulp... And immediately gagged it back up along with a little bit of my dinner. Unfortunately, I had upchucked everything right into the glass. Without missing a beat, Larry takes the glass and says "I appreciate the sentiment, Genie." He then reaches inside with his gnarled boxer's hands, scoops out my sputum and chugs the rest of the glass. In all my years of hard living and hard drinking, I realized I was a mere piker compared to Larry. If anyone deserves to rest in peace, it would be him.
-- Gene Laufenberg
I worked as a bartender at Boardner's for 10 years and had many amusing evenings with Larry. Always cantankerous and ready for a brawl, when Larry walked in the door, you knew the night would be anything but dull. Whether he was arguing with Kurt (the owner) or punching out Russ (the manager), or setting fire to the kitchen when he tried to cook half crocked, there was always an interesting story to tell when Larry was around.
He was always a gentleman to me and no matter how many times he was "permanently 86'd" from the bar, I would argue his case when he chose to come back "home." He was Larry Tierney after all, a rogue, a tough guy, the last of a breed.
May he finally have peace.
-- Kim Smith
as the executive producer of star trek: deep space nine i was able to hire tierney for what turned out to be one of his last acting roles. as usual, his reputation preceded him. everyone connected with the show who had worked on the next generation when he had guest starred there asked me to reconsider. he was a miserable s.o.b. blah, blah, blah. but i was a big fan and i was not going to deny myself the chance of finally meeting the guy. i heard he was going over to make-up to be fitted for some light prosthetics he'd be wearing in the episode. i figured that would be a good time to introduce myself. when he showed up i was shocked to discover he had suffered what seemed to be a pretty serious stroke. he was dragging a leg, one of his arms was useless. the part he was going to play was not that large but i didn't see how he'd be able to pull it off. but we were faced with a more immediate problem. to get to the make-up department you had to climb a long wooden flight of stairs. there was no way he was going to get up there. but the guy really was one tough bastard. reluctantly accepting his nephew's help he slowly made it up those goddamn steps. but it did nothing to improve his mood. you could see he hated betraying any sign of weakness. he was gruff and surly, his mood only lightening when he finally lowered himself into the make-up chair. you could see that he was proud that he had finally made it. that's when i introduced myself. where you from? he immediately asked. the bronx, i replied. brooklyn, he shot back and that's the only time i saw him smile. he suffered through the fitting and the trip back down staircase. by the time he left for the day he seemed angry and miserable. but i knew there was no freakin way i was gonna fire lawrence tierney. as it turned out, he had a difficult time remembering his lines. he took his frustrations out on the director, the cast, the crew. he made everyone upset and crazy. i wish i had kept the dailies. they were a hoot.
-- ira steven behr
Larry playing video games at 3:00 a.m. at a Seven Eleven on Yucca and Ivar with two street kids...Larry getting knocked off his chair at Boardner's by Bob Goglia and chasing the latter down Hollywood Blvd. "Which way'd he go? Where is the sonofabitch?" A high pitched voice calling me one evening and asking nervously whether I didn't think Larry Tierney was a bit nuts. I say, yeah, he's a bit off the wall. The voice on the other end changes abruptly: "So I'm nuts, huh kid?"
-- Brad Zukovic
There's a DVD out called "All Over the Guy," a gay/straight romantic comedy directed by Julie Davis, which includes, in the "Extras" section, a 20-minute short film called "French Intensive" shot on video in 1992 and featuring Larry...
"The Route," described as "an experiment in short filmmaking in Super-8" by writer/director Brian Brookshire, was shot in the early '90s; it features Larry as "an old man that wants to achieve immortality" and Conrad Brooks from the Ed Wood films also appears. A video copy was available in the young filmmakers section at Mondo Video A-Go-Go in L.A. until the place closed.
Here are links to some articles about Larry:
The Internet Movie Database listing for Larry gives a complete list of his movie and TV work.
The Wikipedia entry for Larry.
Film noir expert Eddie Muller's memorable evening with Larry.
Another memorable evening, this one recalled by author/historian David Del Valle
An interesting obituary in The Guardian (UK).
If all that's not enough, here are links to additional images:
Larry looking worried in "The Hoodlum" (1951)
The address of this page is http://toddmecklem.com/tierney.html
Rights to all written material on this page are reserved by the authors.
Updated Jan. 21, 2023.