TAMPA — The melon-shattered comedian and Tampa-raised Leo Gallagher, known simply as Gallagher, died Friday, his former manager confirmed to Variety and TMZ. He was 76 years old.
“Gallager has been in a nursing home in California after having multiple heart attacks in recent years,” Variety reported.
Gallagher rose to fame through prop comedy, specifically using a giant wooden mallet called a Sledge-O-Matic to smash food and other objects, culminating in a watermelon sprinkle.
Born on July 24, 1946 in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, he spent his early childhood in Cleveland before his parents moved to Tampa hoping that the air would be good for his asthma.
Late Ted Webb radio station in Tampa says that Gallagher “spent a lot of time as a boy riding his bike back and forth in his neighborhood along El Prado Street near Manhattan Avenue. His friends remember him shouting insults and strange comments to anyone who listened to him transmitting them on their device.” Metal Schwinn”.
Gallagher’s father built a skating rink on Armenia Street. He went to church at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Dale Mabry and graduated from HB Plant High School in 1964. He then attended the University of South Florida, but moved to Los Angeles when he was below his graduation degree.
He eventually returned to Tampa and worked at Lum’s Hot Dog on Hillsborough Street. That’s when he started developing his own Sledge-O-Matic routine, based on a Ronco Veg-O-Matic TV commercial.
Gallagher’s first break came when she opened for musician Bobby Riddle in Tampa. He then toured with musicians Jim Stafford and Kenny Rogers in the late 1970s.
In 1975, according to IMDB.com, he sang on “The Mike Douglas Show,” a nationally broadcast television talk show.
Five years later, Gallagher filmed his first television special, “Gallager: An Uncensored Evening,” in which his largest audience learned of his watermelon-smashing antics. His IMDB.com describes it as “the audience wasn’t ready for it.”
In subsequent years, audience members would wear raincoats and bring umbrellas to his shows to protect against flying fruit.
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During the 1980s, he remained a pop culture icon with regular appearances on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson”, “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” and “Match Game/Hollywood Squares Hour”.
Variety estimates he has given more than 3,500 live shows during his four decades on the road. This includes 16 TV specials that air on HBO and Showtime.
It was controversial. The racist, sexist, and homophobic jokes that were accepted early in his career were later considered offensive.
“They said, Gallagher, you can’t be on TV, you’re not sensitive to the needs of people with disabilities,” he said on the 2013 show. “I said, ‘Me too. That’s why I use all their parking spaces. I don’t know why they have to be so close. It’s not like they have to walk.'”
Through it all, Tampa residents considered him one of them.
Tampa City Councilman Guido Maniscalco wrote on Facebook: “Tampa City Councilman Guido Maniscalco has passed away from Plant High School and the University of San Francisco, Gallagher.
Clark Brooks, a stand-up comedian in Tampa and editor of the satirical website Tampa News Force, said Gallagher was “a true game-changer, and he dominated cable television comedy for years before everyone filmed the specials.” The fact that he’s from Tampa put the Bay Area comedy scene on the map Even before there was a scene.”
Information from 2013 Tampa Bay Times Profile on Gallagher This report has been used.
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