Birthday: March 13, 1926
Died At Age: 66
Sun Sign: Pisces
Also Known As: Leonardo Passafaro, Len Crosby, Len Montana, Chief Chewacki, The Zebra Kid
Born Country: United States
Born in: Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA
Famous as: Actor
Height: 6'6" (198 cm), 6'6" Males
children: Lenny Montana Jr.
Died on: May 12, 1992
place of death: Lindenhurst, New York, USA
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
City: New York City
U.S. State: New Yorkers
Lenny Montana was an American actor and professional wrestler. He is best remembered for his portrayal of ‘Luca Brasi’ in the movie ‘The Godfather.’ Montana started his career as a wrestler. He won the ‘New Jersey Tag Team’ title. He adopted the ring name “Zebra Kid” in the early days of his wrestling career. Montana went on to win several professional wrestling titles, such as ‘NWA Texas Tag Team Championship,’ the ‘NWA Southern Heavyweight Championship,’ and the ‘NWA International Tag Team Championship.’ During the course of his wrestling career, Montana became acquainted with the Colombo crime family, who were the leaders in organized crime in New York City. Montana worked as an arsonist and enforcer for the Colombo family. His tall and athletic figure suited the job of a mobster. Montana was working as a bodyguard of a few prominent members of the Colombo family, when he was offered a role in ‘The Godfather.’ Al Ruddy, the producer of the movie, was impressed with his gigantic looks and decided to cast him in the movie. Following the success of the movie, Montana acted in several other movies. He was mostly offered roles of gangsters or mobsters. ‘Blood Song’ was his last movie. Montana died of a heart attack at the age of 66.
Childhood & Early Life
Lenny Montana was born Lenny Passafaro, on March 13, 1926, in Brooklyn, New York City. He was of Italian and American descent. Montana could speak fluently in both languages. Not much is known about his parents or his educational background.
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In 1953, Montana started his career as a wrestler in New Jersey. He adopted the ring name “Zebra Kid” for his early matches. Montana was 6 feet 6 inches tall, which enabled him to easily overpower his opponents. In April 1953, he won the ‘New Jersey Tag Team’ titles. In October 1953, Montana defeated Dave Sims, to win the ‘NWA Central States Heavyweight Championship.’ In December, he lost the title to Sonny Myers.
In 1956, Montana won the ‘NWA Texas Tag Team Championship,’ along with his partner, Gene Kiniski. During this period, he worked as a bouncer to earn extra income. In 1960, Montana won the ‘NWA Texas World Tag Team Championship,’ along with his partner, Joe Christie. He used the ring name “Len Crosby” for this match. In October 1960, Montana and his partner, Hard Boiled Haggerty, won the ‘AWA World Tag Team Championship.’
In 1962, Montana defeated Eddie Graham to win the ‘NWA Southern Heavyweight Championship (Georgia version).’ He formed a partnership with Tarzan Tyler, which proved to be extremely powerful. The duo won several championships, including the ‘NWA International Tag Team Title’ in 1963. Toward the latter half of the 1960s, Montana started to develop an interest in acting. He gradually retired from professional wrestling.
In the late 1960s, Lenny Montana became acquainted with the Colombo crime family, who were the leaders in organized crime in New York City. Montana worked as an arsonist and enforcer for them. He had his unique methods of operation. He would tie a tampon dipped in kerosene to the tail of a mouse, light it, and let the mouse run inside a building. This was his way of setting buildings on fire. Soon, Montana was arrested for his crimes. After his release, he worked as a bodyguard for the members of the Colombo family.
Montana became acquainted with movie producer Al Ruddy during the filming of ‘The Godfather.’ The movie faced severe opposition from the ‘Italian–American Civil Rights League,’ and Joe Colombo, the head of the Colombo crime family, was involved in these affairs. Montana, acting as a bodyguard to Colombo, got the chance to meet producer Al Ruddy and director Francis Ford Coppola. Montana’s towering personality prompted the producer to cast him in the role of ‘Luca Brasi’ in the movie.
In 1972, Montana performed as ‘Luca Brasi’ in ‘The Godfather.’ This was the first and the best role of his movie career. It was a crime movie based on the novel of the same name by Mario Puzo. ‘The Godfather’ is regarded as one of the best movies ever made in the gangster genre. ‘Brasi’ was the bodyguard and enforcer of ‘Vito Corleone,’ the patriarch of the crime family in the movie. Though Montana did not have too many scenes in the movie, his performance was widely appreciated.
In 1973, Montana appeared in the movie ‘The Funny Face of the Godfather.’ It was an Italian movie that comically imitated ‘The Godfather.’ The movie featured Montana as ‘Saro.’ He played small characters in movies such as ‘Patty,’ ‘Fingers,’ and ‘Matilda.’ In 1980, Montana got the chance to perform alongside Jackie Chan in the movie ‘The Big Brawl.’ In 1982, he appeared in the low-budget movie ‘Blood Song.’ Montana was one of the producers of the movie. It starred him as ‘Skipper.’ This was his final film appearance.
Family & Personal Life
Montana and his wife, Sylvia, had a son, Lenny Montana Jr. Not much is known about Montana’s personal life.
Montana suffered a heart attack on May 12, 1992, in Lindenhurst, New York, and breathed his last. He was 66 years old at the time of his death.