Who was Paul Gleason?
Paul Gleason was an American actor best known for his roles in the TV series ‘All My Children’ and the movies ‘The Breakfast Club’, ‘Trading Places’, and ‘Die Hard’. The actor mostly appeared as pompous men, tough guys, bullies, and white-collar sleazebags, and enjoyed a successful career by playing such unlikeable characters. Being an athlete as a youngster, he enrolled in the Florida State University on a football scholarship and also played minor league baseball for two teams. Although he initially thought that his future was in sports, he changed his mind suddenly after watching the movie ‘Splendor in the Grass’ (1961). He took his first formal acting training at Lee Strasberg’s famed Actors Studio in New York and appeared on Broadway in ‘The Gingerbread Lady’ after which he made his film debut in ‘Winter A-Go-Go.’ He married Candy Moore in 1971 and divorced her in 1978. Later, he married Susan Kehl in 1995 and remained married to her until his death. They had a daughter and a son. On May 27, 2006, he died from pleural mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer connected with asbestos, in a hospital in Burbank, California.
In 1959–60, Paul Gleason signed a professional baseball contract with the Cleveland Indians and played two minor league seasons before pursuing his sudden interest in acting. He made his uncredited film debut in the movie ‘Panic in Year Zero!’ (1962), followed by an official appearance in the movie ‘Winter A-Go-Go’ in 1965. He also made guest appearances in many TV series including ‘The Green Hornet’, ‘Mission Impossible’, and ‘Adam-12’ in the late 1960s. After working with many smaller productions, he made his first Broadway appearance in Neil Simon's ‘The Gingerbread Lady’ (1971). He then appeared in revivals of ‘The Front Page’ (1972) and ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest’ (1973). His first notable film role was of Long Tom in ‘Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze’ (1975) after which he worked extensively in Roger Corman productions.
He made appearances in more than 60 movies and was well-known for portraying Dr. David Thornton in ‘All My Children’ (1976-78). He also received much acclaim for the role of the no-nonsense principal Richard Vernon in ‘The Breakfast Club’ (1985). His other popular works include the role of an FBI agent in ‘Trading Places’ (1982), and a police chief in ‘Die Hard’ (1988) and ‘Miami Blues’ (1990). He also made several television appearances in shows like ‘Hill Street Blues’ (1981), ‘Friends’ (1994), and ‘Dawson's Creek’ (1998). He made his last appearance in an independent film ‘The Book of Caleb’ for which he received his first and only producer’s credit.
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Family & Personal Life
Paul Gleason was born on May 4, 1939, in Jersey City, New Jersey, to Eleanor (née Doyle) and George L. Gleason. His mother was a registered nurse and his father was a professional boxer, restaurateur, ironworker, and roofing manufacturer. Not long after his birth, his family moved to Florida where he grew up on Miami Beach. At the age of 16, he ran away from home and hitchhiked on the east coast where he played baseball and slept on the beaches.
He studied in North Miami High School and Florida State University on a football scholarship. Being an athlete, he predicted that his career would be in sports and signed a professional baseball contract with the Cleveland Indians but played in just two minor league seasons between 1959 and 1960.
He was introduced to sitcom icon Ozzie Nelson during a trip to the west coast in his last season, which led to an appearance in ‘The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet’. Suddenly, acting became an option for him given his stagnant baseball career. He then joined The Actors Studio in New York City, where he trained for four years under the mentorship of Lee Strasberg before moving to Los Angeles and making his acting debut. Along with his acting career, he participated in many celebrity golf tournaments each year, mingling with fans and signing autographs.
He married actress Candy Moore on March 13, 1971. The couple had one daughter named Shannon Gleason and divorced in 1978. Later on, he married Susan Kehl in 1995 and remained married until his death. The couple had one daughter, Kaitlin Gleason, and a son.
He died on May 27, 2006, in a hospital in Burbank, California, from mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer linked to asbestos to which he was most likely exposed in his teenage years while assisting his father on construction jobs. He was 67 years old. His remains were buried near the south-east corner of the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, LA.