Lainie Kazan (born May 15, 1940) is an American actress and singer.
Kazan was born Lanie Levine in Brooklyn, New York City, the daughter of Carole and Ben Levine. Her mother was from a Sephardic Jewish family from Jerusalem, and her father, of Russian Ashkenazi Jewish descent, worked as a bookie. Kazan has described her mother as "neurotic, fragile and artistic." She graduated from Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.
She was married to Peter Daniels in 1971. In a segment of Celebrity Ghost Stories she revealed that she was widowed in 1989 when he died of lung cancer. Kazan has one child, Jennifer, and is a grandmother. She serves on the boards of the Young Musicians’ Foundation, AIDS Project LA, and B'nai Brith.
Kazan made her Broadway debut in The Happiest Girl in the World in 1961 followed by Bravo Giovanni (1962). She served as understudy to Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl, finally getting to go on 18 months into the run when the star was ill with a serious throat problem. Both had attended the same high school, Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, New York. Kazan’s mother alerted the press and, encouraged by rave reviews for her performance, she quit the show and set out to establish herself in a singing career.
As her popularity increased, Kazan posed nude for a spread in the October 1970 issue of Playboy, which was reused in Pocket Playboy #4, issued in 1974. Her appearance in the magazine opened the door for her to headline and operate two different Playboy Jazz Clubs, both under Hugh Hefner’s overview, which she called Lainie’s Lounge East and West on opposite coasts, one in Los Angeles and the other in Manhattan. Her Playboy photographs also inspired the look of Jack Kirby’s DC Comics superheroine Big Barda.
Kazan appeared in numerous supper clubs across the country, and she guested on Dean Martin’s variety series 26 times. Other television work includes a recurring role as Aunt Frieda on the Fran Drescher sitcom The Nanny and as Kirstie Alley’s mother on Veronica’s Closet, and guest shots on St. Elsewhere (resulting in an Emmy nomination), The Paper Chase, Touched by an Angel, and Will & Grace. She played the lead character's mother in the Nia Vardalos films My Big Fat Greek Wedding and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, and was also featured in My Big Fat Greek Life, a short-lived series based on the film. She appeared in a scene as the mother of Adam Sandler’s character in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, but it was deleted in the feature film. It is, however, included in the special features on disc. Prior to this film, she had appeared with its co-star Kevin James in two episodes of his The King of Queens TV series as the once-renowned singer Ava St. Clair.
A life member of The Actors Studio, Kazan returned to Broadway to recreate her film role for the musical adaptation of My Favorite Year, earning a Tony Award nomination for her performance. She completed a stint in The Vagina Monologues. She has also appeared in regional productions of A Little Night Music, Man of La Mancha, Gypsy, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Hello, Dolly!, and Fiddler on the Roof, among others. In 1984, she made a guest appearance on the Faerie Tale Theatre episode “Pinocchio” as Sophia the Blue Fairy.
She appeared in an episode of Ugly Betty, playing the mother of Bobby, who was soon to become the central character’s brother-in-law. She appeared in one episode, "Fire and Nice". On August 17, 2010, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Kazan would join the cast of Desperate Housewives for Season 7. She played the role of a self-employed business owner and neighbor to Susan.