We’re now living in a world where all the Steel Magnolias are not in it. By now, you’ve probably already lit your Clairee Belcher prayer candle (a complete set of Steel Magnolias and Golden Girls prayer candles are a must for every household), because Oscar-winning legend Olympia Dukakis died today. She was 89.
The sad news was delivered on Facebook by her brother Apollo Dukakis who wrote that she died this morning at her home in NYC and is now with her husband Louis Zorich:
My beloved sister, Olympia Dukakis, passed away this morning in New York City. After many months of failing health she is finally at peace and with her Louis.
Olympia Dukakis was born Olympia Marie Dukakis in Lowell, Massachusetts on June 20, 1931. Her parents were Greek immigrants. And yes, her born name was Olympia Dukakis. With a name like that, she would grow up to be either an Olympic athlete, President of the United States, or a movie star. Olympia left politics to her cousin Michael Dukakis who ran for POTUS in 1988. Olympia went the movie star route, although Wikipedia tells me she was a three-time fencing champion in New England.
After high school, Olympia went to Boston University where she got her BA in physical therapy. She worked as a physical therapist, helping people with polio. She went back to Boston University and got a master’s in performing arts. Olympia’s acting career started the way many of the greats’ acting careers start: IN THE THI-TURR! She acted in several productions at the Williamstown Theater Festival before making her Broadway debut as an understudy in 1962’s The Aspern Papers. In 1963, she won an Obie Award for her performance in Off-Broadway’s Man Equals Man. She won another Obie in 1985 for The Marriage of Bette and Boo. Throughout her career, she continued to act in theater productions including the Broadway comedy Social Security. Her last role on Broadway was the title role in Rose in 2000.
Olympia acted in many movies and TV shows, but she proved that it’s really never too late to really make it by landing the role of Rose Castorini, the mother of Cher’s character, in Moonstruck in 1987. Olympia was 56 at the time. She won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress thanks to the way she flawlessly checked Cher’s ass!
Just two years after Moonstruck, Olympia landed in another masterpiece when she played gold-hearted gossip and the sugar to Ouiser’s spice, Clairee Belcher, in Steel Magnolias. All of us mean bitches would constantly be sitting next to Clariee because as we know, if you don’t have anything nice to say about anybody, go sit by her. Honestly, everyone in Steel Magnolias deserved an OSCUH and Olympia really deserved one for serving up Ouiser as a punching bag:
Olympia’s biggest TV role was as transgender landlady Anna Madrigal in Tales of the City, More Tales of the City, and Further Tales of the City. Her last time on TV was in 2019 when she played Anna one more time in the revival of Tales of the City. Olympia was also in Working Girl, the Look Who’s Talking movies, The Cemetary Club, I Love Trouble, Jeffrey, Mighty Aphrodite, Mr. Holland’s Opus, The Event, Sinatra, Joan of Arc, Picture Perfect, and Away From Her. And in 2018, a documentary about Olympia’s life called Olympia was released.
As I mentioned above, Olympia was married to Louis Zorich who was also an actor and best known for playing Paul’s dad on Mad About You. They got married in 1962 and were together until his death in 2018. They had three children together.
Olympia’s Moonstruck daughter Cher paid tribute to her on Twitter:
Olympia Dukakis Was an Amazing,Academy Award Winning Actress.Olympia Played My Mom In Moonstruck,& Even Though Her Part was
That Of a Suffering Wife, We😂ALL The Time.She Would Tell Me How MUCH She Loved Louis,Her”Handsome Talented,Husband”.I Talked To Her 3Wks Ago. Rip Dear One pic.twitter.com/RcCZaeKFmz
— Cher (@cher) May 1, 2021
Rest in peace, Olympia Dukakis.