Wednesday, May 5, 2010

OBITUARY in Frontiers

David J. Steinberg, the diminutive actor who made his mark in theater, television and movies but who became most famous for his portrayal of Meegosh in Ron Howard’s film “Willow” and later as the waving “Tiny Cowboy” in the 2009 Jack in the Box Mini Sirloin Burgers commercial, has died.

Steinberg passed away just a month after his 45th birthday in Valencia, California, said long-time friend David Loren. Loren declined to comment on the cause of death or provide further details. Private memorial services in Los Angeles and New York are planned for May and will be announced at a later date.

The Los Angeles-born actor began his acting career in college stage productions at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania and received his formal training in the theater, later earning a good reputation for his work in commercial stage productions for the New York Shakespeare Festival, Baltimore Center Stage, The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, and the Grammy nominated National Tour of “The Wizard Of Oz”. Steinberg was also a featured performer in Baz Luhrmann's production of “La Boheme” in both New York and Los Angeles, and loved performing in The Christmas Spectacular at New York’s Radio City Music Hall each season.

In addition to “Willow” Steinberg appeared in films including “Wigstock”, “Love And Sex”, “The Hebrew Hammer”, “Character Assassins”, “Mud Show”, “Prometheus and the Butcher”, “Fur”, “Epic Movie”, “Agent One-Half” and “Transylmania”, and on television episodes of “The Equalizer”, “The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd”, “Charmed”, “Are You Afraid of the Dark” and “Zoey 101”, in a career spanning over 22 years.

Normally type-cast as a mythical character because of his three-foot one-inch stature, he turned in an unforgettable performance as the lecherous printer Harvey Milfree in a 2007 “Ugly Betty” episode opposite Rebecca Romijn’s recently sex-changed character Alexis Meade, where the two characters had a touching scene discussing their yearnings for acceptance.

As a little person Steinberg had a special empathy for his Milfree character, and was quoted early on in his acting career as saying, "Every human being is given special gifts and by living your life you strengthen the gifts and pass them on. I want to be noticed eventually because I'm a good actor. That's a real goal of mine: to be respected as a person and an actor, not just because I'm short."

Steinberg approached every role with dedication and with the professionalism for which he was well-known. "Acting is a profession that if you're not in it wholeheartedly, you're not in it. You must be committed”, he once said.

Even when cast in the ubiquitous elf role in the 2009 Eldorado Hotel and Casino’s "Holiday Ice Spectacular", Steinberg shined. Mel Shields, Bee Correspondent for the Sacramento Bee Newspaper wrote in the paper’s Living Here section, “David Steinberg takes the principal elf lead this year, proving his acting chops all the way. Steinberg played Meegosh in Ron Howard's "Willow," has popped up on "Ugly Betty" and has just finished filming "Transylmania”. Steinberg constantly interacts with the audience - much to the delight of the kids.”

Steinberg was adopted as a young child by Joseph and Laura Steinberg of Richmond Hill, Queens, New York, where he grew up. He graduated from Glendale Christian School Class of 1982. His father Joseph Steinberg was a municipal employee for the City of New York and his mother Laura was a homemaker. Steinberg’s parents were active members of Little People of America and faced the same physical challenges that he faced himself. He overcame childhood shyness about his size with the encouragement of his beloved mother and by winning over his classmates with razor-sharp wisecracks, developing a comedic talent that later expanded his versatility as an actor. His father, with whom he coincidently shared the same birthday, helped cultivate his love of musical theater.

After developing his early career in New York, he relocated to Los Angeles in 2004 to further pursue work in film and commercials. He was a resident of West Hollywood where he quickly established a close community of friends.

In the end Steinberg achieved his wish “to be respected as a person and an actor” and “not just because he was short”. If David Steinberg measured only an inch over three feet, his personality was at least six feet tall. The largeness of character that came across in his performances on the screen was evident to all who were privileged to know him. He was fearless, fun-loving and ultimately unforgettable.

Steinberg is survived by his loving extended family including an uncle and aunt Louis and Dorothy Camilleri and an aunt Helen Camilleri, all of New York, and many cousins in New York, Colorado and Maryland.



  2. I guess we won't be getting a sequel to that Jack in The Box commercial.