The Watermelon Legacy of Comedian Gallagher

Herbie J Pilato

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According to Yahoo! Entertainment, the "controversial yet famous comic Gallagher has sadly passed away. The late comedian, whose real name is Leo Anthony Gallagher, made a name for himself by smashing watermelons as part of his act. His unfortunate passing at 76 was confirmed by his family."

As Yahoo! continued to report, a "rep for the late comedian's family broke the news of his demise. His son-in-law revealed that the North Carolina native died from "organ failure" while in hospice care in Palm Springs, California. According to multiple reports, the comic hadn't been in good health for a while, suffering multiple heart attacks."

A representative for the Showtime Comedy Spotlight Gallagher: The Maddest star addressed the news of his demise, telling The Blast, "Gallagher stayed on the road touring America for decades. He was pretty sure he held a record for the most stand-up dates, by attrition alone. While Gallagher had his detractors, he was an undeniable talent and an American success story."

"Gallagher first attained recognition after appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson," Yahoo! revealed, "immediately standing out with his unique form of comedy — something Carson didn't appreciate at first. However, by doing things his own way, he rose to become a household name."

The highlight of his career, however, was his signature sketch, "Sledge-O-Matic," where he'd take a large, handmade wooden mallet and smash a variety of foods before ending in the main act — a watermelon. The controversial act was a parody of the Veg-O-Matic commercials, and it would make him the No. 1 comedian in America for 15 years, with comedy specials airing on Showtime and MTV.

According to his manager, his comedy stand-up special An Uncensored Evening, which aired in 1980, was the first to ever air on cable television.

Throughout his very lengthy career, Gallegher hosted 14 Showtime specials and approximately 3,500 live comedy shows, according to his website. The comedian also starred in Geico TV commercials and in his first film, The Book of Daniel, which was released in 2013.

Gallagher Smash, as he was affectionately called, frequently made the news due to unstable health. In 2011, he collapsed on stage. While at the Whiskey Bones Road House, performing his Sledge-O-Matic routine, he was observed holding his sledgehammer when he bent over and fell backward onto the stage.

Moments after he hit the ground, people from the audience rushed to the stage to offer assistance. He was then transported to Saint Mary's Hospital shortly afterward. Fortunately, he made it through that episode, and all seemed well.

However, the following year, Gallagher suffered a headline-making heart attack. According to various media reports, just hours before the performer was scheduled to perform in Texas, he had a heart attack after suffering intense chest pains and had to be hospitalized. At the time, his manager confirmed that he was to be hospitalized for days so the doctor could "figure out what's wrong with his ticker."

Gallagher was survived by his two children, daughter Aimee, and son Barnaby.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including RETRO ACTIVE TELEVISION, THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA
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