Quick: What do Johnny Carson, Police Academy and Linda Lovelace have in common with the Hollywood beach broadwalk?
That’s right, Art Metrano, actor-comedian turned restaurateur.
Metrano’s lengthy screen credits include Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part 1, Breathless (starring Richard Gere), Good Advice (starring Charlie Sheen), How Stella Got Her Groove Back, LA Law and Golden Girls. He even played a sheik in Linda Lovelace for President. (Yes, apparently she made other films.)
His acting success didn’t keep him from pursuing other passions. One almost killed him.
While rehabbing an old house in 1989, Metrano was on a ladder that suddenly gave way. He fell backward, broke his neck and was paralyzed. Doctors told him he would never walk again. Turns out, he’s more amazing than they realized.
Another passion, restaurants, brought him to Hollywood. His Yogurt Ur Way Cafe, at 1000 N. Broadwalk (in the Hotel Sheldon), is unlike any other place on the beach. How he got here is quite a story.
Metrano, who hails from Brooklyn, first gained renown for his “magic” act. It featured his own body parts. It was a solo act. I know what you’re thinking, and shame on you. As “The Amazing Metrano,” he made his fingers jump from hand to hand while humming Kay Swift’s catchy show tune Fine and Dandy. Audiences roared, and Metrano was on his way.
That was in 1970. Countless film and television appearances followed, including the jackpot for any comedian — The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. During Metrano’s first appearance, Carson fell backward laughing at his shtick. He invited the young comedian to return seven times, and a career was launched.
Tinseltown had a lot to offer, but there was one thing it lacked: a decent hot dog. Metrano missed the Coney Island dogs of his youth. So in 1973 he opened a small restaurant. It was a decidedly un-ritzy hot dog joint in ritzy Beverly Hills that attracted regulars like Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. Successful but still restless, he opened another restaurant with Burt Reynolds, the Posh Bagel, in West Hollywood.
All the while, Metrano continued acting, and soon found his greatest fame as the Police Academy franchise’s frenzied Lt. Mauser. His deadpan delivery kept audiences aching for more. In this scene, for example, Mauser is called on the carpet:
Chief Hurst: “This is now the worst precinct in the entire city! Burglary up 25 percent!”
Mauser: “Actually, Chief, if you’d look, burglary is up 48 percent.”
The Police Academy movies, and Metrano, became a worldwide phenomenon.
Filming on the third sequel was ready to begin when tragedy struck, five days before his 53rd birthday.
“Sept. 17, 1989,” Metrano recalls. “It was Sunday before noon, around 11:30. I remember it vividly. It’s something that will stay with me until the day I die.
“I was taking the money that I’d earned and flipping houses instead of hanging out like a lot of actors do waiting for their agent to call. I’d bought many houses and condos, and rehabbed them.
“And on this particular house, I went up on the extension ladder, to wash off the balcony. And the ladder gave way and I fell backwards and broke my neck in six places. Including the notorious ‘hangman’s break.’ And I was totally paralyzed from the neck down. And it was just a whole set of circumstances, it was awful, and it changed my life.”