Joe Fleishaker, who was often called “Troma’s biggest action star” by company co-founder Lloyd Kaufman, died suddenly on Monday. He was 62-years-old
Even though you may not recognize his name, if you’re a fan of the campy B-movie company Troma Entertainment, there’s a good chance you would recognize larger than life actor Joe Fleishaker. Although he topped the scales at 525 pounds at his heaviest, it was his wit and talent for self-deprecating humor that made Joe Fleishaker a household name among Troma Entertainment’s legions of fans.
Fleishaker, who was a native of Brooklyn, New York, made his first big screen debut in a very brief walk-on part in Radio Days by Woody Allen. It wasn’t until he was cast as an extra in the 1988 film Troma’s War that he really caught his break. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the film’s director and Troma co-founder Lloyd Kaufman was so amused by Fleishaker’s onscreen presence that he ended up giving him more screen time than was initially in the script. From 1989’s The Toxic Avenger Part II to 2006’s Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead.
Although the Troma films that Joe Fleishaker starred in are numerous — Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D., Tromeo and Juliet, and Terror Firmer, to name a few — he was best known for his roles as an Apocalypse Inc. executive in both The Toxic Avenger Part II and The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie, as well as Lardass, Toxie’s sidekick in Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV.
News of Fleishaker’s death came on Monday via a status on Lloyd Kaufman’s Facebook page, who wrote a brief but touching tribute to the larger than life actor.
“The Troma Team and I are truly heartbroken by the news that Joe Fleishaker has passed away. He was a great actor and a great friend. Toxie weeps. RIP Joe, Troma will never be the same without you.”
Joe’s brother Haskel Fleishaker confirmed his death to THR later Monday evening, stating that Joe passed away on Monday at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. Although the cause of death has yet to be released, Haskel said his brother had likely died of a heart attack brought about by morbid obesity and congestive heart failure, things Joe had suffered from for years.
In 2012, Joe was admitted to the hospital after waking up one morning and realizing he could no longer walk. He dialed 911 and was eventually diagnosed with congestive heart failure and damage to his lungs, heart, and kidney. The scare brought about a change in Fleishaker, and after leaving the hospital 15 days later, he began rehab and eventually lost 150 pounds, according to a letter he had written to fans that Troma Entertainment posted on their website at the time.
Fleishaker was a staunch supporter of Troma Entertainment and could often be seen portraying Troma co-founder Michael Herz — who prefers to stay out of the public eye — in many promotional videos and short films. When not in the process of acting, he was almost always touring the convention circuit with Kaufman and helping to man the Troma booth, reports Dread Central.
When asked once in an interview what he believed were some of the more important messages found in Troma films, Fleishaker stated simply that he believed the main messages to be found were to not take oneself too seriously — at which he was incredibly gifted.
“I believe that the only message is that if we don’t take ourselves or our entertainment too seriously, we will discover that we are capable of enjoying ourselves without really trying. It doesn’t cost a million dollars to make someone laugh, and you don’t have to be famous to have talent.”
Joe Fleishaker never married and had no children. The Troma Entertainment alum is survived by his two brothers, Haskel and Simon, and his many fans.
[Image via Lloyd Kaufman/Facebook]