Veteran singer and character actor Lawrence (Larry) Wolf was born in New York City, studied acting with Stella Adler and is best known as an ensemble member of filmmaker Robert Downey Sr.’s legendary catalog of satirical films. The two most notable, Putney Swope and Pound, are avant-garde and shocking today, perhaps even more so than in the febrile artistic ground of the 1960s and 70s when they were created. In Pound, he was Robert Downey Jr.’s acting partner in the five-year-old’s first onscreen speaking role, Wolf’s anguished Mexican Hairless lamenting to Downey Jr.’s not-so-innocent puppy in a film in which clothed and unmasked humans play canines languishing in a dog lockup, waiting to be gassed that night. And in Putney Swope, his character Borman 6, a German auto tycoon with suspicious political leanings, resonates eerily.
Wolf has appeared in numerous other films, commercials and television shows, including two pilots that never made it to air: The Great Gondoli, an NBC pilot in which he played a ventriloquist with two dummies (one sounding like Mae West, the other like W. C. Fields), and Phoebe B. Beebie’s Popcorn Parade, a children’s show pilot in which he starred as Dr. Disgusting. He wrote and directed the award-winning short film Billy Butterfly in 1971.
Working in live theatrical productions as well as film and television, Wolf’s stage career has been no less avant-garde than his onscreen one. As Jacques Goldetsky, leader of The First Topless String Quartet, he led a string quartet of four nubile and, yes, topless women as a similarly topless (but cummerbund-wearing) conductor. The group received acclaim as serious artists, while never playing a single note. Produced by celebrated hoaxter Alan Abel, they won Esquire Magazine’s annual Dubious Achievement Award in 1969, and Wolf was invited as Jacques to interview for an appearance on the popular game show To Tell The Truth. It was ultimately turned down as too risqué for a family program, only enhancing its bawdy cachet.