Costa was born Cosimo Frank Costa on June 22, 1947 (yes, folks, that means
he was 29 when he became a "Kid!") in the quiet town of Grass
Valley, California. His first name was the same as his grandfather,
Cosimo. The son of parents Frank and Lena Costa, Cosie would
have one younger brother and end up becoming the only one in his family to
venture into the world of show business.
Growing up, Cosie really loved sports. When asked the question, "What part of your childhood did you hate to leave behind?" by Tiger Beat Star for a special Q&A (April 1977), he replied, "Without a doubt, sports. I used to play Little League after school every day, all the guys getting together. But the older you get, you get automatically eliminated from organized sports . . . I mean, I was good, but my size really held me back as I grew up. So by the time I got into college, I wasn’t really in sports as much. Also, I grew up in a really neat little town, so I miss that about my childhood." According to other articles, he expressed a real love for basketball as well, but his height was undoubtedly an even bigger obstacle in that endeavor.
But Cosie learned early on that a sense of humor was a terrific asset, and he was soon entertaining people. When asked, "Do you remember when you signed your first autograph?" by Tiger Beat Star (April 1977), he responded, "Yes, I do! I was about 10 years old and doing a benefit in Sacramento, Calif., where I was doing Elvis impersonations! I did that for about three years, I think, lip-synching to Elvis’ records. My hips were wiggling and there were a lot of 10-year-old girls in the audience. I signed quite a few autographs that day, and it embarrassed me a little. I thought the real Elvis should sign autographs. I guess I didn’t give myself much worth in those days."
According to the official NBC Biography for Cosie, at one point he and some friends created a rock group which they named "Little Caesar and the Romans," only to find out that name was already being used.
Piecing together the time line of Cosie’s early career has been tricky, but we now know that he served in the U.S. Air Force and that during his service he toured various bases as part of a two-man comedy act. We’re not sure if his service came before or after he studied at the Pasadena Playhouse College of Theatre Arts, but fellow Playhouse student Chick Vennera (whose name you’ll be hearing several times in this biography!) went into the Army after his schooling with the notable theater company, so it's possible that Cosie's military service came afterwards as well. (And, interestingly enough, Chick also entertained troops during his military service!)
While studying at the Pasadena Playhouse in the late 1960's and/or early 1970's (which he attended on a scholarship,) Cosie appeared as Tom Sawyer opposite Chick Vennera as Huck Finn in one production, as well as appearing in a production of A View from the Bridge. Sometime after leaving the Playhouse (and the Air Force) Cosie starred in the leading role of the original musical production of La, La, La in Los Angeles and made a brief appearance in the 1972 Peter Sellers’ film Where Does It Hurt?
Cosie’s most notable stage work was in both the road company and on Broadway in the smash musical Grease. Several articles around the time of C.A.P.E.R. talked about how Cosie replaced John Travolta in the show, which sounds strange until you realize that John Travolta didn’t originally play Danny Zuko on Broadway; he played the character of Doody, which is the role Cosie played. Asked "When have you been most frightened in your life?" by Tiger Beat Star (April 1977), Cosie explained, "I think my first-night opening on Broadway, in ‘Grease.’ I was so scared. In situations like that, going onstage, you usually get over it in two or three minutes and then settle down. It took me two days." While he was in New York, Cosie also appeared in numerous radio and television commercials.
Several articles talk about how Cosie and John Lansing became friends while working together in Grease, and indeed they shared the stage in the touring company of the show from 1973 to 1974. This tour included a stint at the National Theater which ran from May 20 through June 8, 1974 in Washington, D.C. According to the program for that show, Cosie had already appeared in the New York production of the musical as Doody (it’s not clear if they were referring to the aforementioned Broadway production), while John had been understudying the role of Danny Zuko with the other touring company which had garnered rave reviews with the show in Los Angeles and Chicago. Also in the cast of this production was Chick Vennera, playing the role of Sonny. (For more information about this tour, see John Lansing's Biography.)
The teen magazines loved to play up the connection between Cosie and John and two different publications offered up a story which seems too good to be true (but then stranger things have happened!) Teen Beat (January 1977) told the story this way: "Cosie Costa, Bugs, is glad to be back in California after a year of living in one of New York’s toughest neighborhoods! He found life in New York very exciting and creative, but as far as California goes, he says, ‘I’m here to stay.’ He talks about New York with a lot of affection. He worked in the Broadway production of Grease, playing the role of Doody. Commenting on the way he got involved with Kids, he says he always allows an extra 30 minutes to get to an audition in case he runs into a friend. ‘I’ve gotten more people jobs by telling them where I was going!’ It wasn’t easy paying those high bills Cosie had in New York. Even though he was working and living in a small apartment, he could barely make his payments. Then when he was ready to move to the coast to start work on C.A.P.E.R., he called his friend John Lansing, (also in Grease), to help him move his furniture. John first heard about the show from Cosie, when he explained why he was leaving town in such a big hurry."
Teen Super Star (January 1977) elaborated on this same tale, saying, "Funny coincidence between Cosie Costa and John Lansing, both on ‘Kids from C.A.P.E.R.’: They were friends before (working in ‘Grease’) and both lived in New York! Cosie had tried out for the C.A.P.E.R. role and got the role immediately! Friend John was happy for him and, since it was a last minute thing, stayed up late with Cosie helping him pack up his apartment and all his belongings for the big move! Finally, Cosie was all packed and, the next day, he called John to thank him again and say his final ‘farewell’ before stepping on the plane! John said not to say ‘goodbye,’ just ‘so long,’ because he had tried out for C.A.P.E.R. just hours before -- and got the role, too!" While the time line makes this version seem somewhat improbable, it’s nice to know that somewhere in there is an inkling of truth. John Lansing and Cosie Costa had become very good friends while working together on Grease, well before landing roles on the same television series.
Cosie’s singing talents helped get him into C.A.P.E.R., and in the role of Bugs he won over a huge amount of fans who recognized his zany character as being one of the most appealing aspects of the show. Undoubtedly, Bugs flipping out every time he hears the word "banana" is one of the things fans seem to remember the most! Wearing glasses gave Bugs the appearance of being somewhat "nerdish," which made his character’s super-strength all the more surprising (the show reveled in these "opposite" characterizations, i.e. Doc being good-looking and smart and Doomsday having a dark name and clothes yet a sunny personality.) Cosie was quoted in Teen Magazine (December 1976) as saying, "Bugs is certainly not Cosie Costa, but there are certain things in my kind of humor that I try to write into Bugs’ character."
Quick to win over people with his friendly personality, Cosie definitely won over many of the teen magazine editors. In a Teen Super Star article about the C.A.P.E.R. Kids visiting their offices (November 1976), it was reported, "Cosie, John, Steve and Biff are all really nice guys, and I can’t believe how many people Cosie knows! Not only does he know John Travolta (when he took over his part in Grease!) and is good friends with him, but he used to be Michael Gray’s roommate! Michael (star of SHAZAM!) and Cosie both lived in the dorm at the Pasadena Playhouse way back when they were still learning their acting profession! Cosie also went to school with Sally Struthers and used to date her, and with Ben Murphy, too!"
Teen Super Stars (January 1977) reported Cosie dropped by their offices wearing overalls and happened to be there when Michael Lembeck and Mickey McMeel came in (both actors on C.A.P.E.R.’s rival ABC show, Kaptain Kool and the Kongs.) The article went on to say that Michael and Cosie were friends from when they did Grease together on the road.
Cosie began appearing regularly on television and in movies from that time on. Fans of C.A.P.E.R. were even able to watch him twice in one day, if they were paying attention! On February 24, 1977, Cosie not only appeared in The Fantastic Journey episode "Children of the Gods," playing a character named Delta, but they could have seen him in an episode of The Streets of San Francisco entitled "Innocent No More," which also guest starred a then up-and-coming actor named Mark Hamill.
It was mentioned in a couple of teen magazines that Cosie also made an appearance in an episode of Baretta, playing an eye witness to a murder, but this hasn’t been confirmed. He did do a guest turn on the popular series Eight is Enough in April 1977 in an episode entitled "Turnabout," playing a boy named Sandy Watson who is at the movies with his date, Elizabeth, when they spot David in the audience with an older woman (funnily enough, Steve Bonino would attempt to date Elizabeth in another episode of Eight is Enough one month later!)
Fans couldn't get enough of Cosie, and so Tiger Beat Star did a special question and answer session with him (April 1977) and asked, "What do you feel is your best quality? Your worst?" Cosie’s reply: "My best, well, my sense of humor, I guess. I think it’s as much for myself as it is for others -- I think a sense of humor can pull you and other people through a lot of tricky situations and bad spots in life. My worst? Probably that I worry at the wrong times -- like at night in bed. But I don’t do much about correcting the things I worry about! I also have a fast temper sometimes and say things I don’t mean to say."
From the same article, they posed the question, "What do you daydream about?" Cosie’s answer: "Well, I’m not really a daydreamer, it’s mostly about having security in my career. The average person works every day, five days a week, and they can count on their paychecks. I daydream about the day when, if I don’t get a certain job, it won’t matter . . . I’ll be able to pick and choose what roles I want."
Cosie continued to act, making many television and movie appearances over the years. Sometime in 1977 he appeared in a made-for-TV movie entitled The Quinns (this film was mentioned in his fall 1976 NBC Biography but apparently didn't air until sometime in 1977.) In 1978, he had a small part in the comedy film Thank God It’s Friday, playing a parking attendant near the beginning of the movie. (It should be noted that the movie co-starred Valerie Landsburg, producer Alan Landsburg's daughter, as Frannie. Valerie's acting debut had been in an episode of C.A.P.E.R.!) Cosie also apparently had a recurring role in the short-lived McLean Stevenson show In the Beginning, four episodes of which aired in 1978.
1979 found Cosie in three very different projects. He appeared in the acclaimed made-for-TV movie Friendly Fire, which starred Carol Burnett in a rare dramatic role (and also included an appearance by fellow C.A.P.E.R. Kid Steve Bonino!) In sharp contrast to this was the low-budget horror flick Survival Run (aka Spree) which co-starred Vincent Van Patten and veteran actors Peter Graves and Ray Milland! A mostly forgotten film, Cosie has a really notable part as Sal Meyer and makes the most of the less-than-stellar script to pull out a real gem of a performance. He also appeared in at least three episodes of the short-lived CBS series California Fever which starred Lorenzo Lamas, Jimmy McNichol and Marc McClure, playing a semi-regular character named Bobby.
His next television appearance was in April 1980 in a small role as a gang member in the science fiction series Galactic 1980 episode "The Night the Cylons Landed, Part Two." He played a character named Armando in a made-for-TV movie entitled Thornwell in 1981, which starred Vincent Gardenia and Glynn Turman. The movie told the story of John Thornwell, who sued the U.S. Army after obtaining documents through the Freedom of Information Act which showed he had been interrogated and drugged by the military. In October 1982, Cosie appeared in the Diff’rent Strokes episode, "The Peacemaker," playing a tough high school student. Cosie’s young appearance allowed him to be able to continue playing teenagers well into his thirties (and he certainly looked more like a teen than Andrew Dice Clay did in that episode!)
Cosie continued acting in movies, appearing in the 1983 Charles Bronson action thriller 10 to Midnight (oddly enough his name appears in the opening titles, although he only seems to have less than a minute of actual screen time . . . but considering he’s more or less seen "in the all" from behind, that may have warranted a higher billing!)
But Cosie’s best film role by far had to be that of Lieutenant Anthony Mazilli in the sequel to the very popular Chuck Norris film Missing in Action. Missing in Action 2: The Beginning, is actually a prequel of the previous film (reportedly filmed first but released later?) and follows a group of American prisoners of war who have been held for ten years by a sadistic Vietnamese colonel. While some of the plot points are a bit far-fetched, the action moves right along and the P.O.W. characters are engaging and likable. Cosie’s character is an interesting mixture; on one hand trying to be tough-as-nails like Norris but on the other hand showing his vulnerability and sensitive nature. You just know when you see he has a pet chicken at the beginning that things aren’t going to go well for him. But he is given lots of screen time and makes the most of it! Cosie would work again with Chuck Norris, making an appearance on a Walker, Texas Ranger episode entitled "Blackout" in 1996.
In 1985 Cosie made an appearance in the cult comedy classic Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins starring Fred Ward, Joel Grey and Wilford Brimley as a soldier named Private Damico who doesn't last very long. He also provided the voice of the character Gorbash in Rankin Bass’ animated movie The Flight of the Dragons in 1986. That same year he appeared in the film Kidnapped, starring David Naughton. In the credits, Cosie is listed as playing "Tony’s look-alike" and in watching the film we soon learn that Tony was played by Chick Vennera. But why does Chick's name sound so familiar to you, C.A.P.E.R. fans? Well, any of you who sat through the 1978 film Thank God It’s Friday to catch Cosie’s part most likely ended up loving the character Marv Gomez, the Leather Man, who was played by . . . you guessed it . . . Chick Vennera!
Sadly, substantial roles became less common, although Cosie still showed up here and there. He played a character named Captain Romance in a 1992 episode of Life Goes On entitled "The Fairy Tale." He also appeared in an episode of the short-lived Fox comedy series Vinnie & Bobby which starred a pre-Friends Matt LeBlanc as Vinnie and Robert Torti as Bobby. Sci-fi fans may remember him as the unique character Abbut in the first season episode of Babylon 5 entitled "Deathwalker" in 1994. In this episode, he played a strange mind-reading entity who engages in nonsensical negotiations with an underlying sinister purpose and a surprising secret.
Cosie also appeared in a strange straight-to-DVD film entitled The Hollywood Beach Murders in 1992 and a film called Point of Seduction: Body Chemistry III which starred Andrew Stevens, Morgan Fairchild (and, once again, Chick Vennera . . . in fact, Cosie plays Chick's character in a movie at the end of the film!), as well as his aforementioned 1996 role on Walker, Texas Ranger (at the time fellow C.A.P.E.R. Kid John Lansing was working on the series as Executive Story Editor.)
His last-known role was as Lou the Pizza Guy, a pizza vendor in a park on the soap opera, Port Charles, a spin-off from General Hospital. Sadly his role seemed to consist mostly of serving the regular cast members pizza, making change and not speaking nearly enough.
Cosie is no longer acting, instead devoting his time and energy in
non-entertainment business ventures in Southern California, although he
and John Lansing remain good friends to this day. We wish Cosie much
success in all of his endeavors and hope that one day we may see
him on the big or little screen again!
Go to Cosie's NBC Biography Page
Go to Cosie's Fast Facts Page
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