Edward Lansing was born October 16, 1949 in Baldwin on Long Island, New York. His parents, John and Loretta Lansing,
already had two girls and would have one more girl afterwards, giving John
three sisters in all.
John had no aspirations for acting when he was young . . . his only on stage performances came when he was a part of a choir. It wasn't until he attended Delhi in upstate New York that he caught the acting bug, landing the role of Nathan Detroit in the musical Guys and Dolls. He even switched his major from business to liberal arts when he realized acting was something he enjoyed and he was also good at! As John explained in an interview with Teen Beat magazine (June 1977), "In college I discovered theater and Iíve been fulfilled ever since. Iíve made it my life and Iím thrilled about it."
John worked very hard at his craft in a variety of venues, including performing plays at Oswego University for one year. During these formative years he appeared in productions of Bells Are Ringing, Born Yesterday, Peter Pan, Our American Cousin, The Hairy Falsetto, Don't Drink the Water, The Mall, A View from the Bridge, Merry Wives of Windsor, Zoo Story and Romeo and Juliet.
His first Broadway role was as a singer in the play The Sign in Sidney Brusteinís Window, a revival which co-starred Hal Linden and ran for a short time in January 1972. As John explained in a Teen Beat magazine article (June 1977), "My very first role on Broadway was in a play called The Sign in Sidney Brusteinís Window. Between jobs I kept going back to college." In 1972, John also performed in Sherman Yellen's play New Gods for Lovers in New York with the H.B. Playwrights Foundation.
John also performed with the Chicago Free Street Theatre, having been referred to the group by fellow actor Danny Beard, and had the opportunity to tour Europe with the group as well as visit Yugoslavia for the Belgrade International Theatre Festival. He told Teen Beat in that same article, "That was really fun, too." At some point in this period of Johnís life he landed his first lead role in a feature film entitled Only a Game. The unreleased film was shot in Puerto Rico and told the story of a man with a camera obscura who wanted to use it to bring the actors in his film to life. John told Teen Beat (June 1977) about working on the film, saying, "My first lead feature was in a movie called Only a Game, which was really fun to make. We were on location in Puerto Rico, and it was one of the best times in my life."
It was when John returned to New York that he became involved in the play that would become a big part of his life; Grease. As he explained to Teen Beat, "When I came back to New York, I got a job as an understudy in the Broadway production of Grease. We did that for about four months until we took it out to Los Angeles. I replaced the lead when we got out to the Coast, but then I left because I was given my own road company, playing the role of Danny Zuko. We toured many cities with it." (One report said the touring company covered 90 cities in nine months!) During his time in Los Angeles, John also briefly became a student of Lee Strasberg at the Strasberg Theatre Institute.
It was on this bus and truck tour of the U.S. that John got to know Cosie Costa, who was playing the role of (Cosie had come from the New York production of the show.) Also appearing in the touring company with John during this period was Cosie Costa, playing the role of Doody This touring company (which also included Marcia McClain as Sandy, Karren Dille as Rizzo and Chick Vennera as Sonny) opened on October 8, 1973 in Kalamazoo, Michigan and they were still touring as of June 8, 1974. One of the longer engagements during this tour was at the National Theater in Washington, D.C., which ran from May 20 through June 8, 1974.
John continued to explain to Teen Beat, "When I left the company I went back to New York and I had the lead on Broadway." At the Royale Theater in 1975, John starred as Danny Zuko with Ilene Graf playing Sandy and Marilu Henner playing Marty. It was reported that John also became friends with John Travolta around this time.
During his time touring with Grease, John started pursuing another avenue of interest; music. Talking to Teen Beat (June 1977), John said, "When I quit that [the Broadway production of Grease] I was unemployed for a while and I thought it would be about time to think of the future. I put together a group where I was lead singer. We appeared in CBGBís, a New York club. The experience was fantastic!" According to some reports, before Grease John had sung with a band called Michael Angelo which performed in clubs and colleges throughout the country. But the band John was referring to in his quotation was called Fox. It was quite clear that John was as interested in music as he was in acting, playing both acoustic and electric guitar as well as composing and writing songs.
Johnís experience in both acting and music helped him land the role in C.A.P.E.R., getting the role of Doc just after Cosie was cast as Bugs. Teen magazines loved to point out the existing friendship between John and Cosie, often telling the interesting story about how the two of them came to be in the series. In a Teen Beat article (January 1977), the story was told this way: " . . . when (Cosie) 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. Two days later, John got a call from his agent to go to Don Kirshnerís office and audition for the last remaining role on Kids. Only two days went by before John, too, found himself in Los Angeles, in his first television job as Doc." (For two other versions of the same story, read Cosie Costaís biography.)
The article went on to explain that the significance of working on a network television series was not lost on John. "He says he absolutely shook for the first couple of days in Southern California. The potential for growth in his career was staggering. Now heís enjoying the beach life in Southern Californiaís Malibu, using Ďthe horizon as a back-drop for my work.í There he can play his guitar and compose new material and find time to read."
Johnís role on C.A.P.E.R. was unique in-and-of itself. He was clearly meant to be the heart throb of the group, and yet his character of Doc was unusually complex for Saturday morning television, with his impressive vocabulary, deep-thinking aloofness and detached demeanor. Tiger Beat (February 1977) explained both John and Doc this way: "When you watch John on TV or look at a picture of him, you see a guy whoís tall, dark and handsome -- and "oozing with confidence!" Even on the show, the other C.A.P.E.R. kids look up to John for his guidance and problem-solving know-how! John definitely stands out in any crowd, even among the other guys on the show! Cosie, Biff and Steve are wacky and fun-loving guys whose style of dress is very relaxed and casual. All of them seem to have a friendly, kind of "boy-next-door" image! Then thereís John with his suave appearance, chic velvet suits and never a hair out of place! His total look spells mystery and romance! John isnít an average "run-of-the-mill" guy and to some people he seems untouchable! What youíre seeing on the TV screen is a very convincing actor! Johnís character, "Doc," is supposed to be the self-assured leader of the group! Consequently, he portrays "Doc" with lots of smooth-walking confidence, and heís totally believable in the role! Naturally, when fans see John away from the set, they think he must be just as cool and collected as "Doc!"
Teen Super Star (December 1976) explained his character this way: "Doc is a very strong, quiet, self-assured type of guy. The other three C.A.P.E.R. Kids are the zanies, but Doc is the always-collected leader!" John was even quoted in Teen magazine (December 1976) as explaining, "As Doc, in any other circumstance, he probably wouldnít be hanging out with the other three guys, but they really need him." This is because Docís character was supposed to be the oldest (at 20) and had been "groomed to deal with empires," having a prep school upbringing and coming from a heavily intellectual family with money (which would explain why heís being driven to the library in an expensive car in the showís theme song.)
Because of his good looks and fabulous voice, John became a favorite among teens, and as such a teen magazine favorite! John shared some insights into his life with Teen Beat (June 1977), covering a variety of subjects. According to the article, "John, who is very sports minded, says he relaxes playing soccer, golf and running track. ĎYou name the sport, and Iíll participate. Iím living in Malibu now, a stoneís throw from the water. It was always my dream, since Iím from New York, to live near the beach and hear the waves at night. Sometimes I canít believe that Iím actually fulfilling my dream. I was living in a loft in New York and somehow this life is so different. Donít get me wrong. I still am a New York boy at heart, but this life is so relaxing. I canít believe I can walk around in the middle of October in a t-shirt and jeans. Back home, Iíd be all bundled up!í
On women: "I really donít have any special type that Iím attracted to. I do know I like someone to have a good sense of humor and to be an Ďupí person. Iím far from settling down at this time, but when the time comes, Iíll be the first to admit it. Iíve often thought about children. When that time comes, I want to have more than one child. I donít think itís fair to be the only one. Iím not an only child and Iím thankful for that. Iíve been brought up with a great deal of love in my home. My parents have always showed us what love is all about. I canít remember my folks fighting in front of us, in fact, when I think about it, I only remember happiness. Thatís the way I would like to pattern my life when I take that final step. I want to get married once and stay married. Marriage is a very important step in anyoneís life. I certainly donít want to abuse it."
John was also quoted as saying, "I love plants. I guess when you live in New York you long for something Ďgreen.í" When we asked him if he talks to his plants, he smiled a bright smile, and said, "no, I sing to them!" And finally when asked about cooking, the magazine wrote, "John admits heís a good cook, Ďbut I donít enjoy cooking. I would rather have a lovely girl cook for me. My specialties are Italian food; I make great sauces and gravy.í Laughing, he said, Ďbut give me a good Chinese meal or Italian meal, and you wonít hear me complaining.í"
When it became clear that C.A.P.E.R. was not going to be picked up for a second season, John found other work in Hollywood. In October 1977, he appeared on the Barney Miller spin-off Fish in an episode entitled, "Fish and the Rock Star," where he played, fittingly, a rock star named Johnny Sultan. And Laverne & Shirley fans will certainly remember John as Laverneís hot cousin Anthony De Fazio in the two-part, season four opener "Festival," in which the whole gang travels to New York to visit Laverneís family and take part in the big Italian festival, the highlight of which is a pole climbing contest. Cousin Anthony and Shirley hit it off, even though Carmine Ragusa has sent Lenny and Squiggy along to keep an eye on Shirley for him should just such a romance occur while sheís away!
John was again being mentioned in the teen magazines in 1979 when he had two major movie releases. He co-starred with Joey Travolta in the film Sunnyside, playing Joeyís brother in a story about a young man (Travolta) trying to break away from gang life. In More American Graffiti, a sequel to popular George Lucas film, he had a hilarious turn playing a hippie stoner named Lance in 1960's San Francisco. As such, he gets to be harassed by Harrison Ford in a cameo role as Officer Bob Falfa, a reprise of his character in the original American Graffiti. One article from this time stated that he was seriously dating Carol Ann Williams (Cindy Williamsí sister), who co-starred in the film. But fans know they had met previously when she played Liza in the Kids from C.A.P.E.R. episode "King Cone!" At the end of 1979, Los Angeles magazine cited John as one of the "Promising Big Stars of the 80's"
Articles which came out around 1979 also noted that John was an accomplished gymnast, which is a bit of a stretch considering he had only ever been on his gymnastics team in high school, yet it is apparent that John is definitely limber when you view the pictures of his high jump split from his performance on stage in Grease (as well the impressive "lift" by Marianne Ludwig while dancing in the "Like a Hero in the Movies" musical segment of the C.A.P.E.R. episode Phantom of the Drive-In . . . accomplished not by Marianne's strength but by a notably high jump by John!) "You can do those things when your young!" John explained to us. One article also spoke of John's love for piloting planes, although he never finished going for his pilot's license.
Television roles also continued and in April 1979, John made an appearance in an episode of the Eileen Brennan series 13 Queens Boulevard called "The Younger Man." He played a character named Steve in an episode of Charlieís Angels entitled "Danciní Angels" in February 1980. He also had a role in the 1981 made-for-TV movie Miracle on Ice which told the story of the U.S. Olympic hockey teamís victory over the Russian team the previous year. And John returned for the final bow of Laverne & Shirley in the 1983 swan song episode, "Here Today, Hair Tomorrow." Intended as a pilot for a new spin-off series focused on the character Carmine Ragusa, the story followed Carmine to New York where he auditioned for a role in the musical ĎHair." This time John played a director.
John made television appearances into the latter half of the 80's, with John making appearances in 1985 on the Lee Horsley series Matt Houston, in an episode called "The Honeymoon Murders," and on the Fred Dryer series Hunter, in an episode entitled "Waiting for Mr. Wrong" where he played a jewel thief (and got to ride a motorcycle!) In 1987, he made a guest appearance on the Tom Selleck series Magnum, P.I. in the episode "The People vs. Orville Wright," (which was written by John's future writing partner, Bruce Cervi.) And in November 1988 he had a role in a made-for-TV comedy film called Take My Daughters, Please which co-starred Rue McLanahan, Kim Delaney, Deidre Hall and Stepfanie Kramer (from the previously mentioned series, Hunter.) John also had a role in the 1988 Matt Dillon, Andrew McCarthy film Kansas, playing the Governorís Aide.
As the 1990's rolled around, John began taking directing courses at UCLA but eventually he veered in a different direction altogether and began writing scripts, pairing with fellow writer Bruce Cervi to pen episodes of Shades of L.A., Renegade and Swamp Thing. Their partnership continued as they worked on the Chuck Norris series Walker, Texas Ranger, and they co-wrote a good number of scripts for the series, as well as eventually acting as executive story editors for the show. John even stepped in front of the cameras to make a guest appearance in the 1995 episode "Evil in the Night," playing Councilman Graham. The pair also co-wrote the 2002 made-for-TV movie The Presidentís Man: A Line in the Sand starring Chuck Norris, as well as Walker, Texas Ranger: Trial by Fire, a 2005 made-for-TV, again starring Chuck Norris.
John Lansing and Bruce Cervi also took on the role of producers for the Walker series, acting at different times as a co-producers, supervising producers and executive producers. The pair also acted as co-executive producers on a 2008 made-for-TV comedy film called Good Behavior, which was described as "an American adaptation of the New Zealand series ĎOutrageous Fortuneí." A side interest of Bruce Cervi is the supernatural, and in 2008 Bruce Cervi embarked on a venture called KinShip with actress and director Willow Hale. On the KinShip's production website, they credit John with writing the great line, "your taxpayer money hard at work," and say that John was then living in Marina Del Rey with his dog Lucky and two cats Scotch and Lottie (the site also includes a really nice, more current photo of John.)
Johnís last known acting role was in a short, promotional film entitled A Scrooge Meets Cinderella Story. Made in 2008 to promote a website-based organizational system called Producers Utopia, which was aimed at helping those in the entertainment industry keep track of scripts and revisions, this little film is a very funny and cute cautionary tale about an overbearing producer named Joel Rudinheimer (the Scrooge, if you will) who endlessly harasses and berates his poor assistant, Ella (the Cinderella, you see) until she discovers this wonderful system that will make both their lives easier. John gave a hilarious and spot-on performance, and it makes us hope that we will still be seeing much more acting from him in the future.
John and Bruce Cervi last acted as co-executive producers on the ABC series Scoundrels, based on the popular New Zealand series, Outrageous Fortune. As we've mentioned above, the team tried to bring another version of the series, entitled Good Behavior, to ABC in 2008. The premiere episode of Scoundrels debuted on June 20, 2010 and several episodes were run before the show was apparently cancelled. They continue to write together but also pursue their own writing endeavors separately.
John is currently working on a series of crime novels and has co-written his first non-fiction book with former NYPD Deputy Inspector Glen Morisano entitled Good Cop, Bad Money. The book, which chronicles Morisano's life and career as a police inspector who was notoriously tough on the Big Apple's drug lords and criminals, has been published by the newly created company First One Digital Publishing. It's both a thrilling and inspirational read well worth your perusal!
Go to John's NBC Biography Page
Go to John's Fast Facts Page
Read our exclusive interview with John
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