Furst in 2014
|Born||Stephen Nelson Feuerstein
(1954-05-08)May 8, 1954
Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.
|Died||June 16, 2017(2017-06-16) (aged 63)
Moorpark, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Complications related to Diabetes mellitus|
|Alma mater||Virginia Commonwealth University|
|Spouse(s)||Lorraine Wright (m. 1976; his death 2017)|
Stephen Furst (born Stephen Nelson Feuerstein; May 8, 1954 – June 16, 2017) was an American actor and film and television director. Furst was a regular in the science fiction series Babylon 5 playing Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto and as Dr. Elliot Axelrod on St. Elsewhere. He was also featured, before appearing in either of those roles, as Kent “Flounder” Dorfman in the film National Lampoon’s Animal House and its spin-off series, Delta House.
Furst worked as a pizza delivery driver while looking for acting jobs in the mid-1970s, and included his head shot in pizza boxes. After Matty Simmons saw his photo, Furst was cast as Flounder in National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978). He reprised this role in the 1979 spin-off series Delta House. Others include ‘Junior’ Keller in The Unseen (1980), as Gonzer in the feature film Up the Creek (1984), as Dr. Elliot Axelrod in the television series St. Elsewhere (1983–1988), and as Vir Cotto in the science fiction television series Babylon 5 (1994–1998). Furst was amused by the report that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un modeled his haircut after Furst’s character in Babylon 5.
In 1979 he played the role of an overweight high school tuba player coerced onto the wrestling team in Kieth Merrill‘s feel-good underdog film, Take Down. Also in 1979, as pointed out above, he reprised the Flounder character in the ABC sitcom Delta House. He also reprised the character and repeated his famous line, “Oh boy, is this great!” in the Twisted Sister music video for “I Wanna Rock.”
In 1980, he played the character of Harold in the cult classic movie, Midnight Madness, and the character of “Junior” Keller (the unseen) in the horror movie The Unseen. In 1983, he also appeared in a supporting role as Aldo in the provocative ABC TV movie The Day After. In 1989, he played the character of Albert Ianuzzi in the film The Dream Team.
In 1983, Furst also appeared in an episode of CHiPs titled “Fun House,” alongside Erik Estrada, Tom Reilly, and Heather O’Rourke; in this installment, Furst acted out a student who belonged to the college fraternity “DDT.”
Although not a regular, he also appeared in the short-lived 1992 TV series The Amazing Live Sea Monkeys.
In the 1995 animated TV series Freakazoid!, he voiced the character Fanboy. Also in 1995, he took a hiatus from Babylon 5 to star in a short-lived TV series, Misery Loves Company. In 1997, he played Derby Ferris in Little Bigfoot 2: The Journey Home. He also voiced a young Colonel Hathi in Season 2 of Disney’s Jungle Cubs, had a starring voice role as Booster in the 2000 series Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, and also played a hulky walrus named Dash in the 2000 Disney movie The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea. He starred in Magic Kid and its sequel.
In 2002, he guest starred in an episode of Scrubs.
Furst directed many independent and/or low-budget movies, including the low-budget movie Title to Murder starring Christopher Atkins and Maureen McCormick in 2001, and the direct to video children’s movie Baby Huey’s Great Easter Adventure.
Furst produced other several films under his production company Curmudgeon Films. Atomic Shark aired in August of 2016 on Syfy, during “Sharknado Week”. Christmas in Homestead premiered on the Hallmark Channel during the holiday season of 2016. Cold Moon, a psychological thriller based on the Michael McDowell book, is set for a theatrical release in October 2017 in the United States. Cold Moon won “Best Horror Film” at the 2016 Laughlin Film Festival.
2016 Criticism of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Furst wrote a letter, later published in Variety, criticizing the Academy’s portrayal of its own members as racist and resistant to diversity and suggested the Academy’s response to the 2016 #OscarsSoWhite was ageist and sexist. He suggested that most members of the Academy don’t watch the films nominated for awards, and that the Academy should start by ensuring those who vote have watched the films.
Battle with obesity and diabetes, and activism
Cast in early roles as a fat kid, Furst used humor to help him cope with his insecurities about his weight. He said, “when you’re a fat kid, you try to make the fat jokes before other people make them.” Both of Stephen’s parents died at age 47 from complications of diabetes. When Furst was just 17, and only weeks after his father’s death, his doctor told him he had diabetes. He reached a weight of 320 pounds and out-of-control type 2 diabetes by age 40. He stepped on a piece of glass which resulted in a limb-threatening foot infection. He said, “I finally admitted that obesity and diabetes were a part of a life-threatening legacy — and I had to deal with it or die.” He started an aggressive diet and dropped to 164 pounds and was able to stop taking insulin, but much damage had already been done. Furst developed end-stage renal disease and started dialysis, which severely limited his life. While at a casting call for a play he was producing in Cincinnati, Furst mentioned that he was on dialysis for two years. An anonymous donor heard about his plight and offered to donate a kidney. Astonishingly they were a tissue match. Furst never found out the identity of his donor whom he credited with saving his life, but on his Facebook page, he publicly thanked the donor on the anniversary of his transplant surgery. Starting in June 2006, Furst co-hosted the Renal Support Network‘s webcast KidneyTalk with Lori Hartwell.
Furst became a spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association and authored the book Confessions of a Couch Potato. He shared his tips and recipes for how he took control of his diabetes and his life.
As a celebrity spokesperson for the American Heart Association, Furst said, “I thought I was more powerful than the disease of diabetes, but in reality, I was letting it take control of me. Now, I’ve decided to take control of my life.”
In later years, suffering from more foot problems and at risk for amputation, Furst became an advocate for the use of total contact cast and amniotic tissue to heal diabetic foot ulcers.
Personal life and death
In 1972, Furst’s father died from diabetes complications. Years later, Furst, too, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. After almost needing to have his left foot amputated due to diabetes complications in 1996, Furst reduced his weight from 260 lbs to 175 lbs. When filming started for the fourth season of Babylon 5, the show’s producers found that all the costumes he had worn during the previous seasons were now too large for him.
Furst had two sons, both in the entertainment business. His older son, Nathan Furst (b. 1978), is a television and film composer. His younger son, Griff Furst (b. 1981), is an actor, director and musician.
Furst was married to Lorraine Wright, an entertainment lawyer, from 1976 until his death.
- American Raspberry (1977) – Fat Gin Player
- The Bastard (1978) – Bertrand
- National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) – Kent Dorfman
- Take Down (1979) – Randy Jensen
- Swim Team (1979) – Bear
- Scavenger Hunt (1979) – Merle
- Midnight Madness (1980) – Harold – Blue Team Leader
- The Unseen (1980) – ‘Junior’ Keller (The Unseen)
- Getting Wasted (1980) – Marshall
- Silent Rage (1982) – Charlie
- National Lampoon’s Class Reunion (1982) – Hubert Downs
- The Day After (1983) – Aldo
- Up the Creek (1984) – Gonzer
- Off Sides (Pigs vs. Freaks) (1984) – Steamboat
- The Dream Team (1989) – Albert Ianuzzi
- Magic Kid (1993) – Bob Ryan
- Magic Kid 2 (1994) – Uncle Bob
- Howie Mandel’s Sunny Skies (1995)
- Goldilocks and the Three Bears (1995) – Hawkins
- Cops n Roberts (1995)
- Little Bigfoot 2: The Journey Home (1998) – Derby Ferris
- Deadly Delusions (1999) – Rev. Crane
- The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000) – Dash (voice)
- Title to Murder (2001) – Oscar, the Security Guard
- Going Greek (2001)
- Echoes of Enlightenment (2001) – House Foreclosure Client
- Sorority Boys (2002) – The Alum
- Searching for Haizmann (2003) – Dr. Gaulforid
- Roomies (2004) – Mr. Nossee
- Everything’s Jake (2006) – Assistant Librarian
- Seven Days of Grace (2006) – Henry Henary, III
- John Belushi: Dancing on the Edge (2010) – Himself