Tribute: Paul 'Principal Vernon' Gleason

152745__club_lThis is how most of us remember Paul Gleason, who died of lung cancer over the weekend. Hollywood will remember him as a working actor, with more than 130 TV and film credits to his name.

A Lee Strasberg vet, Gleason was a character actor who specialized in prigs, pricks, and prickly authority figures. He was the stiff-necked police lieutenant who didn’t want to help Bruce Willis in Die Hard – and got mercilessly dressed down for it by the hero. He was memorably violated by a gorilla in Trading Places. And that, for good or for ill, was how we liked him: suffering for the sins of all the faceless autocrats whose boots we’ve felt in our backsides since elementary school.

But Gleason gave his pricks depth, pathos, even a secret humility, as in The Breakfast Club. Who can forget the frightened, flummoxed look on Principal Richard Vernon’s face after his epic battle with Bender (Judd Nelson), where he pretends not to hear the parting "F— you!"? Who can forget his pathetic and terrifying invitation to "take one good swing"?

And the guy had the style to reprise those roles in parody, too, time and again. Sure, they were near-parodies already, but he made them iconic and indelible.

So knock one back on a school night for a working actor of the old school. We messed with the bull, we got the horns, and we’ll miss that.

addCredit(“Paul Gleason: Kobal Collection”)


Comments (20 total) Add your comment
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  • John

    OK, Breakfast Club is great and all, but still, can anyone, anywhere top the immortal timing of the line: “We’re gonna need some more FBI guys.” I think not.

  • Sandy

    He was brillant…such a loss.

  • jcoop

    “hold on, f- off!”
    he will be missed.

  • Don

    I will always remember him as Major Thomas “Long Tom” Roberts in the cripplingly- awful and campy adaptation of “Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze”.
    Also as the man who introduced the phrase “hunnagunna” to me in the Breakfast Club.

  • Maeve

    I’m not the one who just got butt f-cked on national TV, Dwayne!

  • Robin


  • Tim

    John’s right. That was one of the best lines in Die Hard.
    Gleason was in the Sci-Fi Channel movie Abominible, (sp?), the killer yeti movie. He played the hick sheriff. Not enough screen time.

  • Buck

    “Park it bub, no one is going anywhere till I say so!”

  • roxie

    “Can you describe the ruckus, sir?”
    How can anyone from “The Breakfast Club” be dead so soon? (My money was on Judd Nelson.) And I could have sworn Vernon was the Vice Principal, not principal. Otherwise why would he be pulling the Saturday a.m. shifts?

  • drew

    “Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?”….That man is a brownie-hound.

  • Stephanie

    He was funny in Johhny Be Good. However, The Breakfast Club did it for me. “Just one swing”. You knew that Bender was afraid of him because his temper reminded him of his fathers.

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