Estelle Harris, the lightning bolt of sass and charisma who easily stole every scene she was in on Seinfeld and beyond, died yesterday at her home in Palm Desert, CA. Estelle’s son Glen Harris says that he was with her when she died of natural causes. Estelle was just a couple of days away from her 94th birthday.
Glen Harris delivered the sad news in a statement to Deadline
“It is with the greatest remorse and sadness to announce that Estelle Harris has passed on this evening at 6:25pm. Her kindness, passion, sensitivity, humor, empathy and love were practically unrivaled, and she will be terribly missed by all those who knew her.”
Estelle Harris was born Estelle Nussbaum in New York City, and was raised in Tarentum, Pennyslvania. Estelle married Sy Harris in 1953, and the two made three children together: Eric Harris (born in 1957), Glen Harris (born in 1961), and Taryn Harris (born in 1964). While raising her children, Estelle scratched her love of acting itch by doing community theater productions. She waited until her children got older before she handed them her purse, and said, “Hold this, because I’m about to take Hollywood by STORM.” And that she did and slid hard into The It’s Never Too Fucking Late Hall of Fame.
Variety says that Estelle made her professional acting debut in 1977 with small roles in two movies Looking Up and Summerdog. And in between starring in commercials, Estelle continued to book gigs and was in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America (1984) and played the recurring role of Easy Mary (my new Grindr username) on several episodes of Night Court. Since I’m a child of the 80s, I was first introduced to the lovable magic of Estelle Harris when she sang a plastic wrap-ified cover of It Don’t Mean A Thing in a Handi-Wrap II commercial:
Estelle was in Stand and Deliver, This Is My Life, and episodes of Married… with Children, Brooklyn Bridge, Mad About You, and Law & Order before landing the role that turned her into a STAH! Estelle and her pristinely delicate eyebrow situation made their debut as George Costanza’s melodramatic master yeller mom Estelle Constanza in Seinfeld on the 11th episode of the fourth season. In that episode, Estelle Constanza hurts herself from falling down after catching George jacking off. Estelle deserved an Emmy solely for her perfect delivery of the line, “I go out for a quart of milk, I come home and find my son treating his body like it was an amuuuuuuuusement park!”
Estelle went on to steal the show in dozens of more Seinfeld episodes:
For children of the 80s, 90s, and the early aughts, Estelle was a big part of their childhood. She did the voice of Mrs. Potato Head in Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3, and Toy Story 4., and played Muriel in 14 episodes of the Disney Channel’s The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. Estelle’s many, many credits also include roles in The Westside Waltz, The Odd Couple II, My Giant, What’s Cooking?, Playing Mona Lisa, CBGB, Chicago Hope, Cybill, Living Single, Moesha, The Parkers, Half & Half, ER, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Estelle’s unmistakable voice could also be heard in a zillion cartoon series like Timon & Pumbaa, Hercules, The Wild Thornberrys, Queer Duck, Family Guy, The Proud Family, Kim Possible, and Futurama.
Estelle’s husband Sy died last year. She is survived by her three children, three grandsons, and great-grandson.
Jason Alexander paid tribute to his TV mother today, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus also sent love to Estelle:
One of my favorite people has passed – my tv mama, Estelle Harris. The joy of playing with her and relishing her glorious laughter was a treat. I adore you, Estelle. Love to your family. Serenity now and always. #RIPEstelleHarris
— jason alexander (@IJasonAlexander) April 3, 2022
— Julia Louis-Dreyfus (@OfficialJLD) April 3, 2022
Rest in peace, Estelle. You are now in heaven where the angels can’t get enough of your bologna sandwiches. They have TASTE!