Long before seven generation watermelon farmer and NASCAR Cup Series racer Ross Chastain began smashing watermelons on the track after a win, long haired comedian Gallagher was smashing watermelons and all manner of vegetation with a sledge hammer as the main gig in his act.
Gallagher died November 11, 2022 in his Palm Springs, California home at the age of 76. Saying he died after a brief illness, no specific cause of death was revealed but the comic has been dealing with heart issues over the past several years; which led to his eventual retirement in 2012.
Tired of state office work, Gallagher turned to entertainment. He was the road manager for singer Jim Stafford and the singing duo Seals & Crofts before turning to his own unique form of comedy.
Gallagher would sometimes make people think with some of his thoughts and ideas; but it was his famous “Sledge-O-Matic” that had fans repeatedly coming to his show, often armed with clear ponchos and garbage bags to protect them from flying produce.
These days it isn’t difficult to find an informercial on any number of television channels but back in the days of Gallagher’s heyday, they were reserved for late night television only. Gallagher used an impression of one of those late night salesmen to offer fans a “handy new kitchen tool”, saying “Ladies and gentlemen! I did not come here tonight just to make you laugh. I came here to sell you something, and I want you to pay particular attention. The amazing Master Tool Corporation, a subsidiary of Fly-By-Night Industries, has entrusted who? Me! To show you! The handiest and the dandiest kitchen tool you’ve ever seen.” AT which point he would produce his “Sledge-O-Matic (the sledgehammer) and proceed to smash numerous pieces of produce; and making quite the mess.
Along with numerous videos and television specials, Gallagher has appeared in dozens of productions including “The Jim Stafford Show”, “The Midnight Special”, “The Mike Douglas Show”, “Hollywood Squares”, “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson”, “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour”, and “The Book of Daniel”.
Never one to hold back, Gallagher spoke his mind on stage and in later years it got him into some trouble with his racist and homophobic comments.
During the course of his career, he was quite in demand and spent much of his time on the road. He starred in 14 Showtime specials.
He was born Leo Anthony Gallagher Jr, on July 24, 1946 in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He graduated from the University of South Florida in Tampa in 1969.
Younger brother Ron followed in his big brother’s footsteps; so much so, that Leo Gallagher took brother Ron Gallagher to court to keep him from using the routines.
In 2003, Gallagher was one of over 100 candidates in the running for the governorship of California. Strong man and film actor Arnold Schwarzenegger went on to win the election. Speaking on politicians Gallagher once said, “I don’t want to overthrow the government, I wanna fire’em.”
Married and divorced twice, Gallagher is survived by his daughter Aimee Rose.
feature photo credit: Gallagher comedian.jpg