Estelle Harris, who hyperventilated her way into the hearts of millions of “Seinfeld” fans as Estelle Costanza, died Saturday in Palm Desert, California. She was 93.
Her son Glen Harris announced the death in a statement from Mrs. Harris’s agent.
In 27 episodes – beginning in 1992 during the fourth season of “Seinfeld”, around the time the show became a pop culture sensation, and continuing until its last episode in 1998 – Mrs. Harris was embarrassed and addressed her son, one of the show’s four main characters, George Costanza (Jason Alexander), and his father, Frank (Jerry Stiller).
During her character’s meltdowns, often in response to disdain and insults of decency, Mrs. Harris gave out a cry that had the urgency of a hyena in its death throes. Her comedic style evoked paranoia and outrage in response to offenses such as her son continuing to wear the same button-down shirt five years after he bought it.
Estelle Nussbaum was born on April 4, 1928, in New York City, where her Polish Jewish parents owned a candy store. She spent much of her childhood in Tarentum, Pennsylvania, a small mining town. There she endured anti-Semitic taunts, but found an outlet in stage performances. Her father, who she said spoke “the English of the king,” insisted that she take speech lessons from an early age.
She moved back to New York in her late teens and later married Sy Harris, a window covering salesman. They had three children and for a time Mrs. Harris was a housewife.
She made her way through community theater and TV commercials before her big break on “Seinfeld.” She went on to take on other prominent roles as a character actor for the gritty and unhinged film, including in the “Toy Story” movie franchise, for which she provided the voice of Mrs. Potato Head.
She is survived by her children, three grandsons and a great-grandson.
A full obituary will be published shortly.