You don’t play a New York City police detective on “Law & Order” for 12 years without getting some attention from real-life New Yorkers. Luckily for actor Jerry Orbach, who played detective Lennie Briscoe on the show, the attention he received was positive. In fact, people loved Orbach’s portrayal on the show so much, they decided to gift him with a great honor. The city named him one of New York City’s Living Legends. Orbach talked about the honor with Conan O’Brien during “Late Night” in 2004.
“Now, you were recently named one of New York’s Living Landmarks. How did that make you feel?” asked O’Brien.
Orbach’s response was hilarious. He said only one word, “Old.”
After the audience finished laughing, Orbach continued.
“It was great. It was terrific. They made this thing of Living Landmarks. And I guess it means they can’t tear me down, like a landmark building,” joked Orbach.
O’Brien then asked Orbach who else has been honored as a Living Legend.
“They just inducted Elaine of Elaine’s Restaurant,” said Orbach. “Sam Waterston was inducted along with me.”
Sam Waterston also starred in “Law & Order.” He played Executive ADA (later District Attorney) Jack McCoy.
O’Brien then complained that he hadn’t been invited to become a Living Legend. To try to ease his pain, Orbach said, “I have to tell you though, you don’t get anything.”
There’s a Street in New York City Named After ‘Law & Order’ Star Jerry Orbacher
Well, kind of. There’s a portion of a street named after “Law & Order”‘s Jerry Orbach. And believe me, his family worked HARD to get that portion of the street. There’s actually an entire news story from 2007 about how difficult it was for Orbach’s family to convince officials to name the street after the Living Legend.
In short, several streets around New York City have been named after celebrities. So, when Jerry Orbach passed in 2004, Orbach’s wife, Elaine, thought it would be a piece of cake to have the corner of West 53rd and 8th Avenue named after Orbach. That intersection was where Elaine and Jerry lived. So, how hard could it be? After all, he was one of New York City’s most legendary fictional police detectives. Additionally, before his time on “Law & Order” Jerry Orbach spent years as a highly successful Broadway actor. If that’s not New York icon material, I don’t know what is. Turns out, that wasn’t quite enough to get a street named after him.
Unfortunately, Community Board 5, the group that controlled the western edge of the intersection, didn’t like streets to be named after celebrities. So they fought the request. It wasn’t until 2007, three years after Orbach passed, that a portion of the street was finally named in his honor. “Jerry Orbach Way” was unveiled during a dedication ceremony on Monday, September 17, 2007 on the southwest corner of the block. Orbach’s widow was in attendance, as were several “Law & Order” castmates and Orbach’s friends from Broadway.