Elizabeth Ann Sheridan (born April 10, 1929) is an American actress. She was born and raised in Rye, New York, the daughter of concert singer Elizabeth Poole-Jones and classical pianist, Frank Sheridan. While best known for her role as Jerry's mother in Seinfeld, her decades-long career is extensive and includes work as a dancer, singer, and actress of stage and screen.
Sheridan began her professional life in New York City and the Caribbean as a nightclub dancer and singer, moving on to stage work. She was cast in Broadway productions throughout the 1970s, both in musicals and plays. Sheridan co-starred with Meryl Streep and Christopher Lloyd in the 1977's musical, Happy End, before moving to Los Angeles. Working in Hollywood, she came to prominence in supporting roles in over a dozen feature films and 60 prime time network television movies, mini-series, and series including Kojak, Archie Bunker's Place, St. Elsewhere, Newhart, Moonlighting, The A-Team, Who's the Boss, Hill St. Blues, Cagney & Lacey, Family Ties, and Murder, She Wrote. Her first major role was playing nosy neighbor Raquel Ochmonek on the NBC TV series ALF, from 1986 to 1990. Following that she secured her most renowned and long-lived role, as Jerry's mother, Helen, in Seinfeld. She appeared in all nine seasons, from 1990 to 1998.
In the 1950s and 1960s, she lived and worked in the Caribbean, "singing and playing the piano in almost every bar and saloon in the West Indies." In the late 1960s, back in New York, she performed in one of Julius Monk's annual cabaret reviews at Plaza 9, located in the Plaza Hotel.
In 2009, with Andy Griffith and Doris Roberts, Sheridan co-starred in the feature film Play the Game, a romantic comedy about a lonely, widowed grandfather who, after a 60-year hiatus, learns dating tricks from his serial romancer of a grandson. The film stirred up controversy due to its octogenarian sex scene between Sheridan and Griffith.
While working as a dancer in New York City nightclubs, Sheridan met the then-unknown James Dean. She wrote a book, Dizzy & Jimmy: My Life with James Dean: A Love Story, chronicling their time together in 1952. In it, she describes them as each other's first romantic love. "We had great times... We didn't want to be apart. We found a place and lived together... [b]efore he really hit it big." Dean pursued work on the stage in New York, with film roles in Hollywood soon to follow. Without sure footing or a serious plan, forging a future was not an option, thus bringing about the end of their relationship. "He was being hauled away into this career, and I couldn't follow him," she said in an interview.
Early in 1953, Sheridan departed New York for the Virgin Islands. She lived for over a decade in St. Thomas and later Puerto Rico. She earned a living as a dancer and also by singing and playing piano. Together with a neighbor who had a dance troupe, she won a dance contest she choreographed for the first Carnival in St. Thomas. She also earned a six hundred dollar purse finishing first in a horse race, atop her stallion, Generalé. After a brief engagement to a man, Justus Villa (aka Pancho), she realized she didn't want to marry him, broke it off, and returned, for a time, to New York City. There, at a party, she again met Dean. Afterwards, in a cab, he told her, "Nothing's lost between us. It never will be. You're a part of me and I'm a part of you. I take you with me wherever I go." That was the last time she saw him. Back in the Caribbean, in Puerto Rico, she met jazz musician [William] Dale Wales (1917–2003) in Puerto Rico. They shared a life from 1960 until his death; they wed in 1985. Their daughter is a photographer living in New York City's Greenwich Village.
Liz Sheridan and actress Elizabeth Montgomery were best friends: Dizzy and Lizzie. Montgomery only took on the nickname "Lizzie" following her performance in the Emmy Award winning TV movie, The Legend of Lizzie Borden; Dizzy was a shortened version of "Dizabeth," which is how her sister managed to pronounce her name when they were young.