Jay Della was an actor and the longtime owner of "Chez Jay," a bar and restaurant located near the Santa Monica Pier in southern California, which was a noted celebrity hangout for well over fifty years.
Born Jay Anthony Fiondella, he was born on August 6, 1926 in East Haven, Connecticut and served in the Navy in WWII as a Seabee in the Philippines and China. After attending the University of Miami, he moved to Los Angeles to become an actor, where he roomed with Leonard Nimoy, later of "Star Trek" fame. Between acting parts on "Sea Hunt," "The Detectives ," "Perry Mason ," "Gunsmoke" and "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.," he tended bar at Sinbad's on the Santa Monica Pier, later opening the Chez Jay out of a small coffee shop on Ocean Avenue in 1959. The location became a favorite location for celebrities to elude fans and tabloid reporters. His clientele included showbiz figures such as Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Peter Lawford, Marlon Brando, Lee Marvin, Robert Stack, Natalie Wood, Warren Beatty, Elizabeth Taylor, Johnny Carson, Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jerry Seinfeld, Drew Barrymore and Sean Penn. Actress Marilyn Monroe reportedly had trysts with John Kennedy in the restaurant.
As an actor, Fiondella shortened his name to "Jay Della" and appeared in more than fifty films and TV shows. He was also an adventurer and man-about-town often seen on TV commercials and specials piloting his hot-air balloon. He went on several treasure hunting missions, one to recover the "Lost Squadron" WWII aircraft buried in Arctic ice and another hunting for millions of dollars worth of silver on a sunken ship off the coast of Yemen. He was selected as Cosmopolitan magazine's "Bachelor of the Month" in 1970 and appeared on shows such as "The Dating Game" and "What's My Line." His later TV parts included credits on "Gunsmoke," "Perry Mason," "Batman," "Mission Impossible" and "Fantasy Island." He also appeared in the "Lethal Weapon" films and Robert Altman's "Short Cuts."
He passed away on November 6, 2008 in Santa Monica, California at a Santa Monica care facility after a long battle with Parkinson's disease, survived by a daughter, a son and a sister. Chez Jay is now managed by co-owner Michael Anderson.