Howard Hesseman, WKRP in Cincinnati Actor, Dead at 81

Howard Hesseman, the veteran comedy actor known for his roles on WKRP in Cincinnati and Head of the Class, has died at the age of 81.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Hesseman died Saturday, January 29th, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Los Angeles due to complications from colon surgery he first had last summer.

Hesseman will likely best be remembered for his role as the anti-disco disc jockey “Dr. Johnny Fever” on WKRP in Cincinnati.  A former radio DJ in his early years, Hesseman was cast on the show as a last-minute replacement for Richard Libertini. “He just stepped in and killed it. He knew exactly what he was doing,” recalled WKRP in Cincinnati director Jay Sandrich in an interview from 2001. For his portrayal of Johnny Fever, Hesseman was twice nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy.

Following WKRP in Cincinnati’s four-season run, Hesseman was cast to play history teacher Charlie Moore on the ABC sitcom Head of the Class. He appeared on the show for four seasons before departing to pursue a career in Hollywood.

Some of Hesseman’s notable film roles included Police Academy 2: The First Assignment (as Captain Pete Lassard), This Is Spinal Tap (as music manager Terry Ladd), and About Schmidt (as Larry Hertzel).

Later in his career, Hesseman made guest appearances on television series including That ’70s Show, Boston Legal, and Fresh Off the Boat.

 

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