Howard Hesseman, best known as DJ Dr. Johnny Fever in WKRP in Cincinnati, dead at 81

Howard Hesseman at the Paley Presents "Baby, If You've Ever Wondered: A WKRP In Cincinnati Reunion" in 2014.
Howard Hesseman, star of hit TV shows WKRP in Cincinnati and Head of the Class, passed away on Saturday at age 81. Pic credit:©

The world has lost another TV star.

Howard Hesseman, 81, best known for his iconic roles in WKRP in Cincinnati, One Day at a Time, and Head of the Class, passed away on Saturday, January 29, following complications from colon surgery that he had last summer.

According to Howard’s manager, Robbie Kass, Howard passed away at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles shortly after 5 p.m. on Saturday.

“He was a groundbreaking talent and lifelong friend and long-time client, whose kindness and generosity was equaled by his influence and admiration to generations of actors and improvisational comedy throughout the world,” Kass said of his client.

He followed up by noting that Howard “will be sorely missed and always treasured.”

Who was Howard Hesseman?

Howard Hesseman was born on February 27, 1940, in Lebanon, Oregon, and graduated from Silverton High School in 1958.

In 1965, he joined The Committee, an improv group in San Francisco, and also had a stint as a real disc jockey for KMPX, a radio station in San Francisco.

Howard made his acting debut on The Andy Griffith Show in 1968.

Howard was most famously well-known for his performance of cool rock and roll disc jockey Dr. Johnny Fever in the radio station sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, which ran on CBS from 1978 to 1982 and earned Howard Hesseman two Emmy nominations for his work as the disco-loathing record spinner who was famously fired from his Los Angeles gig for saying “booger” on the air.

He also appeared as architect Sam Royer in the CBS sitcom One Day at a Time, which ran from 1975 to 1984, and marries the main character, Ann (played by Bonnie Franklin) in the last season of the show.

Howard also came back to reprise the role of Dr. Johnny Fever in The New WKRP in Cincinnati, which ran from 1991 to 1993.

He then went on to star in the ABC sitcom Head of the Class for four seasons as Charlie Moore, an actor who takes a job as a substitute teacher to a classroom of gifted high school students in New York.

Howard also appeared in a variety of other shows throughout his lengthy acting career, including The Bob Newhart Show, Soap, Boston Legal, Psych, and ER.

Remembering Howard Hesseman

WKRP in Cincinnati star Tim Reid, who played equally hip DJ Venus Flytrap, posted a picture of himself with the late actor yesterday.

“I will miss Howard Hesseman, my dear friend and talented cast member. May his transition be as smooth and peaceful as he was.
I will never forget the vision of him chasing a giraffe down a dusty trail in Africa. I think he was having a flashback from his days as a hippie,” the 77-year-old actor captured.

Other celebrities we’ve lost this year

Howard Hesseman is just one of many celebrities we’ve lost this year so far, sadly.

Comedian Bob Saget was found dead in his hotel room in Orlando, Florida, on January 9.

Singer Meat Loaf died on January 20, and just one day later, the celebrity world lost another talent, Family Feud host and comedian Louie Anderson, who passed away on January 21 at age 68 following a battle with blood cancer.

Oscar-winner Sidney Poitier, 94, who was the first Black actor to ever win an Academy Award, died of natural causes in the Bahamas on January 6.

Howard is survived by his wife, actress, and acting teacher Caroline Ducrocq.

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