Actor Howard Hesseman has passed away.
Hesseman was best known for playing DJ John “Dr. Johnny Fever” Caravella on “WKRP in Cincinnati,” Captain Pete Lassard in “Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment,” Sam Royer on “One Day At A Time,” and schoolteacher Charlie Moore on “Head of the Class.”
The Emmy-nominated actor at the age of 81. He passed away on Saturday, January 29, 2022, in his Los Angeles home from complications due to colon surgery. His manager, Robbie Kass, announced the news on Sunday.
Hesseman’s also starred in “The Andy Griffith Show,” “One Day at a Time,” “The Rockford Files,” “Laverne and Shirley” and “The Bob Newhart Show.” He also made appearances in television shows like “That 70′s Show,” “Fresh Off the Boat,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “Boston Legal.”
Howard Hesseman: A Life Well-Lived
Howard Hesseman was born in Lebanon, Oregon, on February 27, 1940. His parents divorced when he was only five years old and he was raised by his mother and his stepfather, who was a police officer. After attending the University of Oregon, he helped found the San Francisco-based improvisational comedy troupe The Committee with actor David Ogden Stiers.
Early on in his acting career, he had used the alias Don Sturdy, which he also used as a radio DJ on underground FM station KMPX in San Francisco in the late 1960s.
It was under this alias that Hesseman made his first TV appearances, including an episode of “Dragnet” in 1968. After playing a bit part in “The Andy Griffith Show,” he made several appearances in “The Bob Newhart Show” before appearing in several sketches on “The Dick Cavett Show.”
It was his role as “Dr. Johnny Fever” on “WKRP in Cincinnati” from 1978 to 1982 that really made an impression on audiences. He was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1980 and 1981 for the role. He later reprised his role in nine episodes of “The New WKRP in Cincinnati” and directed several episodes of the 1991-1993 revival as well.
His last film appearance was in “Dirty Politics” in 2018. His last TV appearance was in an episode of “Fresh Off the Boat,” where he portrayed Mr. Royce for two episodes.
Tributes Pour In For The Late Hesseman
Many fans took to Twitter to express condolences for the late Howard Hesseman.
Michael McKean tweeted, “Impossible to overstate Howard Hesseman’s influence on his and subsequent generations of improvisers. The first time I saw him on stage (Troubadour, ’71, with The Committee) I saw that he was the real deal. He was a friend for 50 years.”
“Howard’s character in Spinal Tap didn’t even exist until 24 hours before the shoot: we’d discovered that the musician we’d hired to play Duke Fame couldn’t improvise, so Rob said let’s give him a manager. I’ll call Howard,” he continued. “He blitzed it, of course.”
“We’d go years without seeing each other (Howard and Caroline lived mostly in Europe) but when we did, he’d hilariously fill me in on the great music, dumb show biz and silly-a– humans he’d encountered,” he concluded. “RIP Don Sturdy.”
Very sad to hear the news about #howardhesseman – aka Dr. Johnny Fever. Thanks for all the laughs. 💔
OLAS was in the Rumors episode (S4E4) of WKRP.
What’s your fav memory from WKRP? 🦃 Or your fav Howard Hesseman performance? pic.twitter.com/rJhOqjEnEJ
— The Go-Go’s (@officialgogos) January 30, 2022
Rest In Peace Howard Hessemen. WKRP was one of my favourite shows growing up, and likely inspired my love for music and radio. And one more thing, little babies…BOOGER! pic.twitter.com/lvUfM3wmJO
— David Stone (@davidstonedj) January 30, 2022
CNN anchor Jim Acosta tweeted, “Actor Howard Hesseman, best known as the hard-rocking disc jockey Dr. Johnny Fever on the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati has died. RIP. (always loved that show as a kid.. and the theme song was the best).”
RIP Howard Hessemen, who will forever be known to me as Dr. Johnny Fever.
One of the characters who helped fuel my childhood obsession with radio. 😞 pic.twitter.com/SaqI4s6IE1
— Brian Colburn (@briancolburn) January 30, 2022
Oh no. So sorry to read this, Howard Hessemen was part of a LOT of movies & shows I really liked. He was even in one of my all time fave movies Billy Jack.
As much as I will miss him on this plane, I know he’s moving where he wants to be most. Much Love sir ❤️🖖 https://t.co/BGhWCtho2o
— Dana Saravia (@KhalLisaSimpson) January 30, 2022
John Derringer tweeted, “Rest easy, Heavy Early. Or Johnny Fever, Johnny Cool, Johnny Midnight. The absolute best radio character in TV history. Howard Hesseman made us all laugh and cry, often at the same time. RIP.”
I wanted to capture this before his death date is added. We need to stop 2022 right now!! 😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭
— Kim Lee (@Lil_Sister_) January 30, 2022
Howard Hessemen has died… last year it Was Herb now Johnny RIP Dr. Fever pic.twitter.com/luGTt0DKbV
— Trege Wilson (@TregeWilson_THW) January 30, 2022
Screenwriter Brian Lynch tweeted, “I’m hearing that Howard Hesseman passed away. His Dr Johnny Fever on WKRP is iconic, and I taped and watched HEAD OF THE CLASS over and over again growing up. From SPINAL TAP to a POLICE ACADEMY, his presence made a movie that much cooler. May he Rest In Peace.”
I was little when WKRP was on and I wanted to meet Dr. Fever sooo much. Just thought he was the coolest!
Then enjoyed him Head of the Class. He was the teacher I wanted to be.
RIP Howard Hessemen https://t.co/OQB3kDSARn
— Jen Kaelin, NBCT (@KaelinPhysics) January 30, 2022