Howard Hesseman, Dr. Johnny Fever on ‘WKRP in Cincinnati,’ Dies at Age 81

Howard Hesseman, who built a career out of playing oddball characters, none more famous than radio jockey Johnny Fever on the Cincinnati sitcom WKRP, has died at the age of 81.

Hesseman died Saturday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles as a result of complications following colon surgery he underwent last summer.

Hesseman portrayed hippies in Richard Lester’s Petulia (1968) and on NBC’s Dragnet (as Don Sturdy at the time); a writer’s block patient on The Bob Newhart Show; a psychiatrist on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman; a pimp opposite Dan Aykroyd in Doctor Detroit (1983); and the manager of rocker Duke Fame in This Is Spinal Tap (1984).

Hesseman was nominated for an Emmy in 1980 and 1981 for his work on CBS’ WKRP in Cincinnati, which aired for four seasons (1978-82). He became a countercultural symbol with his sunglasses, moustache, and slouch.

Hesseman remained active in films such as Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985), Heat (1986), Gridlock’d (1997), About Schmidt (2002), The Rocker (2008), and Halloween II (2009).

He also appeared in Boston Legal as a judge, That ’70s Show as a radio station manager, John From Cincinnati as a former drug dealer, and Fresh Off the Boat as a schoolmaster.

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