Howard Hesseman, star of ‘WKRP in Cincinnati,’ dead at 81

Howard Hesseman, who played radio disc jockey Dr. Johnny Fever on “WKRP in Cincinnati,” died Saturday at age 81.

The actor passed away Saturday afternoon following complications from a colon surgery in Los Angeles, his manager Robbie Kass, who confirmed his death, told CNN in an email.

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

Hesseman was best known for his starring role on the CBS sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati” from 1978 to 1982. The show had modest ratings and only lasted four seasons but became beloved in its syndication. Hesseman earned two Emmy nominations for his DJ role — which he told the New York Times in 1979 made network executives nervous.

Howard Hesseman as Dr. Fever in WKRP in Cincinnati's premiere episode.
Howard Hesseman as Dr. Fever in WKRP in Cincinnati’s premiere episode.
Howard Hessman (left) and Mick Jagger (right) worked together on The Music Scene.
Howard Hessman (left) and Mick Jagger (right) worked together on The Music Scene.
Howard Hesseman also had a starring role as a history teacher on ABC sitcom "Head of Class" which ran from 1986 to 1991 and hosted "Saturday Night Live" several times.
Howard Hesseman also had a starring role as a history teacher on ABC sitcom “Head of Class” which ran from 1986 to 1991 and hosted “Saturday Night Live” several times.

“I think maybe Johnny smokes a little marijuana, drinks beer and wine, and maybe a little hard liquor,” Hesseman said at the time. “And on one of those hard mornings at the station, he might take what for many years was referred to as a diet pill. But he is a moderate user of soft drugs, specifically marijuana.”

Hesseman also had a starring role as a history teacher on ABC sitcom “Head of Class” which ran from 1986 to 1991 and hosted “Saturday Night Live” several times.

Born in Oregon, Hesseman became involved in a San Francisco-based improv group before making it as an actor. He also did a stint as a real radio DJ in the ’60s for San Francisco rock-and-roll station KMPX.

Howard Hessman (right) while filming WKRP in Cincinnati.
Howard Hessman (right) while filming WKRP in Cincinnati.

He is survived by his wife, actress Caroline Ducrocq.

With Post Wires

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