WKRP’s Howard Hesseman is mourned

by Best Classic Bands Staff

Howard Hesseman, the actor best known for his memorable role as DJ Doctor Johnny Fever on the television sitcom WRKP in Cincinnatidied yesterday (January 29, 2022), at the age of 81, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, of complications from colon surgery he underwent last summer.

Hesseman’s long career in Hollywood also spans dozens of films (including Police Academy 2: The First Mission and It’s Spinal Tap). Although his role in the WRKP lasted the entire four-year streak from 1978 to 1982, he enjoyed an even longer run on Head of class as schoolteacher Charlie Moore.

Gary Sandy, who portrayed WRKP program director Andy Travis, wrote, “RIP: Howard…. What a desappointment !! What a talent… I loved the guy!

Actor Michael McKeanfriend for five decades, paid him a warm tribute.

Hesseman was one of many actors who made guest appearances in 1984 It’s Spinal Tap. In his unique (but memorable) scene, the band members and their clumsy manager welcome him to Boston. Hesseman portrays the manager of a much more successful band and basically blows them off, saying, “We’d like to chat, but we have to sit in the lobby and wait for the limo.” Spinal Tap’s reaction is classic, especially McKean’s. (Watch the scene below.)

McKean wrote, “Howard Hesseman’s influence on his and subsequent generation of improvisers cannot be overstated. The first time I saw him on stage (Troubadour, 1971, with The Committee), I saw he was the real deal. He had been a friend for 50 years.

“Howard’s character in spinal valve didn’t even exist until 24 hours before the shoot: we found out that the musician we hired to play Duke Fame couldn’t improvise, so Rob said, let’s give him a manager. I’ll call Howard. He blitzed it, of course.

“We would go years without seeing each other (Howard and Caroline mostly lived in Europe), but when we did he would hilariously tell me about the great music, stupid show biz and stupid humans he had met. RIP Don Sturdy.

Top classical bands will continue to add homages to this story.

Related: Musicians and other celebrities we lost in 2022

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