Howard Hesseman, known for ‘WKRP in Cincinnati,’ dead at 81

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Howard Hesseman, known for ‘WKRP in Cincinnati,’ dead at 81

Howard Hesseman, best known for playing Johnny Fever, the radio DJ in the sitcom "WKRP in Cincinnati" has died at age 81. Hesseman died Saturday in

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Howard Hesseman, best known for playing Johnny Fever, the radio DJ in the sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati” has died at age 81. 

Hesseman died Saturday in Los Angeles due to complications from colon surgery, his manager Robbie Kass said Sunday.

Hesseman, who had himself been a radio DJ in the ’60s, earned two Emmy nominations for playing Johnny Fever on CBS’ “WKRP in Cincinnati,” which ran for four seasons from 1978-1982. The role made Hesseman a counterculture icon at a time when few hippie characters made it onto network television.

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Actor Howard Hesseman has died at age 81.

Actor Howard Hesseman has died at age 81.
(Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)

“I think maybe Johnny smokes a little marijuana, drinks beer and wine, and maybe a little hard liquor,” Hesseman told The New York Times in 1979 as he readied for one of three “Saturday Night Live” hosting gigs. “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 be is a moderate user of soft drugs, specifically marijuana.”

Howard Hesseman  starred in "WKRP in Cincinnati."

Howard Hesseman  starred in “WKRP in Cincinnati.”
(CBS via Getty Images)

He would go on to play the actor-turned-history teacher Charlie Moore on “Head of the Class” as well. He also appeared in the final season of “One Day At A Time” where his character, architect Sam Royer, married Bonnie Franklin’s character, Ann Romano.

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According to The Hollywood Reporter, Hesseman made a name for himself with various hippie roles in other projects such as Richard Lester’s “Petulia” and on NBC’s “Dragnet.” 

He also played a patient suffering from writer’s block on “The Bob Newhart Show” as well as a psychiatrist on “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.” As for movies, The Oregon native had turns in “Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment,” “Heat,” “Gridlock’d,” “About Schmidt,” “The Rocker” and “Halloween II.”

Howard Hesseman died at age 81 after starring in many films and TV shows.

Howard Hesseman died at age 81 after starring in many films and TV shows.
(Araya Diaz/Getty Images for International Myeloma Foundation)

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He is survived by his wife, actress and acting teacher Caroline Ducrocq, as well as their godchildren Grace, Hamish and Chet.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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