Comic actor Alan Sues, best known for his roles on the television series Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In from the late 60s to early 70s, died on Thursday of cardiac arrest according to reports.
Michael Gregg Michaud, a friend of Sues since 1975, told The Associated Press that the actor, who was 85, died at his home in West Hollywood, Calif. sitting in a recliner watching TV with his dachshund Doris who he loved in his lap. Reports say that Sues had various health problems throughout the last several years. Michaud said the death came as a shock to friends.
He had been in failing health the last couple of years, but it was nothing you could put your finger on; just old age, Michaud said to the Los Angeles Times. Mentally, he was funny and 'on' as usual. He was a delightfully funny man, with a wonderful career that spanned six decades.
Reports say that Sues was born in 1926 and served in the army during World War II. After the war, he moved to New York in 1952, trained as an actor and made his Broadway debut as a boys'' school bully in the play Tea and Sympathy in 1953.
In 1968, he made his debut on Laugh-In, playing memorable characters such as Big Al, an effeminate sportscaster, and Uncle Al the Kiddies Pal, a hung-over children's show host. At one point, he also parodied castmate Jo Anne Worley when she left the show by appearing in drag. Sues left in 1972 before its final season.
Executive producer of Laugh-In George Schlatter, who would eventually bring Sues to Laugh-In after seeing him alongside Worley in the Off-Broadway comedy The Mad Show, said to the AP that Sues was a free spirit, an outrageous human being and a love child.
He was a delight; he was an upper, Schlatter told the LA Times. He walked on the stage and everybody just felt happy.
During his years on Laugh-In, Sues also donned tights as the spokesman for Peter Pan peanut butter, appearing in numerous TV commercials and print ads in which he portrayed an outrageously flamboyant Peter Pan. He also appeared in the popular 1964 Twilight Zone episode The Masks.
Michaud said to the AP that the Peter Pan spots brought Sues nearly as much recognition in later years and the Twilight Zone episode brought him appearances at sci-fi and autograph conventions for decades.
According to reports, Michaud said that while Sues was both stereotypically and realistically gay, Sues believed he needed to stay in the closet during his years on television out of fear that revealing being gay would ruin his career.
The AP reports that Sues was grateful for Laugh-In, but wanted to pursue more serious acting. That chance came in 1975 when Sues accepted the role of Professor Moriarty with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Sherlock Holmes on Broadway.
In later years, Sues would make many more theater appearances (including Three Musketeers, Singin' in the Rain and Two for the Show) and appear in guest spots on TV series like Punky Brewster and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
According to BBC News, his final role was a 2009 short film called Artificially Speaking, which premiered at Dances with Films, an independent film festival in Santa Monica, Calif.
Sues is survived by a sister-in-law, two nieces and a nephew.
The AP reports that there were no immediate plans for a memorial.