Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Tom Poston, comic dim bulb

LOS ANGELES - Tom Poston, 85, the tall, pasty-faced comic who found fame and fortune playing a clueless everyman on such hit television shows as Newhart and Mork and Mindy, has died.

LOS ANGELES - Tom Poston, 85, the tall, pasty-faced comic who found fame and fortune playing a clueless everyman on such hit television shows as



Mork and Mindy

, has died.

Mr. Poston, who was married to Suzanne Pleshette of The Bob Newhart Show, died Monday night at home after a brief illness, a family representative announced yesterday. The nature of his illness was not disclosed.

Bob Newhart remembered Mr. Poston as a "versatile and veteran performer and a kindhearted individual."

Mr. Poston's run as a comic bumbler began in the mid-1950s with The Steve Allen Show after Allen plucked the character actor from the Broadway stage to join an ensemble of eccentrics with whom he would conduct "man in the street" interviews.

Don Knotts was the shaky Mr. Morrison, Louis Nye was the suave, overconfident Gordon Hathaway, and Mr. Poston's character was so unnerved by the television cameras that he couldn't remember who he was. He won an Emmy playing "The Man Who Can't Remember His Name."

But when Allen moved the show from New York to Los Angeles in 1959, Mr. Poston stayed behind.

"Hollywood's not for me right now; I'm a Broadway cat," he told a reporter at the time.

When he did finally move west, he quickly began appearing in variety shows, sitcoms and films. His most notable work was in television.

On Mork and Mindy, which starred Robin Williams as a space alien, Mr. Poston was Franklin Delano Bickley, the mindless boozer with the annoying dog. On Newhart, he was George Utley, the handyman who couldn't fix anything at the New England inn run by Newhart's character. And on Newhart's show Bob, he was the star's dim-bulb former college roommate.

"These guys are about a half-step behind life's parade," Mr. Poston commented in a 1983 interview.

Mr. Poston was born in Columbus, Ohio, and entered the Army Air Corps after two years at Bethany College. He flew troops to the European war zone during World War II.

After the war, Mr. Poston read an interview with Charles Jehlinger, creative head of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and was inspired to sign up for a two-year course at the Academy.

He was a versatile actor who made his Broadway debut in 1947 playing five roles in Jose Ferrer's Cyrano de Bergerac.

He went on to play secondary roles in Broadway comedies and starred at regional theaters in such shows as Romanoff and Juliet and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. For 10 years he was also a panelist on the popular TV quiz show To Tell the Truth.

Mr. Poston and his first wife, Jean Sullivan, had a daughter, Francesca, before their marriage ended in divorce. He and his second wife, Kay Hudson, had a son, Jason, and daughter, Hudson.

Mr. Poston and Pleshette had had a brief fling before marrying other people. Both now widowed, they reunited in 2000 and married the following year.

Besides Pleshette, 70, Mr. Poston is survived by his children, Francesca Poston of Nashville, Jason Poston of Los Angeles, and Hudson Poston of Portland, Ore.

A private service was planned for immediate family. Details of a public memorial service were to be announced later.