Monday, May 28, 2007

How's that for a topper?

What? Charles Nelson Reilly is dead? I didn't even know that he was sick.

What? Charles Nelson Reilly was gay? I didn't even know... well, yeah, I did, too. (Didn't we all?)

My earliest memories of Sir Charles, like those of many of my generation, date back to the '60s sitcom The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, wherein Reilly played fussbudgety Claymore Gregg, the heir and landlord, respectively, to the series' two title characters. And of course, like many addicted to Saturday morning TV in the '70s, I recall Reilly eking out a living in embarrassing kidvid dreck like Lidsville (which, though beneath Reilly's considerable talents, was actually enjoyable) and Uncle Croc's Block (the less said about which, the better).

But mostly, I remember Charles for his seemingly unlimited witty ripostes as a game show panelist, verbally sparring with Gene Rayburn and Brett Somers on Match Game, or trading double entendres with the likes of Rose Marie on Hollywood Squares.

Which, when one thinks about it, is rather a shame, because not many people who laughed at the flamboyant bon vivant in the Coke-bottle glasses and Day-Glo ascot realized that the guy was a Tony Award-winning stage actor (for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, 1962) or a Tony-nominated theatrical director (for The Gin Game, 1997). All of which, he was.

Your fans will miss you, Chuck. Count me among them.

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