By Andrew Dalton Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — Alan Sues, who brought his flamboyant and over-the-top comic persona to the hit television show “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” in the 1960s and 1970s, has died, a close friend said Sunday night.
Sues died of cardiac arrest on Thursday at his home in West Hollywood, Michael Gregg Michaud, a friend since 1975, told The Associated Press.
“He was sitting in a recliner watching TV with his dachshund Doris who he loved in his lap,” Michaud said.
Sues had various health problems in the last several years, but the death came as a shock to friends, Michaud said. He was 85.
A native Californian who moved to New York in 1952, Sues began his career as a serious actor and in 1953 appeared in director Elia Kazan’s “Tea and Sympathy” on Broadway.
But he would be remembered for his wild comic characters.
They included “Big Al,” an effeminate sportscaster, and “Uncle Al the Kiddies Pal,” a hung-over children’s show host, on “Laugh-In,” the TV phenomenon that both reflected and mocked the era’s counterculture and made stars of Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin and many others.
Sues also donned tights as the commercial spokesman for Peter Pan peanut butter, and appeared in the popular 1964 “Twilight Zone” episode “The Masks.”
Fellow cast members and crew from “Laugh-In” remembered him as even more entertaining behind the scenes.
“Alan Sues was one of those guys even funnier in person than on camera,” Ruth Buzzi, a co-star who appeared in many skits with Sues, said on her Twitter account. “Across a dinner table, over the phone … hysterical. We’ll miss him.”
Executive producer George Schlatter, who would eventually bring Sues to “Laugh-In” after seeing him alongside future co-star Jo Anne Worley in the Off-Broadway comedy “The Mad Show,” said Sues was “a free spirit,” an “outrageous human being” and “a love child.”
“He was a delight; he was an upper,” Schlatter told the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the death. “He walked on the stage and everybody just felt happy.”
Sues would always be best known for “Laugh-In,” which he left in 1972 before its final season.
But Michaud said the Peter Pan spots brought Sues nearly as much recognition in later years.
And he said the “Twilight Zone” episode brought him appearances at sci-fi and autograph conventions for decades.
“Fans of ‘The Twilight Zone’ are cuckoo,” Michaud said.
Michaud said that while Sues was always cast as the stereotypically gay character, he believed he needed to hide his own gay identity during his years on television.
“He felt like he couldn’t publicly come out,” Michaud said. “He felt like people wouldn’t accept him.”
Sues was grateful for “Laugh-In,” but wasn’t happy he was typecast in his comic persona as he sought to return to more serious acting.
He got one chance that he cherished in 1975, the serious role of Moriarty with the Royal Shakespeare Company in “Sherlock Holmes” on Broadway.
He stayed with the show until it closed the following year, then went out to perform it with the touring company.
In later years he would make many more theater appearances, do voiceover work for television, and appear in guest spots on TV series like “Punky Brewster” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.”
Sues is survived by a sister-in-law, two nieces and a nephew.
There were no immediate plans for a memorial.