The cast of The Jeffersons, with Ned Wertimer (back row, far right)
TV has lost one of its most familiar character actors: Ned Wertimer, best known as the tip-hungry Ralph the doorman on The Jeffersons
, died Jan. 2 at a nursing facility outside Los Angeles, the result of a fall in his Burbank home last November, his manager announced late Tuesday. He was 89.
With more than 100 small-screen credits to his name, as well as Broadway (Bye Bye Birdie
) and film (Mame
and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
) roles, Wertimer was known to audiences of such shows as Gunsmoke, McMillan and Wife, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, WKRP in Cincinnati
and Mork & Mindy
, according to the Hollywood Reporter
But it was on all 11 seasons of The Jeffersons
, from 1975 to 1985, that he made his strongest mark.
Born in Buffalo, N.Y., Wertimer held a business degree from Wharton, which he earned after service as a pliot in World War II. But he also got the performing bug while in school, and starting in the late '40s began landing roles on Broadway.
With TV a new medium – and many shows shot live in New York at the time – Wertimer became a pioneer, and used his gift for improv to joke with Lamb Chop, Charlie Horse and the other puppets on The Shari Lewis Show
By the mid-'60s he moved to Hollywood, as had most of TV production. Besides his acting, he was also heavily involved with his unions, SAG and AFTRA, and served as a longtime member of the board of directors of their Federal Credit Union, according to the Reporter
Among his survivors, the trade paper also reports, are his wife Skyne, a professor emerita at California State University Long Beach; his sister-in-law Eleanor; and a niece and three nephews.