Bonner died of complications from Lewy body dementia on Wednesday, his daughter, Desiree Boers-Kort, said. The actor died at his home in Laguna Niguel, south of Los Angeles. He had been diagnosed about three years ago with the disease which results in worsening mental and physical complications.
WKRP in Cincinnati aired from 1978 to 1982 and was set at a lagging Ohio radio station trying to reinvent itself with rock. The cast included Gary Sandy, Tim Reid, Howard Hesseman, and Jan Smithers, alongside Bonner as substandard advertising salesman Herb Tarlek.
Loni Anderson, who played the station’s licensed receptionist Jennifer, said she was “heartbroken” over her death.
“Frank Bonner was like family,” Anderson said in a statement. “He was one of the funniest men I had the pleasure of working with and was the nicest man I have ever known. “
Has had roles in several sitcoms
Boers-Kort said his father enjoyed his time on the sitcom in part because it led him to his preferred career over acting – directing. After holding this position for six episodes of WKRP, he went on to direct more than a dozen other shows from the 80s and 90s, including Simon & Simon, Who is the boss? and Saved by the bell: the new class.
Bonner continued to act, including in the early 1990s sequel The New WKRP in Cincinnati, Scarecrow and Mrs. King and Night court.
“He preferred the behind the camera [work], and he really loved helping people get to where he needed them for the scenes, ”Boers-Kort said Thursday. “He was very humble and down to earth, and just a kind, kind human. ”
He took a kick out of Herb’s misguided wardrobe and kept some of the belts at the end of the show, his daughter said. He liked them because he knew the character’s style was “one of the things people liked about him.”
A native of Arkansas whose birth name was Frank Boers Jr., he grew up in the town of Malvern. His Hollywood career began in the 1970s with the film Equinox and in television series, including Young Lawyers and Mannix.
Bonner, whose previous marriages ended in divorce, is survived by his wife Gayle and four children. He was predeceased by a fifth child, Boers-Kort said.