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Tim Reid calls WKRP in Cincinnati co-star Howard Hesseman "a unique person and a gentle soul"

  • "He was a real hippie, long after tie-dye and beads had lost their appeal for many," Reid write in a tribute to Hesseman, who died at age 81 last weekend. "Off screen, he was smooth and cool in the older definition of cool — very relaxed, very well-educated. He was a wonderful person to sit down with for a couple of drinks to discuss life. He always had his signature style with his hats and scarfs. He was wearing red shoes before any guys, outside of Elton John, were wearing red shoes. Howard and I traveled the world together. We chased giraffes in Africa. We met up on vacations with our wives in Paris and Italy. We were two opposites, spirit-wise. He had that quiet humor. I can’t remember ever hearing him express himself in a really loud, aggressive way. As an actor, Howard was so talented. He could play drama, he could play comedy, and he could improvise with the best of them. He was like a chameleon — whatever the scene called for in terms of believability of the situation, he brought with his unique style. WKRP and the character of Dr. Johnny Fever was a perfect fit for Howard. Series creator Hugh Wilson gave us a level of creative freedom that was unheard of in television production. Howard and I were given control of the characters of Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap. Not the words they said, but the ability to shape the characters. He encouraged us to bring a measure of our personal feelings and style to characters. There was a little friction at the beginning of WKRP between Howard and Hugh, but once Howard saw Hugh was serious about giving us freedom, mutual respect was established and the joyful complexities of Johnny Fever emerged."

    TOPICS: Howard Hesseman, WKRP in Cincinnati, Tim Reid, Retro TV