Friday, January 25, 2019

Baby, If You've Ever Wondered....

Alexander Gordon Jump was born, ironically, in Dayton, Ohio, on April 1, 1932.  While growing up in the Midwest, he developed an interest in communications, eventually earning a degree in journalism from Kansas State University.  After graduation, he took a series of on-air jobs in both radio and television (really), which would undoubtedly lay the groundwork for the role he would be most famously associated with, that of Arthur Carlson, aka "The Big Guy," on WKRP in Cincinnati.

In the early 1960s, Jump decided to move to Los Angeles and take up acting full time.  It didn't take him long to pick up roles on series such as The Brady Bunch, Get Smart, and Green Acres.  He was also the pitchman for Shakey's Pizza Parlor.  Watch one of his commercials here.

Jump was a practicing Mormon, and he loaned his acting talents to a series of religious-themed productions in the 1960s, including a marriage-advice film titled What About Thad?  Watch it in its entirety here.  You won't be disappointed.

By 1978, he had established himself as a reliable character actor in Hollywood.  Given his background in both radio and TV, he was probably pre-destined to join WKRP that year.  Watch the intro here.  I'm convinced that's his hand changing the radio dial.

The series only lasted for four seasons, as someone at CBS felt that renewing Alice for a 9th season was a smarter move.  Although it's time on the air was brief, WKRP produced a number of memorable episodes, none more so than the infamous "Turkeys Away" Thanksgiving episode, which, ironically aired on Halloween that year!  Watch series creator Hugh Wilson discuss the real-world origins of that episode in this interview.

After cancellation, Jump continued to find work on television.  His most notable (and creepy) guest-starring role was on Diff'rent Strokes, in a story that put the phrase "a very special episode" in all of our vocabularies.  Jump played Mr. Horton, owner of Horton's Bicycle Shop, who had evil intentions on series regulars Arnold (Gary Coleman) and his best pal Dudley (Shavar Ross).  Watch it in its entirety here.

Then in 1989, Jump assumed his second-most-famous role, that of the Maytag Repairman, replacing long-term veteran Jesse White.  Watch one of Jump's commercials here.

Two years later, a funny thing happened.  WKRP's creator Hugh Wilson decided to bring the series back to television with all-new, original episodes, buoyed by the success of other first-run syndication series, such as Star Trek: The Next Generation and Baywatch.  Jump returned to his role of Arthur Carlson and was joined by fellow WKRP cast members Frank Bonner and Richard Sanders.  Watch the updated intro here. The revised version lacked the chemistry of the original however, and was canceled after just two seasons.  It did however launch the careers of French Stewart, Mykelti Williamson and Tawny Kitaen, a fact we can all most certainly be happy about.

Jump was a private person, and although he stayed in touch with the original cast members, he never told them that his health was in decline.  Series star Gary Sandy, aka Andy Travis, suspected something was wrong however, after Jump left an event early claiming he was tired.  Listen to the interview here.  What Jump hadn't told them was that he suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, which ultimately took his life on September 22, 2003.  He was just 71 years old.  Jump was interred at El Toro Memorial Park in Orange County, California.

The inscription on his marker states "Loved and respected by all who knew him" and "God takes our loved ones from our homes, but never from our hearts."  There is also a memorial bench at his grave.

There is an inscription on the back:

RIP Big Guy.

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