Sunday, January 31, 2021

Billy Barty, Krofft Superstar

Billy Barty was born William John Bertanzetti in Millsboro, Pennsylvania on October 25, 1924.  When he was just three years old, his family moved to California and Barty never looked back.

By the end of the 1920s, he was already a working actor in Hollywood.  He co-starred with Mickey Rooney in the Mickey McGuire shorts, which ran from 1927 to 1936.

As a little person, Barty was often cast as an infant or toddler even though he was much older.  The first such role was in the film Gold Diggers of 1933, when nine-year-old Barty appeared as a precocious baby taking great delight at a bevy of scantily clad hotties.  You can watch that clip here.

In 1935, Barty was in the classic Universal horror film Bride of Frankenstein, appearing as one of the doctor's unique creations.  Although the role was uncredited, it would be his first in a genre that would later embrace him.

As he entered adulthood, Barty began appearing on television.  He teamed up with comedian Spike Jones and was a regular on his musical comedy show.  He proved to be quite a good impressionist, for despite his height, Barty did a near-perfect impression of piano man Liberace.  Check it out here.  It may be the funniest thing you see today. 

As Sigmund the sea monster,
with series lead Johnny Whitaker (1973).
Barty continued acting on television throughout the 1960s, appearing on such shows as RawhideAlfred Hitchcock Presents and Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In.  On the detective series Peter Gunn, Barty had a recurring role as a police informant named Babby.  Watch him hustle series
lead Craig Stevens here.   

He was also a children's TV-show host. 
In the mid-1960s, he starred on the self-
titled series Billy Barty's Bigtop, setting up classic episodes of The Three Stooges.  It aired locally in the Los Angeles area and
was for many children their first introduction to little people.

This genre also proved successful for Barty.  Throughout the 1970s, he appeared in a variety of Saturday morning TV shows, all from the world of producers Sid and Marty Krofft.  These included H.R. PufnstufThe BugaloosSigmund and the Sea Monsters and Dr. Shrinker, the latter of which being the only one in which his face was visible to the viewers.  Click on the titles for each series intro.

In primetime, Barty continued acting on such series as The Redd Foxx Show, on which he was a regular cast member. Here's a segment featuring them with guest star Don Knotts.  I take back what I said earlier.  This is the funniest thing you'll see today.  He'd also appear on such series as The Love BoatLittle House on the Prairie and the ill-fated Man From Atlantis.

In the 1980s, Barty returned to the big screen in a slew of memorable performances, including Masters of the Universe (1987), Willow (1988) and the cult comedy classic UHF (1989), starring Weird Al Yankovic.  Here's a clip featuring featuring Barty with future Nanny star Fran Drescher.  

Barty continued working throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century.  His final role was in the 2001 film I/O Error.

The film was released posthumously however.  Barty died of heart failure on December 23, 2000.  He was 76 years old.

He was entombed at Forest Lawn Glendale.

Inscription: In Loving Memory of Billy Barty
Who Always Thought Big
Location: Freedom Mausoleum, Patriots Terrace,
Columbarium of Blessedness, Map #ELH0,|Indoor Niche #38011

Rest in peace.


  • While Barty never published his memoirs, he did write the foreword for the 1996 retrospective The Munchkins of Oz by Stephen Cox.  In 2002, Barty's nephew Michael Copeland, along with his wife Debra, released the definitive Billy Barty biography, Within Reach: An Inspirational Journey Into the Life, Legacy and Influence of Billy Barty.  Both books are available from Amazon.

  • As a student at Los Angeles State College, Barty was a prized athlete, lettering in both football and basketball.  Believe it or Not!

  • In 1957, Barty founded Little People of America (LPA), a non-profit organization that provides support and information to people of short stature.  LPA is still in operation today with more than 6,800 members.  You can check out their web site here.

  • In 1976, Barty appeared as a contestant on the reality show Celebrity Bowling, teamed with comedian Dick Martin.  They faced off against actors John Schuck and Michael Ansara.  Who won?  Check out the episode in its entirety on YouTube.  Note that Barty wears an LPA t-shirt during the match.

  • When Walt Disney World opened its EPCOT Center in the 1980s, they introduced a dark ride called "Journey Into Imagination."  Barty was the original voice of one of the characters from the ride, a purple dragon named Figment.  Today, that same character is voiced by frequent Muppet actor Dave Goetz.

  • Barty was a spiritual man, belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

  • In the 1980s, Barty owned a roller rink in Fullerton, California.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Ray Bradbury


Ray Douglas Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois on August 22, 1920.  As a child, his family often moved around the country, his father always looking for blue-collar employment.  They eventually settled in Los Angeles when Ray was just 14 years old.

Like this blogger, Bradbury loved meeting celebrities, and he came up with a unique way to do it.  He donned a pair of roller skates and made his way through the streets of Hollywood looking for stars.  As unconventional as it was, it proved effective, providing an introduction to comedian George Burns, who gave the young writer his first paycheck for a joke Bradbury sold him. 

Bradbury's love of stories came from his aunt, who often read to him during the Great Depression.  He'd move on to new stories at the public library, and was heavily influenced by Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs, the latter of which for his Tarzan of the Apes series.  Bradbury also fancied himself a cartoonist, and would often create his own illustrations for the Tarzan adventures.

Bradbury's first published story was in a fanzine called Imagination, published in 1939.  It's publisher, Forrest J. Ackerman, was so impressed by Bradbury that he flew him to New York City that summer for the First World Science Fiction Convention.  He also funded Bradbury's own fanzine, Futuria Fantasia. Only four issues were produced, each under 100 copies.  Today they are prized collector's items.

In 1942, Bradbury sold his first story, titled "The Lake."  He received a whopping $13.75 for the story,  but it was enough to turn him into a professional, full-time writer.  Three years later, he published his first collection of short stories, "Dark Carnival."  That same year, his manuscript for the story "Homecoming" was retrieved from a slush pile at Mademoiselle by a then-unknown editorial assistant named Truman Capote.  Ironically, the two are now buried within walking distance of each other.

In 1950, Bradbury wrote the literary classic The Martian Chronicles, depicting man's settlement of the red planet.  Themes such as nuclear war, post-apocalyptic horror and the rise of technology were heavily used and would influence science-fiction writers for decades to come.

In 1953, Bradbury wrote a short story called The Fireman, a dystopian novel of a future society where books have been outlawed and are incinerated by firemen.  He took this nugget of an idea and expanded it into a full-length novel, rechristening it Fahrenheit 451.  Today, it is regarded as one of his best works and is often called prophetic.  The title, in case you were curious, is the degree at which paper burns.

Bradbury's contributions to literature and science fiction in particular cannot be overstated.  The New York Times declared him "the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into literary mainstream."  The Los Angeles Times said that he wrote "lyrically and evocatively of lands an imagination away, worlds he anchored in the here and now with a sense of visual clarity and small-town familiarity."  His story "I Sing the Body Electric," later adapted to serve as an episode of The Twilight Zone, is credited as one of the first works regarding artificial intelligence.

By 2012, Bradbury's health had started to decline.  After a lengthy illness, he passed away on June 5th at the age of 91.  Science fiction fans the world over mourned his loss and many tributes and memorial services were held.

Ray Bradbury was buried at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village in its famed Celebrity Row.

Inscription: Author of Fahrenheit 451

Rest in peace.

  • Bradbury's middle name of Douglas was a nod to actor Douglas Fairbanks.

  • Bradbury was a descendent of Mary Bradbury, a woman tried during the Salem witch trials of 1692.

  • Bradbury never held a driver's license, instead relying on public transportation and his bicycle.

  • In 1956, Bradbury appeared as a guest on the Groucho Marx series You Bet Your Life.  You can watch the episode in its entirety on YouTube.

  • In 1994, Bradbury critiqued the dawn of political correctness, using Fahrenheit 451 to make his point. "It (F451) works even better because we have political correctness now.  Political correctness is the real enemy these's thought control and freedom of speech control."

  • At least two different bookstores have opened in Southern California under the name Fahrenheit 451 Books.  Bradbury attended the grand opening of the first one in Laguna Beach, which has since closed its doors.

  • Although he was close friends with Gene Roddenberry for several decades, Bradbury never wrote any stories for Star Trek or its subsequent spin-offs, saying he "never had the ability to adapt other people's ideas into any sensible form."

  • Although he never published a personal account of his life, several biographers have.  
      The Bradbury Chronicles by Sam Weller (2006)
      Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction by Jonathan R. Eller (2004)
      Searching for Ray Bradbury: Writings About the Writer and the Man by Steven Leiva (2013) 

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Andy Gibb


Andrew Roy Gibb was born in Stretford, England on March 5, 1958.  He was the youngest of five children, three of whom (brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice) had already formed the Bee Gees, a musical group that would rise to great fame in the 1970s. 

Andy spent most of his childhood living in Australia.  The family returned to the United Kingdom in 1967 however, as the Bee Gees grew to be more and more popular.

Inspired by his siblings, Andy dropped out of school at 13, learned to play the acoustic guitar and began performing at clubs in Spain.  In 1974, he formed his first group, Melody Fayre, the name borrowed from a Bee Gees song.  

Encouraged by Barry, Andy returned to Australia later that same year, where he began recording his first songs.  These included "To a Girl," "Words and Music" and "Flowing Rivers," the latter of which was later released.

Following this success, Gibb joined the band Zenta and went on tour with the Bay City Rollers.  He wasn't long for the group however, striking out on his own.  At least professionally.  In July 1976, Andy married his girlfriend Kim Reeder.  This partnership would also be short lived, as the two were divorced less than two years later, but not before producing daughter Peta.

Free from Zenta, Andy signed with RSO Records later that same year.  He moved to Miami Beach and began writing songs with Barry.  His first effort was the aforementioned "Flowing Rivers," now the title of his debut album.  It included the single that would put Andy on the map, "I Just Want to Be Your Evetything."  

The Gibbs were truly a dominant force in music at the time.  As Andy continued rising in the charts, so too were his brothers the Bee Gees, who were constantly topping the Hot 100 with their contributions to the film Saturday Night Fever, including their hits "Stayin' Alive" and "Night Fever."  One can't look back at 70s music without remembering the Brothers Gibb.

With "Flowing Rivers" a bona fide hit, Gibb began work on his second album in 1978.  "Shadow Dancing" was released in April that year, producing three top-ten singles, including the title track as well as "An Everlasting Love" and "(Our Love) Don't Throw it All Away."  This album proved more successful than the first.

Andy released his third album "After Dark" in 1979. It produced two top 20 hits, "Desire" and "I Can't Help It."  It would be Andy's final album of all original works, his next (and last one) being a Greatest Hits project.

In the early 1980s, Andy took his musical talents to the stage, appearing on Broadway in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (right) as well as a production of The Pirates of Penzance in Los Angeles.  He also had a running show at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas.

About this time, Andy became romantically involved with Dallas actress Victoria Principal and the two recorded a single together, "All I Have to Do is Dream."  Andy said he was inspired to produce the song after hearing Principal singing in the shower.  Everything about this is ironic, considering that just a few years later, her character would wake up from a dream to discover her dead husband alive and well - in the shower.  

Unable to condone his cocaine addiction any longer, Principal ultimately ended the relationship.  His family was also becoming concerned with Andy's habit and convinced him to seek treatment at the Betty Ford Center.  It seemed successful at first, and upon his release, he began touring again.  He also continued to build upon his acting resume, appearing on such popular sit-coms as Punky Brewster and Gimme a Break!.  Through the latter, he met actress Kari Michaelson and began seeing her romantically.

On March 7, 1988, while working on a new album in Oxford, Andy began complaining of chest pains and was admitted to John Radcliffe Hospital.  Three days later, with a diagnosis still unclear, Andy lapsed into a coma from which he'd never recover.  He passed away on March 10, 1988, just five days after his 30th birthday.  The cause of death was later determined to be myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, caused by his years of substance abuse.

Of his passing, ex-wife Kim Reeder stated "I always knew that one day I'd get a call with news like this.  It was only a matter of time."

Andy's body was returned to the U.S. and he was interred in a modest crypt at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.

Courts of Remembrance
Map #E26
Crypt #2534

Rest in peace.

  • Andy didn't live long enough to publish his own memoirs, but a few biographies have made it to print.  Check out The Bee Gees: The Biography and The Ultimate Biography of the Bee Gees: Tales of the Brothers Gibb on Amazon.

  • Andy supported a number of charities through his work.  Following his death, friends and family established the Andy Gibb Memorial Foundation as a way of continuing this support, for charities such as the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society.

  • An unconfirmed report claims that Andy was invited by Queen to sing the first verse of their 1981 single "Play the Game."  While no Queen collector has heard this version, Queen producer Reinhold Mack has stated that it was produced.

  • Andy served as co-host of the syndicated series Solid Gold from 1981 to 1982.  Ultimately he was fired for absenteeism, a result of his frequent cocaine binges.  Here's a compilation of him with co-hosts Marilynn McCoo and Madame (the old lady puppet) introducing some of the 80s biggest hits, corny jokes and all.

  • While most people associate "Stayin' Alive" with Saturday Night Fever, this blogger associates it with Airplane!.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Mickey Rooney


Mickey Rooney was born Ninnian Joseph Yule, Jr. in New York City on September 23, 1920.  He was born to a show business family.  His father came from Vaudeville and his mother was a chorus girl and burlesque performer.  The two were even appearing together in a Brooklyn production when Mickey was born.  A little less than two years later, he'd join them on stage wearing a toddler-sized tuxedo.  

They weren't the perfect couple however, and when was Mickey was just four, they decided to call it quits.  His mother took him to Hollywood, where in 1926 he made his first screen appearance in the silent film Not to be Trusted.  It led to bit parts in films alongside such notable actors as Clark Gable, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Jean Harlow.

The next year, Rooney was cast in the starring role of Mickey McGuire in the silent film Mickey's Circus.  It was a huge success, and between 1927 and 1936, he'd appear in 78 Mickey McGuire short films.  No pun intended.

After the series concluded, Rooney was hired by MGM Studios.  There he met Judy Garland, with whom he would appear in a number of musicals.  And while never romantically involved, the two would remain close throughout their careers.

In 1937, Rooney took a supporting role in the film A Family Affair playing the son of Lionel Barrymore.  His character of Andy Hardy proved so successful however that he was given his own film series, which ran from 1937 to 1946, with a final film produced more than a decade later.  Friend Judy Garland appeared in three of these shorts as Andy's girlfriend Betsy.

But their first film together was the 1937 feature Thoroughbreds Don't Cry, which saw the diminutive actor cast as a jockey, the first of several times he would play one throughout his career.  It was immediately obvious to audiences that Rooney and Garland shared great chemistry with one another.  They became a successful song-and-dance team and appeared together in several films.

The following year, Rooney appeared opposite Spencer Tracy in the film Boys Town, for which he'd win an Academy Award, one created specifically for the juvenile actor.  Despite his earlier work, this film is historically considered to be Rooney's breakout role, one that would make him the biggest box-office draw for the next three years.

After a tour of duty with the Army during World War 2 (see Trivia below), Rooney returned to the States and to his career.  Starring roles were no longer an option however, as he had gotten too big for the younger roles that had made him famous.  At the same time, he lacked the physical stature required for leading-man status.  

Unable to find roles in film, Rooney turned to the boob tube.  He had a self-titled sit-com, The Mickey Rooney Show (also known as Hey, Mulligan), that ran for one season on NBC in the mid 1950s.  You can watch the pilot episode on Youtube.

Buddy Hackett, Rooney and Jim Backus
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
Rooney returned to the silver screen in the 1963 comedy opus It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.  The film reunited him with his Boys Town co-star Spencer Tracy and a host of other screen legends.  Here's a clip featuring them, Jonathan Winters, Milton Berle, Ethel Merman and many more. 

In 1966, Rooney was on location in the Philippines shooting his next feature Ambush Bay.  In his absence, his fifth wife Barbara Ann Thomason, a former beauty queen, was found dead in their home, along with her lover Milos Milos.  Detectives ruled it a murder-suicide, committed with Rooney's own gun.  Ouch!  

In the 1970s, Rooney provided the voice of Santa Claus in three television specials produced by Rankin-Bass.  The specials still air on cable each holiday season.  

Strangely, Rooney wouldn't make his Broadway debut until 1979, when he appeared in a production of Sugar Babies.  Over the next twenty years, he'd appear in several other productions as well, including a turn as the titular Wizard of Oz, opposite Eartha Kitt as the Wicked Witch.  According to a friend of this blogger who happened to catch a performance, Rooney had trouble remembering his lines.  

Despite his success, Rooney was often facing financial difficulties as a result of his gambling addiction.  He first filed for bankruptcy in 1962, then again in 1996.  New ventures such as the Broadway shows, a series of books, and a role in the Night at the Museum films would bring in revenue, but he'd lose it just as quickly as he earned it.  By 2005, he declared himself broke.

Rooney died of natural causes (including diabetes) on April 6, 2014.  He was 93 years old.  He was laid to rest at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Rest in peace, Mickey.


  • Near the end of World War 2, Rooney was inducted into the Army, where he served as an entertainer with Special Services. He performed both in person and as a radio personality, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star.

  • In recent years, Rooney has been criticized for his portrayal of a Japanese character in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany's.  Wanna be offended?  You can watch a clip on Youtube.

  • That same year, Rooney appeared as a mystery guest on the game show What's My Line?  You can watch the episode in its entirety on Youtube.  Rooney comes in at the 17-minute mark.

  • In 1970, Norman Lear wanted Mickey Rooney for the starring role in his new sit-com All in the Family.  Rooney passed on the role however and it went to runner-up Carroll O'Connor.

  • Jiminy Jillocurs!  Rooney appeared as himself on an episode of The SimpsonsHere's a clip.

  • Need some life insurance?  Mickey would like you to consider Garden State.  Here he is in one of their commercials, chock full of irony.

  • Rooney had eight wives, nine children, 19 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.  His first wife Ava Gardner was the subject of a former blog post here at Six Feet Under Hollywood.

  • Several biographies have been written, two by Rooney himself.  Both i.e., an Autobiography by Mickey Rooney and Life is Too Short are available from Amazon.  He also wrote a novel called The Search for Sunny Skies.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Terri Schiavo


Theresa Marie "Terri" Schiavo (nee Schindler) was born in Pennsylvania on December 3, 1963.  As a teenager, she struggled with obesity and was often dieting.  By the time she entered Bucks County Community College, she seemed to have her weight under control.  There she met fellow student Michael Schiavo in 1982, whom she married just two years later.

In 1986, Terri's parents moved to Florida, so she and Michael decided to relocate there as well.  She took a job as a bookkeeper while Michael became a restaurant manager.

For the first few years, the couple enjoyed a great life together.  Tragedy struck however on the morning of February 25, 1990, when Terri collapsed in the hallway of their apartment building.  Michael called the paramedics, but by the time they arrived she had stopped breathing and had no pulse.  They were unable to resuscitate her, but they transported her to a nearby hospital where she was hooked up to a ventilator.

Upon examination, doctors determined that Terri had suffered a cardiac arrest brought on by another round of excessive dieting, consisting of nothing but ice tea for an unspecified period, resulting in an electrolyte imbalance.  She was hooked up to a series of feeding tubes, but within one year of her admission, doctors diagnosed her as being in a persistent vegetative state with little chance of recovery.

Michael Schiavo, 2005.
Two years later, Michael filed his first lawsuit in the case.  He took Terri's obstetrician to court, citing malpractice, claiming the doctor had failed to diagnose her as being bulimic.  Although the jury felt that Terri herself was also to blame for her disorder, they ultimately awarded her (and Michael as her executor) $2 million.  After court costs and attorney fees, Michael received $300,000, while the remaining $750,000 was put into a trust fund for Terri's medical care.

For the next few years, Michael and the Schindlers got along as best they could under very difficult circumstances.  This would come to an end in May 1998 however, when Michael filed his first petition to have Terri's feeding tube removed.  The Schindlers, devoutly Catholic, opposed the action and believed that Terri would have opposed it as well.  Schiavo contended that Terri had made this request of him when she was still capable of doing so.

The Schindlers asked Michael to divorce Terri so that they could assume responsibility for her care.  Michael refused however, continuing to state that Terri had made her final wishes clear to him and that he was only honoring her request.  However, the couple had never filed a living will, so he had no legal proof of her request.  Both sides contended that the other was trying to gain control of Terri's estate, the considerable sum received during the first lawsuit.  

The lawsuits would continue for the next seven years, and would ultimately involve several notable politicians, including Florida Governor Jeb Bush and his older brother and President George W. Bush.  But on March 18, 2005, Judge George Greer of Pinellas County ordered Terri's feeding tube removed.  The legal wrangling would continue for another week or so, but ultimately, Greer's decision stood.  Terri died on March 31, 2005.  She was 41 years old. 

Terri was cremated and her ashes were buried at Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park in Clearwater, Florida.  Michael Schiavo disregarded court orders requiring him to provide this location to the Schiavo family.  They were ultimately informed by reporters of the burial location.  

"Born December 3, 1963. 
Departed This Earth February 25, 1990
At Peace March 31, 2005
I Kept My Promise"

It should be no mystery who paid for the marker.  He also commissioned a memorial bench:

Rest in peace Terri.

  • Terri's death certificate lists her cause of death as "undetermined."

  • A few months after Terri's death, Michael started TerriPAC, a political action committee designed to financially support right-to-die candidates and oppose those who had become involved in his wife's case.  After a series of accounting irregularities, Michael was fined by the Federal Election Commission and ultimately closed the PAC just one year later.

  • The Schindlers founded The Terry Schiavo Foundation, an organization designed to help families in similar situations.  Michael intervened however, claiming that they were improperly using her name, something he had jurisdiction over.  It has since been renamed The Terry Schiavo Life and Hope Network.

  • In 2006, both Michael and the Schindlers released books chronicling their version of events.  Michael's was entitled Terri: The Truth.  The Schindler's version was titled A Life That Matters: The Legacy of Terri Schiavo.  Both are available from Amazon.

Friday, January 1, 2021

The Tribe Has Spoken


Rudolph "Rudy" Ernst Boesch was born in Rochester, New York on January 20, 1928. He was the son of Austrian immigrants who settled there after World War I, in which his father had fought with the German Army.  It inspired in Rudy a desire to serve in the military as well.

To that end, he dropped out of high school and attempted to enlist in the U.S. Marines.  He was only 17 however, and as such didn't qualify.  Fortunately for Rudy, the Navy wasn't as restrictive.  He enlisted in April 1945 and was sent to boot camp at Naval Training Station Sampson in New York.  Upon completion, he volunteered for the Amphibious Scouts and Raiders (known today as the SEALs) and was assigned to reconnaissance missions off China's coast. 

After World War 2, Rudy continued training as a Frogman with the Navy's Underwater Demolition Team (UDT), graduating in 1951.  That same year, he met a woman named Marge at a wedding and it wasn't long before they were wed themselves.  Over the next few years, they'd welcome three daughters into the world.

Rudy saw multiple deployments throughout the Vietnam War.  In 1962, he was assigned to SEAL Team Two during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  As a result of this service, he was promoted to the rank of Chief Petty Officer in 1967.

The following year, he was sent on combat deployment to the Mekong Delta.  His mission was to gather intelligence on troop positions, conduct raids and ambushes and take enemy prisoners.  He also helped train the South Vietnamese forces in combat readiness.  And you thought your job was tough!  During this tour, he earned the Bronze star, successfully completing 45 combat operations.
He continued his service to SEAL Team Two after the war ended, setting both physical and operational standards for the unit.  By 1987, he was named Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Navy's Special Operations Command, a posting he held until August 1990.  He retired from the service as a command master chief petty officer and was awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal for his distinguished service.  

During the 1990s, Rudy settled into retirement, but continued working occasionally.  Near the end of the century, he became a technical advisor to a television series called Eco-Challenge, produced by Mark Burnett.  This would be Rudy's first foray into the world of reality television.

Then in 2000, Rudy achieved international fame when he appeared as a contestant on the most popular reality program of the year, Survivor.  The series saw Rudy and 15 others marooned on the island of Pulau Tiga in Malaysia.  Although the series was also produced by Mark Burnett, Rudy stated that he applied for the show via a newspaper advertisement, and that his prior association with Burnett was not a factor.  Similarly, Burnett claimed to have never even met Rudy during the production of Eco-Challenge.

Spoiler alert.  Although he was the odds-on favorite to win the series and the $1 million prize, Rudy finished in third place, for which he earned $85,000 (before taxes).  He proved to be the most popular contestant however, and was invited back in 2004 to compete on Survivor: All Stars.

Unlike most Survivor 
contestants, Rudy's fame lasted longer than 15 minutes.  Throughout the early 2000s, he made multiple television appearances, including the CBS military series JAG.  He never considered himself an actor however, finding it difficult to memorize dialogue, once stating "anything over five words, I'm mumbling."

By 2015, Rudy's health was in decline and he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.  He moved into an assisted-living facility in Virginia Beach, where despite his condition, he continued his regimen of physical fitness, even enlisting his fellow residents.  But by 2019, he could no longer continue to do so.  He finally succumbed on November 1 at the age of 91.

 host Jeff Probst took to Twitter, stating "the Survivor family has lost a legend.  He is one of the most iconic and adored players of all time.  And he served our country as a 45-year Navy SEAL.  Rudy is a true American hero."

Rudy was buried with his wife Marge at Princess Anne Memorial Park in Virginia Beach, Virginia. 

Location: Garden of Love, 
Section #492, Site #1
Rudy, the tribe has spoken.  Rest in peace.

  • Rudy and Marge died on the same day, November 1, but 11 years apart.  When she passed in 2008, an episode of Survivor: Gabon (the 17th season) was dedicated to her memory.  Similarly, when Rudy passed in 2019, an episode of Survivor: Island of the Idols (the 39th season) was dedicated to him.  

  • In 2001, Rudy cashed in on his fame by releasing The Book of Rudy: The Wit and Wisdom of Rudy Boesch.  Pick up a copy from Amazon.  As I recall, it was pretty damn funny.  You'll also hear a lot of his quotes in this Survivor compilation video on Youtube.

  • That same year, Blue Box Toys released the Rudy Boesch Ultimate SEAL action figure.

  • In between his deployments to Vietnam, Rudy competed with the Navy's bobsled team.

  • Rudy was so into physical training that on his military dog tags, it listed "PT" as his religion.

  • Rudy's military uniform is on display at the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida.

  • In 2001, Rudy hosted the Mark Burnett reality series Combat Missions and served as Commandant of it's Camp Windstorm.  You can watch the first episode on Youtube.