Frank Bonner, the WKRP in Cincinnati actor who expertly embodied fast-talking, loud-mouthed, loud-jacketed Herb Tarlek, died Wednesday, June 16.
Bonner was 79 and had been ill with Lewy body dementia.
Bonner's daughter Desiree Boers-Kort and his WKRP co-star Gary Sandy both confirmed his death, with Boers-Kort posting on Facebook, "I’m deeply saddened to let you know that our beloved Frank Bonner passed away today at age 79. He loved his fans and was still signing autograph requests up until the last few weeks of his illness. Thank you to all who followed his career. He will be forever missed."
Tarlek played radio station WKRP's slimeball ad sales manager for four years, from 1978-1982 He was on all but two of the show's original 90 episodes, and returned for 46 more episodes on The New WKRP in Cincinnati (1991-1993).
The character, another in a long line of assholes-we-loved-anyway in the mold of Archie Bunker and Ted Baxter, was the focus of the 2004 rock song "The Tarleks" by Rheostatics. Bonner starred in the trippy music video:
Born on February 28, 1942, in Little Rock, Arkansas, Bonner debuted in 1967's The Equinox... A Journey into the Unknown, recut and released as an underground feature in 1970.
Bonner was far more associated with television, guesting, in his early career, on sitcoms [Nancy (1970) and Love, American Style (1974)] and dramas [Mannix (1971), The F.B.I. (1973), Emergency! (1973)] ahead of his time as tacky Tarlek.
When WKRP went off the air, he showed up frequently on various series, among them the early Jim Carrey sitcom The Duck Factory (1984), Gimme a Break! (1982 & 1985), Scarecrow and Mrs. King (1985), Punky Brewster (1986), Murder, She Wrote (1986) and Night Court (1985 & 1986).
A regular on the short-lived series Sidekicks (1986) and on the Growing Pains spin-off Just the Ten of Us (1988-1990), Bonner also played Mr. Harrington on Saved by the Bell: The New Class (1994).
Bonner's other career was behind the camera. He directed many TV episodes, everything from WKRP to Family Ties (1982), Who's the Boss? (1989), Harry and the Hendersons (1991-1993), and 105 episodes of City Guys (1997-2001).
His last work appears to have been a feature, 2014's Under the Hollywood Sign.
Bonner was married and divorced four times. He is survived by his fifth wife, Gayle Hardage, who'd been his high school sweetheart and to whom he had been wed 15 years. He is also survived by his four children.