Peter Scolari of ‘Bosom Buddies,’ ‘Girls’ Dies @ 66

So sad to report the death of Peter Scolari after a two-year cancer battle. He was 66.

My pic of Peter from 2019, plus his inscription to me. (Images by Matthew Rettenmund & ABC)

Scolari was born on September 12, 1955, in New Rochelle, New York. As a young actor, he made his film debut in 1978's Take Off, and his TV debut a year later on the Donna Pescow-Robert Hays series Angie (1979).

"Look at that young fella" — Peter Scolari, reacting to early photos of himself in 2019 (Image via ABC)

After a part in the TV movie The Further Adventures of Wally Brown in 1980, he joined the cast of the short-lived, WWII-themed sitcom Goodtime Girls (1981), which starred Annie Potts, Adrian Zmed, Georgia Engel and Lorna Patterson.

I adored this show. (Image via ABC)

When that series failed to find its groove, he was freed up to co-star with Tom Hanks in Bosom Buddies (1980-1982), a Some Like It Hot-inspired sitcom on which two struggling ad writers donned drag in order to live inexpensively in an all-female hotel. The chemistry between Scolari and Hanks — who became lifelong close friends — was sensational, and the show, also featuring the late Wendie Jo Sperber, Telma Hopkins, Donna Dixon and Holland Taylor, became a cult hit.

Alas, the beloved comedy wasn't beloved enough to warrant a third season, allowing Hanks to go on to become an Oscar-winning film actor and Scolari to continue his TV career.

Scolari guested on numerous hit shows, including Remington Steele (1982), Happy Days (1983), Hotel (1986), Family Ties (1986) and The Love Boat (1986), as well as landing a juicy role in the Carol Burnett comic miniseries Fresno (1986) before he landed the part of snarky yuppie Michael Harris on Newhart (1984-1990).

Michael Harris & Stephanie Vanderkellen, Vermont's primo yuppies, on Newhart (Image via CBS)

Opposite on-screen girlfriend Julia Duffy, comedy magic was made, leading to three Emmy nominations for Scolari.

Many more guest spots, some failed series (Dweebs in 1995) and a cameo in Hanks's feature-film directorial debut That Thing You Do! (1996) predated his 66-episode run on the TV version of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1997-2000).

He guested on the hits Touched by an Angel (1994 & 2001), Ally McBeal (2001), Reba (2002), The King of Queens (2002), ER (2002), The West Wing (2002) and White Collar (2013), also providing voices for the animated feature The Polar Express (2004) and TV's American Dad! (2006), spoofing himself on the latter.

With Becky Ann Baker on Girls (Image via HBO)

Across 21 episodes, Scolari played Tad Horvath, the father of Lena Dunham's character on HBO's sensational Girls from 2012-2017. In the fourth season, his character came out as gay and moved to NYC to explore this golden years, a performance that led to Scolari's first and only Emmy.

He starred as Commissioner Loeb on the superhero-themed series Gotham (2015), as Peter Madoff on the Bernie Madoff miniseries Madoff (2015), and in a small part in the acclaimed miniseries Fosse/Verdon (2019).

His last film work was in 2020's Looks That Kill, and his final TV performance was as Bishop Thomas Marx on Evil (2019-present).

Late in his career, Scolari gave a half dozen Broadway performances, including in Hairspray (2003), Sly Fox (2004), Magic/Bird (2012), Nora Ephron's Lucky Guy with Hanks (2013), Bronx Bombers (2014) and Wicked (2016). His final NYC stage performance was off-Broadway, in 2018's The True with Edie Falco and Michael McKean.

In 2014, Scolari opened up on an episode of Oprah Winfrey's Where Are They Now? about his drug and alcohol abuse that gripped him for "many, many, many years." He got sober — and was diagnosed as bipolar — in his forties.

Scolari is survived by his fourth wife and his four children.

2 Responses

  1. I thought his character Michael on Newhart was adorable and oh my god, him in shorts in the opening for Bosom Buddies…

  2. Thank you for your insight on Peter Scolari. Such a wonderful gift he had and shared with the world. My heart goes out to his friends, and family.

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