Howard Hesseman, Star Of WKRP In Cincinnati And Head Of The Class, Has Died At 81

Actor and two-time Emmy nominee, Howard Hesseman, best known for his roles in the '70s and '80s sitcoms, "WKRP in Cincinnati" and "Head of the Class," has died at the age of 81.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Hesseman passed away on Saturday, January 29, 2022, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Los Angeles due to complications from a colon surgery procedure that he underwent last summer. The actor worked as a real-life disc jockey in San Francisco years before he landed the role of DJ Johnny Fever in "WKRP in Cincinnati." 

On the show, Fever made his way to WKRP (a play on W-CRAP) after an LA radio station fired him for saying the word "booger" on-air, though he would receive a $24,000 settlement for wrongful dismissal later in the series. "WKRP in Cincinnati" ran for four seasons on CBS, but Hesseman gained further recognition when he starred for another four seasons in ABC's "Head of the Class." In the early '90s, he would reprise his role as Fever in the two-season sequel series, "The New WKRP in Cincinnati."

In "Head of the Class," Hesseman played Mr. Moore, an out-of-work actor who segued from substitute teaching into a full-time gig at a Manhattan high school for gifted students. Last November, HBO Max revived "Head of the Class" as a streaming series starring Isabella Gomez, but it was quickly canceled after one season.

Beyond the Classroom and the Station Booth

Between "WKRP in Cincinnati" and "Head of the Class," Hesseman also had a role in the Norman Lear sitcom, "One Day at a Time." His character, Sam Royer, was the second husband of the series lead, Ann Romano, played by Bonnie Franklin. He recurred in the eighth season before becoming a main cast member in the ninth and last season.

Hesseman also played Captain Pete Lassard in "Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment," and he appeared in the classic mockumentary, "This Is Spinal Tap," as well as "About Schmidt" and Rob Zombie's "Halloween II," among other films. In addition, he hosted "Saturday Night Live" three times (see above) and guest-starred on a number of other network TV shows over the years, including "Dragnet," "The Bob Newhart Show," "That '70s Show," and "Boston Legal."

He was born in Lebanon, Oregon, in 1940, and graduated from the University of Oregon before he moved to California, became involved with the improv group, The Committee, and embarked on a career in show business. His final acting credit (via IMDb) is the 2018 film, "Dirty Politics."

Hesseman is survived by his wife, Caroline Ducrocq, and their three godchildren, Grace, Hamish, and Chet.