Friday, June 18, 2021

Godspeed Frank Bonner

Frank Bonner, best known for playing Herb Tarlek on the classic sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, died yesterday at the age of 79. The cause was complications from Lewy body dementia. Mr. Bonner also directed several television shows over the years.

Frank Bonner was born Frank Woodrow Boers Jr. on February 28 1942 in Little Rock, Arkansas. He grew up in Malvern, Arkansas. He served in the United States Navy for six years. In 1967 he made his film debut in the film Equinox...A Journey into the Supernatural. In 1970 additional footage was shot for the film and it was re-edited to become the cult film Equinox. Frank Bonner made his television debut in 1970 in an episode of The Young Lawyers. That same year he guest starred on an episode of Nancy.

It was in 1978 that Frank Bonner began playing the role of Herb Tarlek on WKRP in Cincinnati. Herb Tarlek was WRKP's long-time sales manager with terrible taste in clothing and who was somewhat inept at his job. During the Seventies Frank Bonner guest starred on the TV shows Mannix; Nichols; The F.B.I.; Hawkins; Emergency!; Love, American Style; Cannon; Police Woman; Most Wanted; and Man from Atlantis. It was while he was still on WKRP in Cincinnati that he began directing television shows, directing an episode of the show in 1980. Mr. Bonner ultimately directed six episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati in total. He appeared in the movies The Hoax (1972), Little Cigars (1973), Las Vegas Lady (1975),  and Hearts of the West (1975).

In the Eighties Frank Bonner played the recurring roles of Henry "Buck" McConnell on Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Det. R.T. Mooney on Sidekicks, and Father Robert Hargis on Just the Ten of Us. He guest starred on the shows Fantasy Island; The Love Boat; Newhart; Legmen; The Duck Factory; Simon & Simon; Matt Houston; Gimme a Break!; Crazy Like a Fox; New Love, American Style; Punky Brewster; Blacke's Magic; Murder, She Wrote; and Night Court. He directed episodes of Family Ties, Frank's Place, The Van Dyke Show, Who's the Boss, Just the Ten of Us, Head of the Class, Evening Shade, You Take the Kids, and The Famous Teddy Z. He appeared in the movies The Longshot (1986) and You Can't Hurry Love (1988).

In 1991 Frank Bonner revisited the role of Herb Tarlek in the TV show revival The New WKRP in Cincinnati. He played Mr. Ed Harrington in Saved by The Bell: The New Class. He guest starred on The Mommies, The Colony, and City Guys. He directed episodes of Harry and the Henderson, The New WKRP in Cincinnati, Fudge, The Mommies, Campus Cops, Saved by the Bell: The New Class, USA High, and City Guys. He appeared in the movies Going Under (1991) and Motel (1998). In the Naughts he directed the TV movie Living Straight and directed an episode of the TV show Desire and Deceit. He appeared in the movies A Light in the Forest (2003), Shut Up and Kiss Me! (2004), and Remembering Phil (2008). In the Teens he appeared in the movie Under the Hollywood Sign (2014).

As Herb Tarlek, Frank Bonner created one of television's most memorable characters. While Herb is the epitome of the unprofessional, incompetent salesman, he also complex enough a character that he showed real concern for his fellow employees at WKRP, even when they didn't always get along. Of course, Frank Bonner played recurring characters on other shows (Scarecrow and Mrs King, Sidekicks, and Just the Ten of Us) and guest starred on many more. Furthermore, he directed several episodes of TV shows, starting with WKRP in Cincinnati. As beloved as he as an actor, Frank Bonner actually preferred his work as a director. Regardless, Mr. Bonner was an extremely talented actor and director who created one of the most memorable characters in television history.

1 comment:

top_cat_james said...

Also worth mentioning is the 2004 music video for the Rheostatics' "The Tarleks", in which Bonner reprised his WKRP character.