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Whatever Happened to The Cast of 80s TV Show: Too Close For Comfort?
Too Close for Comfort is an 80's TV show that most members of Generation X will remember if they think back hard enough to shows that weren't exactly "blockbuster hits" like The Cosby Show or Family Ties, but they did an excellent job of filling in the spaces of time between the blockbuster hits. The show was a hit in its own right, and many fans remember it well.
The show is a 30 minute situation comedy about a successful work at home cartoonist named Henry Rush. Henry navigates his daily life with the help his strong wife Muriel, two daughters: Jackie, the intelligent one and Sara, the super ditzy one.
Along for the ride were Iris, Henry's meddling, disapproving mother-in-law with a loud mouth, a transvestite tenant for the first season, a head-strong niece for a short time, and a supremely annoying family friend named Monroe, who often stole the show in most of the episodes in which he appeared.
During the last two years of the show, its name was changed to The Ted Knight Show, where most of the major cast members departed, and the lives of the fictional Rush family changed drastically.
There was a move to a more suburban location in the metro San Francisco area, both daughters and the mother-in-law moved on to lives of their own, Muriel gave birth to twins, and Henry dropped his cartoon character in favor of a job as an editor.
The revamped 6th season caught on with viewers, and the series was slated for new seasons...until an abrupt and tragic ending. Let's do some research to play catch up, and find out whatever happened to the cast of Too Close for Comfort...
Whatever Happened to Ted Knight? (Henry Rush)
Ted Knight played Henry Rush, he is the head of the family, and he makes his living as a cartoonist. Henry Rush is somewhat uptight, and easily agitated, especially by Monroe, but his even tempered wife was always able to straighten him out when he became too tightly wound.
As previously mentioned, most children of the '80s were already familiar with Ted Knight through re-runs of The Mary Tyler Moore Show via his character Ted Baxter. Sometime during the late 1970s, around the end of filming for the iconic '70s TV show, Ted Knight was diagnosed with cancer. Knight underwent treatment for the cancer, and he went into remission.
In 1985, the cancer returned and it spread. He was then advised to stop filming on Too Close for Comfort until he fully recovered, but he chose to continue on. The actor's conditioned worsened, and he succumbed to cancer on August 26, 1986, he was only 62 years old.
Knight was laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California, along with hundreds of other Hollywood actors, actresses and behind the scenes people in the entertainment industry.
His grave marker bears his birth name Theodore C. Konopka, and it reads "Bye Guy", which is a reference to his time on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, where his character Ted Baxter's catchphrase is "Hi, guy!
Did you know many of the college sweatshirts worn by Ted Knight on Too Close for Comfort were sent to him by fans?
Whatever Happened to Nancy Dussault (Muriel Rush)
Nancy Dussault played Muriel Rush, she was the level-headed, more laid back wife to Henry Rush. Muriel is a retired member of a rock and roll band, and her current job/career on the show was as a photographer.
Nancy Dussault was first introduced to the entertainment industry by way of the theater, where she received two Tony Award nominations for her robust performances in the musicals Do Re Mi and Bajour, both in the 1960s.
Later on, Dussault made the circuit on 70s TV sitcoms from Barney Miller to Love, American Style, and she was a series regular on The New Dick Van Dyke Show.
After the death of Ted Knight effectively ended Too Close for Comfort, she made the rounds on other 80s TV shows, such as Matlock and Murder, She Wrote. Afterwards, Dussault was still hitting the circuit with 90s TV shows and well into the 2000s, with guest starring roles on shows such as Full House, Mad About You, and Judging Amy.
You'll be happy to know that Nancy Dussault is alive and well today, she's living in her native, Pensacola, Florida, and she's even making a quiet comeback into acting in a currently in production short film titled The Final Show.
Reportedly, the short film is about a woman who has lived a full life, and now she's on a journey to identify who she wants to take along with her to eternity...it sounds interesting. We wish Nancy Dussault all the best, and I'll, of course, update my readers on The Final Show once it becomes available for public viewing.
Deborah Van Valkenburgh (Jackie Rush)
Deborah Van Valkenburgh played Jackie Rush, Henry Rush's eldest daugther. Jackie is the sensible, intelligent brunette who works for a financial institution, and who's responsible, and always on a quest to get ahead in life.
Van Valkenburgh first came to prominence in the entertainment industry by way of the playing Mercy in the Gang related cult film, The Warriors in 1979. Before her stint on Too Close for Comfort came along in 1980, she had no television credits, so the show was a first for her when it comes to '80s TV.
In 1985, once the show changed its format, Van Valkenburgh left the series and was seen mostly on hour-long '80s TV dramas, like Cagney and Lacey. This trend has carried on for the actress throughout the '90s and into the 2000s, with guest spots on shows like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, ER, Chicago Hope, The Shield, and the 2005 Rob Zombie horror film The Devil's Rejects,
Van Valkenburgh is still active on the television circuit, and she has been more recently in Ghost Whisperer, The Messengers, and in 2016 she was cast in a tribute film for The Warriors called An Evening with Walter Hill & Lawrence Gordon. A Tribute to Andrew Laszlo (2016).
In the film, cast members allowed audience members a Q&A session about the film, and it provided an interesting look back on the impact of the film, and Deborah Van Valkenburgh was there, front and center.
As a teen in Upstate New York, Deborah Van Valkenburgh performed in coffee houses with the folk band Spur Of The Moment and during college she sang locally in a duo popularly known as The Myrtle Avenue Watermelon.
Lydia Cornell (Sara Rush)
Lydia Cornell portrayed Sara Rush, the youngest daugther of Henry and Muriel Rush. She was kind at heart, and she was a college student, but she wasn't the brightest light bulb in the pack, it almost seemed as though she was modeled after Three's Company's Suzanne Somers character, Chrissy Snow. Good thing Sara was a knockout, otherwise it would have been all down hill for her.
Lydia Cornell's first real acting job was a bit part with two lines on an episode on The Love Boat. She also had small roles on Knight Rider, The Dukes of Hazzard, and Fantasy Island before Too Close for Comfort.
Cornell left the show in 1985 along with Deborah Van Valkenburgh, and just as her other cast members, she has been busy in television ever since. Over the years, she has appeared in such shows as The A Team, Full House and T.J. Hooker, and more recently, she was in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and in 2015, she appeared in a female revenge film titled Cats Dancing on Jupiter.
Lydia Cornell is currently rumored to be in an upcoming film called The Awesome Adventures of Frankie Stargazer, its due to be released in 2018 and the story line revolves around a young boy with special powers. We'll be keeping an eye peeled for that one...
Lydia Cornell's great-great grandmother is Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Jim J. Bullock Talks to Oprah about HIV, Meth Addiction & Losing a Partner
Jim J. Bullock (Munroe Ficus)
Jim J. Bullock played Munroe, the klutzy young man who was a regular source of agitation for Henry Rush. Munroe was thrust upon the Rush family by way of Sara, because she was his friend in college - it's no wonder this pair were friends, because they were just about equally dim of wit, perhaps Munroe was a tiny bit more on the dim side that Sara. In later years, Henry grew fond of Munroe and he thought of him as a son.
Before Too Close for Comfort, Jim J. Bullock is only credited with one acting appearance, in a teen werewolf flick called Full Moon High. However, after the show ended, he went on to do the regular TV sitcom rounds on shows like Seinfeld and Roseanne.
Bullock has enjoyed a robust career with several long term roles in TV series, such as a one year guest starring role on the '80s TV series, A.L.F., a three year stint on Nickelodeon's Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, and a four year run on the soap opera, The Bold and the Beautiful.
It should be mentioned that Bullock was a regular on the Hollywood Squares reboot, and he has appeared in several gay themed projects, such as Gaydar, Kissing Jessica Stein, Queer Duck and Rick & Steve the Happiest Gay Couple in All the World. Bullock was also a co-host of a Fox talk show with former televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker until she became sick and had to be replaced.
Bullock is openly gay and he's comfortable with himself. Unfortunately, in the late '80s he learned he was HIV positive, but he is alive and well today as a long-term survivor of the disease.
Most recently in 2016, the 62 year old actor was performing in the national touring company of Kinky Boots. Currently, Jim J. Bullock is on tour with the show in Japan.
Jim J. Bullock studied at a private, conservative, Southern Baptist university in Shawnee, Oklahoma (Oklahoma Baptist University).
Who was your favorite character from "Too Close For Comfort?"
Audrey Meadows (Iris Martin)
Iris Martin is portrayed by veteran actress, Audrey Meadows. Iris is Muriel's mother who comes to the Rush household to help her daugther after she gives birth to baby Andrew. Iris makes no secret of her distaste for Henry, but one gets the impression her negative feelings are not 100% concrete...she only wanted "more" for her daugther.
Audrey Meadows is a Hollywood legend, who gained her fame in the 1950s appearing as Alice Kramden on the iconic classic TV sitcom, The Honeymooners, opposite legendary Hollywood titan, Jackie Gleason.
Meadows was brought in to the cast of Too Close for Comfort during season three, and she was used as another comic foil to Ted Knight's character.
After the show wrapped, Meadows did a few rounds on a couple of TV series in the 1980s, then she stepped into the '90s TV series Uncle Buck in a recurring role for an entire year.
In 1991, she reprised her role as Alice Kramden in the offbeat series Hi Honey, I'm Home!, voiced the part of Old Money on an episode of The Simpsons, and guest starred on shows like Empty Nest, Burke's Law, and the '90s TV drama, Sisters, her last television performance was appearing in a couple of episodes of Dave's World in 1995.
Audrey Meadows: Brains & Beauty
By far, Meadows private life, was far more interesting than her acting credits. The actress had a head for business and an eye on money. In 1956, she married a wealthy real estate baron, and her second husband was president of Continental Airlines.
Outside of marrying well, Meadows was an astute business woman who served as director of the First National Bank of Denver for 11 years - she was the first woman to hold this position. Additionally, she had an active hand in the design of the flight attendant and ticket agent uniforms, flight interior design, and overall design of the "President's Club" airport lounges for Continental Airlines.
In 1994, the actress became a published author when she penned the memoir, Love, Alice: My Life As A Honeymooner.
Audrey Meadows died of lung cancer on February 3, 1996. Her body was laid to rest at Holy Cross Cemetery in Los Angeles, next to her husband, and in the company of other notable people like Alfred S. Bloomingdale, John Candy, Bing Crosby, Rita Hayworth and Conrad Hilton.
Audrey Meadows & Ted Knight in Action (Along w/Dean Martin)
Deena Freeman (April)
Deena Freeman played Henry Rush's quirky niece, April in the second season of the show. April is an aspiring songwriter from Delaware, who moves in with Jackie and Sara. The character only lasted one season, but many members of Generation X will still remembers April.
In one episode, April falls in love with an older man, the two move in together, but the man gets cold feet and he asks Henry to deliver the blow to April, because he's too much of a coward to do it himself. Eventually, April realizes what she's really seeking is the love of a father figure, and in the end she understands that she has it all along from her Uncle Henry.
Freeman can be seen in episodes of Magnum P.I., The White Shadow and a couple of made-for-TV movies before her appearance on Too Close for Comfort. She's kept herself constantly busy throughout the years following her short stint on the popular 80s sitcom - from numerous guest starring roles on television, and voice overs in animation and video games.
Freeman has appeared in two TV movies, Khali the Killer and Adam Astra Casting, both of which were released this year (2017). The actress is married to songwriter and producer David Brandes, and the couple has two daughters.
Today, Deena Freeman is an acting coach who teaches kids and teens how to reach inside and find the actor within at the Speiser Sturges Acting Studio in Los Angeles.
A Supporting Cast Full of Acting Titans
Actor Gary Dontzig played "Brad Turner" for one episode. The character is Jackie's police officer boyfriend. Jackie and Brad were a relatively strong couple, before Jackie cut the relationship and left the bank for the world of fashion..
Before the show, Dontzig could be seen in episodes of popular '70s TV series like The Walton's, Logan's Run (the TV series, not the movie), Chico and the Man, and One Day at a Time.
After the show, Dontzig went on to success as a writer and producer for such shows as Murphy Brown, State of Grace, Suddenly Susan, A Different World and Hannah Montana.
Jordan Bennett (credited as Jordan Suffin) played the character of "Brad Turner" after Gary Dontzig departed the show. Before the show, Bennett could be seen on episodes of Emergency! and Police Story, and he enjoyed a long run "Norman" on The Waltons.
After the show, he went on to acting in a couple of TV shows in the '80s, and then he popped back up in 2005 in a reenactment role on Untold Stories of the ER. However, it appears that singing is his passion. In 2015, he released a CD of original songs titled Original, and he's been singing his way across stages all over the country for years.
Veteran actor Hamilton Camp portrayed the role of "Arthur Wainwright," Henry Rush's employer. Wainwright is a drama queen who forces Henry into retirement in favor of a more youthful staff.
Camp has more than 200 acting credits under his belt, spanning from 1946 to 2007. Camp performed on television sitcoms, animated series, TV movies and even video game voice-overs.
Hamilton Camp passed away on On October 2, 2005 due to complications of cardiovascular disease. He has a lifetime body of work, and much of it can be viewed by visiting his website, hamiltoncamp.com.
The role of Arthur Wainright was inherited by yet another veteran thespian. Canadian actor, Graham Jarvis, took on the role of Henry's boss later on in the series.
Like Hamilton Camp, Graham Jarvis was quite the character actor with a long list of permances that spanned from a small role in the long standing soap opera The Guiding Light in 1952 to a recurring role as Annie Camden's father in the 90s TV drama, 7th Heaven in 2003.
Serious Classic TV junkies will remember Graham Jarvis for his role in the soap opera parody, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman as Charlie "Baby Boy" Haggers
Graham Jarvis died of cancer on April 16, 2003, he was 72 years old.
Veteran actress Selma Diamond made a splash on the show when she appeared as Mildred Rafkin, the sister of the Rush's tenant who turned out to be a transvestite. "Rafkin," as he was referred to all, lived in the downstairs apartment prior to Jackie and Sara; they moved in when he died.
Rafkin was somewhat famous for having a multitude of female guests, and he was perceived as a ladies man, until it was discovered upon his death, that he was a cross-dresser - it turned out, all those "female guests" was actually Rafkin in drag.
As far as I can remember, Rafkin died before the start of the show, so he was never actually seen, only referred to. However, his sister came to claim his belongings, and Selma Diamond breathed brash, comedic life into the character of Mildred Rafkin.
Again, like Camp and Jarvis, Selma Diamond was a veteran character actress. She had a raspy voice, she was short of stature and her career spanned from 1956 with a role on the soap opera, The Edge of Night to 1985 with a voice-over part in The Jetson's.
Most members of Generation X will remember Diamond for her role as Selma, the Bailiff in another 80's TV sitcom, Night Court.
Selma Diamond was a heavy smoker, who died of lung cancer on May 13, 1985. Interestingly enough, her replacement on Night Court was another diminutive woman with a raspy voice, Florence Halop - who was also a chain-smoker, and died of lung cancer.
When the series was re-tooled, and Henry Rush retired from cartooning and took a job as an editor, and yet another veteran character actor, Pat Carroll was added to the show's line-up.
Carroll portrayed the role of Hope Stinson, Henry's partner who often annoyed him to no end - let's face it, Ted Knight's Henry Rush would not be "Henry" without having someone to annoy him, and Monroe's character was much more mellow in the last acts of the show.
Pat Carroll has starred in film, television, and on stage, since 1948. She has a distinctive voice that only takes a second to be heard for one to realize she is the voice of "Ursula" in The Little Mermaid.
Today, Pat Carroll is alive and well at 90 years of age. To date, her last acting performance was the role of "Joan" in the 2014 film, BFFs. The film stars Carroll's daugther, actress Tara Karsian.
Too Close for Comfort, an '80s TV Classic!
How Well Do You Know "Too Close For Comfort?"
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Too Close for Comfort is an endearing show, not just for Generation X, but for classic TV lovers overall. Although the show ran in different formats throughout its 129 episodes and six years, the comedic element was still the same, and we grew to love the characters.
The tragic death of classic TV legend, Ted Knight brought an end to the show, but it lives on in re-runs, so be sure to catch it whenever you can...
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