EW Staff
September 17, 1993 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Herve Villechaize’s suicide

Life wasn’t always a tropical adventure for Fantasy Island star Herve Villechaize. The 3-foot-11-inch star, who was known for shouting ”The plane! The plane!” into Ricardo Montalban‘s kneecaps on the ABC series, died of self- inflicted gunshot wounds at his home in L.A. on Sept. 4. In his taped suicide message, Villechaize, 50, said he was despondent over recurring illness.

Starting with Fantasy Island‘s debut in 1978, Villechaize made the role of Tattoo as much a part of ’70s TV lore as Archie Bunker. But after leaving the show over a contract dispute a year before cancellation in 1983, he found work scarce. ”There wasn’t much demand for what he did,” says his publicist, Sandy Brokaw. ”How many midgets do you see on TV?” For the last two years Villechaize pitched tiny baked goods in Dunkin’ Donuts ads, which played off of his trademark line. Says a Dunkin’ Donuts spokesman, the organization is ”shocked and saddened by his death.”

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