Comedian and actor Milton Berle, whose eight-decade show biz career stretched from vaudeville to ”Beverly Hills 90210,” died Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. The 93-year-old Berle, who was diagnosed with colon cancer last year, passed at his Los Angeles home with his wife by his side.
After beginning his career performing in silent films and on the stage and radio, Berle found nationwide fame as the host of a popular TV variety show. The skit-filled program, which ran from 1948 to 1956 on NBC, made Berle one of TV’s first beloved personalities; he became known as Uncle Miltie and Mr. Television. The public’s fascination with the show is even credited with inspiring many families to buy their first television sets.
Later, the cigar-chomping Berle continued his acting career in movies and TV. He appeared in films as varied as 1963’s all-star romp ”It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” and 1979’s ”The Muppet Movie.” In 1995, he was nominated for an Emmy for a ”90210” appearance as a senile actor. Through the years, his raunchy, politically incorrect material never changed — and it fit right in during his appearances on Howard Stern’s radio show. At his 90th birthday party in 1998, Berle told EW the secret to his longevity: ”I never drank, I never smoked a cigarette, been smoking cigars since I’m 12, and had a hard-on since I’m 10.”