Adrian Joseph Cronauer, the real-life disc jockey and former U.S. Air Force sergeant whose story provided the loose inspiration for Robin Williams’ character in Good Morning, Vietnam, has died at age 79.
Cronauer died Wednesday morning in Troutville, Virginia, according to his obituary in The Roanoke Times.
His daughter-in-law Mary Muse told CNN he died of an “age-related illness” in a nursing home.
“Adrian was warm and approachable. He loved the service men and service women all over the world, and always made time to personally engage with them. Although he was an only child, his military brothers and sisters became part of his family,” his family said in a statement.
Cronauer co-authored the original story for the 1987 film Good Morning, Vietnam Williams, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in the film, portrayed a character loosely based on Cronauer’s stint as an Air Force disc jockey during the war. The tagline “Gooooooood Morning, Vietnam!” came from Cronauer’s real wartime broadcasts.
“As far as I know, it’s the first film that began to show Americans in Vietnam as they really were instead of a bunch of murderers and rapists and baby-killers and dope addicts and psychotics. That was sorely needed at the time,” Cronauer told USA Today of the film in 2014, shortly after Williams’ death.
Williams died by suicide in August 2014 after suffering from Lewy body dementia, a type of brain disease that affected his thinking, memory, and movement control. It’s the second-most-common type of progressive dementia, after Alzheimer’s disease.
While the film’s director (Barry Levinson) deliberately kept Williams and Cronauer apart during filming, fearing the actor might begin to unconsciously mimic his real-life counterpart, the two men eventually became friendly.
“Robin and I were introduced before the film was shown. We shook hands and he said, ‘Well, I’m glad to finally meet you.’ And I said, ‘Well, I’m glad to finally meet me, too.’ We got along fine after that,” Cronauer told USA Today.
“We exchanged Christmas cards and in 1991 his wife at the time, Marsha, invited 200 or 300 of his very closest friends to California to celebrate his 40th birthday,” he added.
In addition to his service in the Air Force, Cronauer was a confidential advisor to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) from 2001 through 2009, and holds the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service for his efforts.
He also spent seven years in New York City voicing television and radio commercials, and taught college courses on broadcasting, according to his obituary.
He is survived by his stepson, Michael Muse, his daughter-in-law Mary Muse, and four grandchildren: Matthew Muse and wife Kelley, and their son, Hudson, Dr. Sarah (Muse) Minter and husband, Ryan; granddaughter, Christa Buchanan; and grandson, Cameron Buchanan.