Frank Bonner, star of WKRP in Cincinnati and Saved by the Bell, dies at 79
Frank Bonner, who played vain sales manager Herb Tarlek on the 1970s sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, died Wednesday at his home in Laguna Niguel, Calif., from complications due to Lewy body dementia, his wife, Gayle, confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 79.
The son of musician parents, Bonner was born Frank Woodrow Boers Jr. in Little Rock, Ark., in 1942. His own career in the arts began in 1970 when he acted in the supernatural cult film Equinox, but his biggest role was on the CBS sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, which detailed the travails of the staff of a struggling Midwest radio station. As Herb, Bonner often appeared in loud plaid suits, but the character's competence didn't always match his confidence; he was never able to land the big accounts.
The character, whom Bonner played for all four seasons of the show, resonated with fans. After the news of Bonner's death broke, Toronto radio host John Derringer tweeted, "Can't count the number of times someone's walked into our station sales office and said 'So, is there a Herb Tarlek around here?' The answer has always been 'Yes.' A perfect character."
In one notable instance, Bonner's personal life crossed over into his TV work. In 1979, he injured himself in a parachute accident and had to wear crutches for the next episode of WKRP in Cincinnati.
Bonner didn't limit himself to acting. He directed several episodes of both the original run of WKRP in Cincinnati and its early-'90s revival series, The New WKRP in Cincinnati, as well as episodes of Saved by the Bell: The New Class, where he also played the recurring role of the country club manager Mr. Harrington. His other directing credits included Family Ties, Who's the Boss?, Head of the Class, Just the Ten of Us, Evening Shade, and Harry and the Hendersons.
He is survived by his wife of nearly 15 years and his daughters Desiree (and her wife, Mona) and DeAndra (and her husband, Matt); his sons Justin and Matthew; seven grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.