Frank Bonner, known for his roles in WKRP in Cincinnati and Saved By The Bell, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 79. According to a statement by his family, which was first reported by TMZ, he died for complications relating to Lewy Body Dementia, peacefully with his family by his side. Thoughts are with them and his friends at this time.
Frank Bonner played Herb Tarlek in 88 episodes of the original WKRP in Cincinnati series, as well as reprising his role in the 90s sequel series, The New WKRP in Cincinnati, which is the character he will be best remembered for. He also appeared in Saved By The Bell: The New Class, which also gave him one of his many forays into directing. However, his career started much earlier than that.
Bonner was born in Arkansas in 1942 and started his acting career in the experimental film The Equinox…A Journey Into The Unknown in 1967. Three years later, the movie was re-released after being reshot and edited as Equinox, in which he was credited as Frank Boers Jr. He went onto make numerous TV and movie appearances throughout the 70s, including the likes of Cannon, Emergency!, Police Woman and The Man From Atlantis before joining the cast of WKRP in Cincinnati in the role that would be his most prolific acting credit.
In 1978, Bonner suffered numerous internal and back injuries in a parachute accident, which saw him fall 20 feet. During his time recovering, he continued to work, leading to him appearing on crutches for an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati and when he filmed an All-Star Special episode of the game show, Family Feud. The accident did not impact on his work, and certainly did not have any detrimental impact on his future either as he continued to be even busier over the following decade.
Through the 80s, he made one off appearances in Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, Scarecrow and Mrs King, Murder She Wrote and Night Court, as well as gaining another long term role as Father Robert Hargis in Just The Ten of Us. Into the 90s saw his return to playing HerbTarlek in the revived The New WKRP in Cincinnati, as well as roles in Saved by the Bell: The New Class, The Mommies and USA High. Bonner began to make less appearances into the 2000s, mostly appearing in small roles in feature films, his last being in Under The Hollywood Sign in 2014.
Bonner was married five times, his most current wife being Gayle Hardage, to whom he was married from 2006. As news of his passing was broken by his family, fellow WKRP cast member Gary Sandy was the actor’s first co-star to pay their respects on social media, posting a message on their Facebook account that said, “”It Is True! Frank Pasted Away, Yesterday June 16th at 3:48 Pacific Time RIP My Great Friend!!!”. A tribute was also paid by Michael Des Barres, who posted on Twitter, “‘WKRP in Cincinnati’ Star Frank Bonner Dead at 79 via @TMZ Very sad news for me. I loved working with him. Impeccable timing as a comedic actor and a really nice man. RIP.”