Actor Ted Knight, a Connecticut native whose role as a pompous television news anchorman on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" brought him two Emmy awards, died Tuesday at his home in Pacific Palisades, Calif. He was 62.
Knight was hospitalized last year for removal of a cancerous growth from his urinary tract. Earlier this month, he returned to a Los Angeles hospital for treatment of complications from that surgery but had been discharged.
Publicist Henry Bollinger said the actor's wife, Dorothy, and three children were with him when he died of cancer Tuesday afternoon.
Knight, who was born in Plymouth as Tadeus W. Konopka, studied at the Randall School of Dramatic Arts in Hartford for three years and performed there in productions of "Liliarn," "Grand Hotel," "Antigone" and "Time of Your Life." He also worked as a disc jockey and announcer for several Hartford radio stations.
His first fulltime job in radio and television was as an announcer, singer and pantomimist for a station in the South. Later, he returned to New York City and studied at the American Theater Wing. He also acted in such radio and television shows as The Lux Video Theater," "Suspense" and "Our Gal Sunday."
In 1953, he went to Providence, R.I., where he created his own television show, "Children's Theater."
But it was the part of Ted Baxter that brought him fame as he carved the news anchorman into an egotistical, ineffectual nincompoop and brought delight to millions. He was in the Mary Tyler Moore show from 1970 to 1977 and won Emmys for outstanding actor in a supporting role in comedy in 1973 and 1976.
Later, he said he wanted to shed the image. "I've really wanted to shake Ted Baxter," he said in 1981. But Knight realized its popularity. "People want to see that character. Ted Baxter gave the whole world a superiority complex."
In the spring of 1978, Knight played Roger Dennis, owner of a New York City escort service, in "The Ted Knight Show" on CBS. He also played a middleaged illustrator from 1980 to 1983 on ABC's "Too Close for Comfort."
That show, in syndication had been scheduled to start filming a new season the middle of this month, but doctors had told Baxter not to work.
In 1976, the Terryville section of Plymouth honored Knight with a parade in his honor. The salute spawned a national television comedy special, "Terryville Revisited," in which he was greeted with massive indifference.
In the special show, the plot was Knight's ego being bruised when he discovered that his birthplace had been turned into a butcher shop instead of a national landmark. Actor Ed Asner played the butcher. Fred MacMurray, Phil Silvers, Ethel Merman and Loretta Swit also had parts in the show.
Knight was born on Allen Street in Terryville, the son of Chester and Sophie Konopka. He was one of seven children and he attended Terryville schools.
Wire reports were included in this story.
[The Hartford Courant, Wednesday, August 27, 1986]