Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Farewell to the always tip-minded "Jeffersons" doorman Ned Wertimer ...

Ned Wertimer 

Sad to report that my long time client (32 years!) and pal Ned Wertimer has died. Ned, who earned TV pop culture fame from his role as Ralph the Doorman on the long running, hit series "The Jeffersons," was 89.

Ned was the first client to sign with Lemack & Company when I left my publicity post for "The Jeffersons" (and other Norman Lear series) in the early 1980's to open up shop.

Ned was born in Buffalo, New York on October 27, 1923. He made his acting debut as a youngster at the Nichols School, in Buffalo, most notably in a school production of A Christmas Carol

He was appointed a naval aviator on 1944, having fulfilled the requirements of the United States Navy Department. After serving as a pilot in World War II, Ned attended the University of Pennsylvania’s renowned Wharton School from where received his Bachelor of Science degree in business administration. He was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity (as was his father).

While at the university, Ned was active in the famous Mask and Wig Club, the all-male musical troupe founded in 1889. He had major roles in their 1947 production of Juleo and Romiet, playing Lady Montague, and in the 1948 production of Alaska Right Away, playing Senator Forghorn.

Despite his degree in business, Ned moved to New York City right after college to pursue an acting career. He found success immediately, appearing in two Broadway shows within a year. He was both assistant stage manager and cast member in Texas L’il Darlin’, a Robert Emmett Dolan/Johnny Mercer musical that opened in November 1949 and as a cast member in Garson Kanin’s play The Live Wire, which opened in August 1950.

In New York, Ned also began to get roles in the new medium of television, appearing in many of the popular shows at the time. He become a regular guest on the popular children’s series The Shari Lewis Show, which highlighted his natural gifts for mimicry and improv comedy.

In 1961, he replaced Paul Lynde in the Tony Award winning Broadway production of Bye Bye Birdie. Ned also worked in numerous national touring and stock productions of plays and musicals, including Brigadoon, Hat Full of Rain, Witness for the Prosecution, Man For All Seasons, Cyrano de Bergerac, Annie Get Your Gun, Bells are Ringing, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter and, much later, The Best of The Jeffersons, a recreation of three episodes from the television series starring its original cast.

Over the years, he made appearances in more than 100 television programs and series in both New York and Los Angeles, a list that grew to include The Debbie Reynolds Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, WKRP in Cincinnati, Mork and Mindy, You Can’t Take it With You, Mister Peepers, He & She, Gunsmoke, MacMillan and Wife, Family Law and, of course, The Jeffersons, to name a few.

In the mid-1960s, Ned moved to Los Angeles to continue his career in film and television. He soon met and married the love of his life, Dr. Skyne Uku.

In Los Angeles, his film credits grew to include The Pack, What’s So Bad About Feeling Good, Tora! Tora! Tora!, The Impossible Years, Chiller and as stockbroker Fred Cates to Lucille Balls’ Mame.

Ned had a passion for travel, which enriched his life and became a part of his most memorable years. His worldwide adventures included riding a camel in Egypt, riding an elephant in Thailand and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

Ned was active in social and political issues regarding civil rights He was very involved in AFTRA and SAG’s union contract negotiations and was a dedicated, long time member of the board of directors of the AFTRA SAG Federal Credit Union. He was also a voting member for the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ Emmy Awards.

Ned also enjoyed sports, especially golf, and played in many celebrity gold tournaments for a variety of non-profit organizations.

Condolences and hugs to his wife and best friend Skyne Uku-Wertimer.