Emmy winner Bernie West dies at 92

Worked on 'All in the Family,' 'Jeffersons,' 'Three's Company'

Bernie West, an Emmy-winning screenwriter and producer who worked on the classic sitcoms "All in the Family," "The Jeffersons" and "Three's Company," died July 29 at his Beverly Hills home of complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 92.

West won his Emmy in 1973 for writing, with Mickey Ross, the "Bunkers and the Swingers" episode on "All in the Family." He received two other noms as a producer for his work on "All in the Family" and "Three's Company."

In 1971, he and Ross submitted a script for "All in the Family" to Norman Lear and began what Bernie referred to as his first steady job. They worked on the CBS sitcom from 1971-74, where they were writers, script consultants, story editors and eventually, with Don Nicholl, producers.

West and Ross created the character of Maude, played by Bea Arthur, on a 1972 episode of "All in the Family" that spun into another long-running CBS series. And he and his partners worked on the 1974 pilot script of NBC's "Chico and the Man."

Nicholl, Ross and West later wrote and produced for "The Jeffersons," which ran for 10 years, and then "Three's Company." Other series included "The Dumplings" and two spinoffs of "Three's Company," "The Ropers" and "Three's a Crowd."

Born Bernard Wessler in the Bronx, he and Martin Rosenblatt, later known as Ross Martin of "Wild Wild West" fame, formed the stand-up team of Ross & West. When Martin left to get married, West worked with his friend, Isadore Rovinsky, who changed his name to Mickey Ross so that the act could continue as Ross & West.

Ross & West worked nightclubs and vaudeville. "Everything we did may not have been original," West once said, "but what we stole was good!"

A popular entertainer in the "Borscht Belt" of upstate New York, he spent many summers performing in the Catskills, at Green Mansions in the Adirondacks and at Tamiment in the Poconos. Among his early acting credits were appearances on "The Garry Moore Show," "Dixon of Dock Green," "The Arthur Murray Show," "The Jack Paar Show," "The Ed Sullivan Show," "The Phil Silvers Show," "Car 54, Where Are You?" and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C."

West also created the role of Dr. Kitchell, the song-writing dentist, on Broadway in "Bells Are Ringing" starring Judy Holliday, which opened in 1956. He went on to recreate the role in the 1960 film, which also starred Holliday as well as Dean Martin.

Other Broadway appearances included "All American" with Ray Bolger, "Poor Bitos" with Donald Pleasance, "The Beauty Part" with Bert Lahr and the 1969 revival of "The Front Page" with Helen Hayes. 

West and his wife, Mimi, who died in 2004, supported numerous cultural, political, arts and community service organizations, including the Los Angeles Free Clinic (now known as the Saban Free Clinic) and Baruch College, where they endowed the Bernie West Theater (referred to by current students as "The Bernie").

West is survived by his daughters, Ellen Harris and Isabel Davis; son-in-law Robert Davis; and grandsons Michael and David Harris.
comments powered by Disqus