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James O’Keefe, the veteran sitcom producer and frequent Garry Marshall and Miller-Boyett collaborator who worked on Mork & Mindy, Perfect Strangers, Full House and Family Matters, has died. He was 76.
O’Keefe died Oct. 31 of heart disease at his home in Bel Air, his wife, former Sony Pictures Studios executive Jan Kelly, announced.
His father was Dennis O’Keefe, an actor in such movies as The Leopard Man (1943), Brewster’s Millions (1945), Walk a Crooked Mile (1948) and Follow the Sun (1951), and his mother was Steffi Duna, an actress and dancer who appeared in Anthony Adverse (1936) and Waterloo Bridge (1940), among other films.
On Miller-Boyett Productions’ Perfect Strangers, which starred Mark Linn-Baker and Bronson Pinchot as mismatched roommates and cousins, O’Keefe produced in various capacities from the start of the ABC sitcom in 1986 through its seventh season in 1992. He wrote and directed on the show as well.
Born on Jan. 11, 1943, in Los Angeles, O’Keefe attended the Black-Foxe Military Institute, a popular boarding school for children of Hollywood stars and execs, and UCLA.
In the 1960s, he played the saxophone and other instruments as a member of surf-rock band The Cornells. His bandmates — whom he met at Black-Foxe — included Peter Lewis, future co-founder of Moby Grape and a son of Loretta Young; Bob Linkletter, son of Art Linkletter; and Charlie Correll, son of Amos ‘n’ Andy radio actor Charles Correll, and they appeared on Young’s NBC series.
O’Keefe started out as an assistant on Happy Days and the Nancy Walker-starring Blansky’s Beauties in 1977 before working as an associate producer on Angie, starring Donna Pescow, and the first two seasons of Robin Williams’ Mork & Mindy. (All those ABC comedies were created or co-created by Marshall.)
O’Keefe then produced two other ABC sitcoms with connections to Marshall: Goodtime Girls, starring Annie Potts and Georgia Engel, and The New Odd Couple, starring Ron Glass and Demond Wilson.
He produced two more ABC Miller-Boyett shows — Family Matters during its first season (1989-90) and Full House from 1993-95 — and worked on the Jennifer O’Neill-starring Cover Up at CBS and UPN’s The Good News, created by Ed. Weinberger.
His directing credits also included episodes of Valerie, Family Matters, The Family Man, Step by Step and Full House.
O’Keefe met Kelly when they both were working on the Culver Studios lot, and they married in 1994.
Donations in his memory can be made to the American Heart Association, Stand Up to Cancer and the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles.
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