EmptyEd Friendly, an award-winning television producer whose credits include "Laugh-In" and "Little House on the Prairie," died June 17 of cancer at his home in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. He was 85.
After service in World War II, he landed his first job at an advertising agency, Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn, where he became a director for radio and then-infant television. He moved on to ABC as director of sales, to CBS as a contract producer and eventually to NBC as vp special programs.
In 1967, Friendly moved to California and formed his own production company, Ed Friendly Prods. Under that banner he co- created and co-produced the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning series "Laugh-In" and created and produced "Little House." He also produced and created scores of specials, telefilms and miniseries.
Friendly was named producer of the year by the Producers Guild of America and was twice honored by the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Ray Erlenborn, an actor, singer and sound effects artist, died June 4 at West Hills (Calif.) Hospital of complications from a bacterial infection. He was 92.
He was best known for doing the voice of Rabbit for Walt Disney Telecommunication productions of the "Winnie the Pooh" series.
Erlenborn's mother, Maud, was his booking agent. She had him singing at age 3, and he hit the vaudeville circuit at 6 with Hugo Hamlin's Proteges. From there he segued to a Pantages vaudeville tour with Dodo Reid and Buddy Erlen. He starred in the "Winnie Winkle" silent comedies as Spike of the Rinkeydink Gang.
After his tour with Pantages, Erlenborn began singing in radio and had a weekly three-hour show on KGFJ-AM Los Angeles. Erlenborn also sang in "Harold Teen" for Warner Bros. and "Cowboy Medicine Show," starring Roy Rogers, at Republic.
It was after Miles Auer signed Erlenborn that he began doing voice-over work. In addition to Rabbit, he did many of the animal voices on "Doctor Dolittle" (1967) as well as the animal voices on the Crusader Rabbit animated films.
In 1950, he moved to CBS' Television City, getting laughs on camera with Jack Benny, Red Skelton, Art Linkletter and others.
Don Herbert, who as "Mr. Wizard" explained the world of science to millions of young baby boomers on television in the 1950s and '60s and did the same for another generation of youngsters on Nickelodeon in the '80s, died June 12 of multiple myeloma at his home in Bell Canyon, Calif. He was 89.
Herbert launched his weekly half-hour science show for children on NBC in 1951. Broadcast live from Chicago on Saturdays the first few years and then from New York, "Watch Mr. Wizard" ran until 1965. A Canadian-produced revival aired from 1971-72, and the faster-paced Nickelodeon version of the show, "Mr. Wizard's World," ran from 1983-90.
Thommie Walsh, a Tony-winning choreographer who was in the original Broadway cast of "A Chorus Line," died June 16 of lymphoma at his mother's home in Auburn, N.Y. He was 57.
Walsh was best known for creating the role of Bobby in "Chorus Line." The show based on dancers' real-life stories opened at the Public Theater off-Broadway in April 1975.
Using the name Thomas J. Walsh, he made his Broadway debut in 1973 in "Seesaw," dancing in the chorus. The show featured dancer Tommy Tune, who later teamed with Walsh on "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" (1978) and "A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine" (1980), for which they received a Tony for best choreography. Tune and Walsh co-directed and co-choreographed "My One and Only" (1983), which also won the duo a choreography Tony.