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John Gabriel, the actor and singer who portrayed the controlling Dr. Seneca Beaulac for the first 10 years of the ABC soap opera Ryan’s Hope, has died. He was 90.
Gabriel died Friday at his home in New York of complications from Alzheimer’s disease, his actress daughter Andrea Gabriel (Lost) told The Hollywood Reporter.
On Instagram, she wrote: “It is with an unspeakably heavy heart that I share the news of my father’s passing. John Gabriel was my hero, my role model, and my champion, but above all, my daddy. … I will love you forever.”
Gabriel appeared in the John Wayne starrer El Dorado (1966) — and co-wrote the film’s title song with Nelson Riddle — and had a recurring role as WJM-TV sportscaster Andy Rivers on CBS’ The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
He played The Professor on the original pilot for CBS’ Gilligan’s Island, filmed on the Hawaiian island of Kauai in November 1963, but Russell Johnson wound up with the part when the show made it to the air the following September. (Two other actors, Nancy McCarthy and Kit Smythe, were dumped as well.)
“It was the first time in my adult life that I remember weeping,” he once said. “And I think part of that has to do with the fact that I built this thing up to such a degree it was going to be my breakthrough.”
Gabriel portrayed Seneca, chief of staff at New York’s Riverside Hospital, on Ryan’s Hope from 1975 through 1985, then returned as the show was wrapping up in 1988-89. He received an Emmy nomination for outstanding actor in a daytime drama series in 1980.
At the start of the show, Seneca had come to New York in pursuit of his wife, Nell (Diana Van der Vlis), who had left him. After he participated in her mercy killing, he married attorney Jill Coleridge (Nancy Addison Altman), who had defended him in the murder trial.
Gabriel was born on May 25, 1931, in Niagara Falls, New York. His parents owned a grocery store. He acted in plays at UCLA and, after a stint in the U.S. Air Force, was signed to a contract at 20th Century Fox, where he was given small roles in the 1958 films The Young Lions and The Hunters.
He appeared on such TV series as Surfside 6, Hawaiian Eye, 77 Sunset Strip and The Flying Nun and worked on Broadway in The Happy Time — as Robert Goulet’s standby — and Applause before landing on Ryan’s Hope.
Gabriel acted on other soaps, too, including Days of Our Lives, General Hospital, Loving, The Bold and the Beautiful and Generations, and on other shows like Murder, She Wrote, Seinfeld and Law & Order.
He also produced Charles Grodin‘s talk show for CNBC in 1995 and released an album of pop standards, From John With Love, in 1998. (He served as an opening nightclub act for Joan Rivers.)
In addition to Andrea, survivors include his wife of 52 years, actress Sandy Gabriel, who played Edna Thornton on ABC’s All My Children; another actress daughter, Melissa; sons-in-law Greg and Chris; and grandsons Michael and Brendan.
June 14 Updated with details of John Gabriel’s death and other survivors.
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