Frank Bonner, ‘WKRP in Cincinnati’ and ‘Saved by the Bell’ Actor, Dies at 79

Frank Bonner, the veteran actor who became famous for portraying Herb Tarlek on the TV sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati,” died Wednesday. He was 79.

Bonner’s family confirmed to TMZ that the actor died as a result of complications from Lewy body dementia.

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Bonner appeared in 88 of the 90 episodes of “WKRP in Cincinnati,” which aired for four seasons from 1978-82. He also directed six episodes of the sitcom, which followed the misadventures of the staff of a struggling rock radio station in Cincinnati. Bonner’s character was a tasteless sales manager at the station who often failed to secure deals with major advertising agencies. From his signature white belt and shoes to his polyester suits, “plaid boy” would often come into work and be laughed at for his loud outfits. His catchphrase, “Hokay, fine,” was a response used when acknowledging decisions that he didn’t particularly like.

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Bonner starred alongside Gary Sandy as program director Andy Travis; Howard Hesseman as veteran disc jockey Dr. Johnny Fever; Gordon Jump as the indecisive general manager Arthur Carlson; Loni Anderson as the good-hearted receptionist Jennifer Marlowe; Tim Reid as the funky evening DJ Venus Flytrap; Jan Smithers as the young station worker Bailey Quarters and Richard Sanders as the meticulous, bow-tied news reporter Les Nessman. Bonner and Sanders reprised their role for the sequel series “The New WKRP in Cincinnati,” which ran from 1991-93.

Born on Feb. 28, 1942, in Little Rock, Ark., Bonner was the son of singer Mamie Grace and saxophone player Frank Woodrow Boers. He began his acting career in “The Equinox… A Journey Into the Supernatural,” an experimental film released in 1967 that was re-released in 1970 under the title “Equinox.” Bonner went on to guest star on sitcoms such as “Nancy” (1970) and “Love, American Style” (1974). Before appearing on “WKRP in Cincinnati,” the actor appeared on popular dramas including “Mannix” (1971), “The F.B.I.” (1973), “Emergency!” (1973) and “Cannon” (1974-75).

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In addition to portraying Mr. Harrington on four episodes of “Saved by the Bell: The New Class” (1994), Bonner made other television appearances in “The Duck Factory” (1984), “Scarecrow and Mrs. King” (1985) and “Punky Brewster” (1986). The actor also played Det. R.T. Mooney in “Sidekicks” (1986) and Father Robert Hargis on the “Growing Pains” spin-off “Just the Ten of Us” (1988-90).

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