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Frank Bonner, 'WKRP in Cincinnati' star, dies at 79

Bonner's daughter shared that her father "was still signing autograph requests up until the last few weeks of his illness."

WASHINGTON — Frank Bonner, the actor who portrayed loud-dressing, overconfident radio station sales manager Herb Tarlek on “WKRP in Cincinnati," died Wednesday. He was 79. 

According to TMZ, Bonner's family confirmed the actor died as a result of complications from Lewy body dementia. 

His friend and WKRP co-star Gary Sandy confirmed the news in a post on Facebook. "It Is True! Frank Passed Away...RIP MY Great Friend," Sandy wrote.

Bonner appeared as Tarlek in 88 of the 90 episodes of "WKRP in Cincinnati," playing a sales manager who regularly referred to the station manager as "Big Guy" and talked a big game but failed to secure big accounts. He also returned for the early 90s sequel series "The New WKRP in Cincinnati." 

Bonner's daughter, Desiree Boers-Kort, explained in a fan Facebook group for the show that her dad "was still signing autograph requests up until the last few weeks of his illness. Thank you to all who followed his career. He will be forever missed." 

Bonner also directed several episodes of "WKRP" and some of the era's biggest sitcoms including "Who's the Boss?," "Newhart" and "Head of the Class." 

“He did prefer the behind-the-camera (work), and he thoroughly enjoyed helping people get to where he needed them to be for the scenes,” Boers-Kort said Thursday. “He was very humble and down-to-earth, and just a nice, kind human.”

He got a kick out of Herb's ill-advised wardrobe and kept some of the belts when the show ended, his daughter said. He was fond of them because he knew the character's style was “one of the things that people loved about him.”

A native of Arkansas whose birth name was Frank Boers Jr., he was raised in the city of Malvern. His Hollywood career began in the 1970s with the film “Equinox” and on TV dramas, including “The Young Lawyers” and “Mannix.”

Bonner, whose previous marriages ended in divorce, is survived by his wife, Gayle, and four children. A fifth child preceded him in death, Boers-Kort said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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