TV has lost one of its most familiar character actors: Ned Wertimer, best known as the tip-hungry Ralph the doorman on The Jeffersons, died Jan. 2 at a nursing facility outside Los Angeles, the result of a fall in his Burbank home last November, his manager announced late Tuesday. He was 89.
With more than 100 small-screen credits to his name, as well as Broadway (Bye Bye Birdie) and film (Mame and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End) roles, Wertimer was known to audiences of such shows as Gunsmoke, McMillan and Wife, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, WKRP in Cincinnati and Mork & Mindy, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
But it was on all 11 seasons of The Jeffersons, from 1975 to 1985, that he made his strongest mark.
Born in Buffalo, N.Y., Wertimer held a business degree from Wharton, which he earned after service as a pliot in World War II. But he also got the performing bug while in school, and starting in the late ’40s began landing roles on Broadway.
With TV a new medium – and many shows shot live in New York at the time – Wertimer became a pioneer, and used his gift for improv to joke with Lamb Chop, Charlie Horse and the other puppets on The Shari Lewis Show.
By the mid-’60s he moved to Hollywood, as had most of TV production. Besides his acting, he was also heavily involved with his unions, SAG and AFTRA, and served as a longtime member of the board of directors of their Federal Credit Union, according to the Reporter.
Among his survivors, the trade paper also reports, are his wife Skyne, a professor emerita at California State University Long Beach; his sister-in-law Eleanor; and a niece and three nephews.