CHICAGO (CBSNewYork/CBS Chicago/AP) — John Mahoney, an actor perhaps best known for his supporting role playing the cranky dad on “Frasier,” has died.
Mahoney’s longtime manager, Paul Martino, said Monday that Mahoney died Sunday in Chicago after a brief hospitalization. Mahoney — who resided in the near west Chicago suburb of Oak Park — was 77.
The cause of Mahoney’s death was not immediately announced.
In “Frasier,” the hit “Cheers” spinoff that aired from 1993 to 2004, Mahoney played Martin Crane, a disabled ex-police officer who parked himself in a battered old armchair in Frasier’s chic Seattle living room.
Kelsey Grammer’s Frasier and David Hyde Pierce’s Niles, both psychiatrists with lofty views of their own intellect, squabbled constantly with their dad but, when needed, the family closed ranks.
Martin’s beloved dog, Eddie, also took up residence to annoy the fussy Frasier.
Mahoney, a British native who made Chicago his home town, was a two-time Emmy nominee for “Frasier,” won a 1986 Tony Award for “The House of Blue Leaves,” and worked steadily in movies.
John Cusack, who appeared with Mahoney is the 1989 film “Say Anything,” tweeted that he was a great actor and a “lovely kind human — any time you saw him you left feeling better.”
Mahoney’s recent TV credits included a recurring role as Betty White’s love interest on “Hot in Cleveland” and a 2015 guest appearance on “Foyle’s War.” On the big screen, he was in “The American President,” ”Eight Men Out” “Tin Men,” “Moonstruck,” “Primal Fear,” “Barton Fink” and “Flipped” — with 2007’s “Dan in Real Life” starring Steve Carell among his last movie credits.
The actor was born in 1940 in Blackpool, England, during World War II. That was where his pregnant mother had been evacuated for safety from Nazi attacks, but the family soon returned to its home in Manchester.
In a 2015 interview with The Associated Press, Mahoney recounted memories of huddling in an air raid shelter and playing among bombed-out houses. The accounts his four older sisters shared with him, he said, included tucking him into a baby carriage outfitted with a shield against feared gas attacks.
One sister, who moved to the Midwest after marrying a U.S. sailor, was responsible for Mahoney’s decision to make his life in America. He visited Chicago as a college student and fell in love with it.
“The lake, the skyline, the museums, the symphony, the Lyric Opera,” he said in extolling the city in 2015. Add in reliably friendly Midwesterners, Mahoney said, and it’s “my favorite place in the world.”
In Chicago, Mahoney was a longtime and beloved ensemble member of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre. He joined the theatre company in 1979.
Mahoney appeared in more than 30 Steppenwolf Theatre Company productions and received a Tony Award for his performance in “The House of Blue Leaves.”
As Mai Martinez of WBBM-TV, CBS2 Chicago reported, the marquee outside the Steppenwolf Theatre on Halsted Street in Chicago was dark Monday night. Inside, members of the company comforted each other and struggled to come to terms with Mahoney’s death.
“It was devastating,” said Steppenwolf Theatre Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro. “You know, John’s been struggling with some health issues for the last little period of time, but we really thought he was doing better, and he thought he was doing better.”
“He’s a core part of the foundation of this company, and I think at this point we’re just all shocked and extremely saddened by the loss of such an incredible talent,” added David Schmitz, Steppenwolf’s executive director.
Those who knew Mahoney said he was always devoted to the theatre community in Chicago, and helping other actors succeed.
“He was always wondering what he could do to help people around him through a scene. For someone to take the time to share that work ethic and to share that kindness onset sets and example that like, we can do it too,” said Gabriel Ruiz, who worked with Mahoney.
CBS2 Chicago Theatre Critic Chris Jones said Mahoney had that impact on many.
“Chicago lost a truly great actor. He was a modest guy in a way that so few people are. You know, he had the chance. He could have been in Hollywood. He could have been living large in Malibu. He could have been living in Central Park West, and he greatly preferred Oak Park,” Jones said. “He used to say to me that he was never happy unless he was home in Chicago.”
Steppenwolf co-founder Gary Sinise remembered Mahoney on Twitter Monday night.
The Steppenwolf canceled Monday’s scheduled performance in honor of Mahoney.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)