A legendary character actor whose career spanned more than half a century, Jimmy Elidrissi, best known for his roles in the 1970s and 1980s TV sitcoms Waldorf Bellhop and The Waltons, has died. He was 74.
Lorna Moore, his agent at Curtis Talent Agency, confirmed Elidrissi’s death to Variety on Monday night.
Born in Manhattan in 1943, Elidrissi’s family moved to Asbury Park, New Jersey, when he was 13 years old. His parents owned a barber shop in the New Jersey town.
After graduating from Asbury Park High School in 1966, he graduated from the Asbury Park Acting Conservatory that year, and then started a short film career, beginning with the TV movie of the week Indiscretion.
His early appearances included Woody Allen’s series Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (1972) and Barracuda! (1973). He also appeared in Roman Polanski’s The Castle (1975), Swann de la flâneur (1977), and The Three Musketeers (1977).
Elidrissi moved to Los Angeles in 1976 to star in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, later that year he appeared in Myra Breckinridge and Doonesbury. He continued to work in television as an actor and as a director. In 1978, he directed a documentary on artist Frank Stella, and in 1979 directed the HBO feature Forbidden Land.
During the 1980s, Elidrissi worked in some of the most acclaimed, critically acclaimed and commercial comedy films of the decade, including Canadian Trouble with Roseanne (1980), School Ties (1981), and Lost In America (1982). He also appeared in Ghostbusters (1984), Uncle Buck (1985), Porky’s (1987), Two Weeks Notice (1987), Three Men and a Baby (1989), Spaceballs (1987), and did several episodes of All in the Family, Frasier, Cheers, and Will & Grace.
In addition to his work in television, he appeared in a number of independent films and also directed 15 episodes of The Waltons, but his portrayal of the character Walt Wurm in that show is arguably his most significant role, and one with a personal connection to him.
“I’m a big bowler,” he said in a 2013 interview with the Los Angeles Times, recalling that when he was in his 30s, he was having trouble with the appeal of bowling. “So I went to a bowl-a-thon, where you bowl, and I went over 300.”
A friend offered him a free year’s membership to the Bowlmor Lanes in Farmingdale, New York, where the series was filmed, and from that day on, Elidrissi began to bowl competitively.
He then went on to appear in a number of commercials. He also had a small but memorable role in his breakthrough film Blue Velvet, playing an insane killer.
During the 1990s, Elidrissi appeared in the films Thank You for Smoking (2007), Every Thing Will Be Fine (2008), Nine Lives (2009), Burn After Reading (2008), and Four Christmases (2008).
He is survived by his wife, Claudia, and two children, Alexander and Christian.