Walter Mencken 4 p.m., May 3
Pictured: Conrad Bain at the 2003 TV Land Awards.
The actor who helped Woody Allen test coffins in Bananas is now being fitted for one.
Conrad Bain — Maude's nemesis, Arnold's dad, and Mr. President George C. Scott's Chief of Staff — died of natural causes Monday night at a retirement home in Livermore, California. He was 89.
Is it the curse of Diff'rent Strokes? First Dana Plato, then Gary Coleman, now Conrad Bain. Will Todd Bridges be next?
"I am deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Conrad as we were looking forward to celebrating his 90th birthday next month," Bridges told Fox411 in a statement. "In addition to being a positive and supportive father figure both on and off-screen, Conrad was well-loved and made going to work each day enjoyable for all of us. He will be missed, but never forgotten."
Conrad Stafford Bain and his twin brother, Bonar, were born to Stafford Harrison Bain, a wholesaler, and Jean Agnes on February 4, 1923 in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Bain was bitten by the acting bug while in high school and upon graduating was electing to train at Alberta's Banff School of Fine Arts.
A stretch in the Canadian Army during World War II put his dream of becoming an actor on the back burner. Following his discharge, Bain studied at New York's American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
He married Monica Sloane, an artist, in 1945. (They were married until her death in 2009.) The following year Bain became a naturalized citizen. He first took to the stage in Connecticut for the 1947 production of Dear Ruth. Bain spent much of the early '60's souping up his resume with regional and repertory credits.
Two minor big screen acting jobs for Don Siegel (Madigan and Coogan's Bluff) and an uncredited bit in the Julie Andrews musical, Star! helped Bain to land his first recurring small screen role as Mr. Wells, the clerk at the Collinsport Inn on the cult ABC soap opera, Dark Shadows.
There were a few more minor parts -- most notably in the memorable '70's comedies Lovers and Other Strangers, Bananas, and A New Leaf -- before Bain latched onto the first of two sitcoms that would catapult him to fame.
Bea Arthur's Maude made such an impression that in 1973, before booking a flight from Chicago to Los Angeles, I secured tickets to a taping of the show at Studio City in Hollywood. (I scored tics to All in the Family, too!) Bain had a recurring role as Dr. Arthur Harmon, the bane of Bea Arthur's existence, Maude's right wing rival, and best friend's husband.
Diff'rent Strokes hit the airwaves long after it became hip for me to reject network television. I've seen three episodes: when Mr. T guest-starred (I'm up for anything with T in it), the show where Arnold goofs on his bed-wetting little brother, and an episode titled Just Say No to Nancy Reagan. (Look how well the former First Lady's anti-drug campaign worked on a couple of the show's cast members.)
After Mr. President wrapped in 1998, Bain all but vanished from the limelight. There was a cameo in the Carrie Fisher biopic, Postcards From the Edge) and a brief return as Strokes' Philip Drummond on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (1996). His last on-camera appearance was in 2011. Bain played a priest on an episode of Unforgettable.
Let's close with a favorite Bain(s) bit. Conrad and his "evil" twin, Bonar, star in the Zontar episode of SCTV.
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