Lyle Waggoner, a tv star as actor and announcer, dies at 84
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Lyle Waggoner, a tv star as actor and announcer, dies at 84
Lyle Waggoner. Photo: ABC Studios.

by Daniel E. Slotnik

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Lyle Waggoner, the sable-haired heartthrob best remembered as the announcer and a comic performer in the early years of “The Carol Burnett Show” and for playing opposite Lynda Carter on the 1970s television versions of “Wonder Woman,” died Tuesday at his home in Westlake Village, California. He was 84.

The cause was complications of cancer, his agent, Robert Malcolm, said.

Waggoner’s dulcet voice, square jaw and muscular physique made him seem cut out to be a leading man. But his most recognizable parts were in support of others — Burnett on her hit comedy-variety show, and Carter, who played Wonder Woman on ABC and then CBS in the 1970s.

Waggoner started on “The Carol Burnett Show” when it began in 1967 and stayed with the program for seven seasons, going from eye-candy announcer to important player in an ensemble cast that also included Harvey Korman, Tim Conway and Vicki Lawrence, in addition to Burnett.

“It was Carl Reiner’s suggestion that we get a hunk of an announcer,” Burnett told The Los Angeles Times in 2015, when a collection of the show’s early episodes was released on DVD. “Lyle walked in, and it was practically no contest. He was funny and didn’t take himself seriously. He was hired on the spot, and we started using him in sketches.”

Waggoner’s good looks led to other employment as well. In 1973 he was the centerfold model for the first issue of Playgirl magazine.

He parted ways with “The Carol Burnett Show” in 1974 and appeared the next year on “Wonder Woman,” which began as an ABC television movie before becoming a regular series.

Waggoner originally played Steve Trevor, an Army officer who crashes his plane on the secret island of the Amazons in the 1940s. Princess Diana, as Wonder Woman is known at home, brings him back to Washington, and they work together to foil Nazi plots, with Wonder Woman doing most of the foiling.

After the show’s first season ended in the winter of 1977, ABC decided not to renew it, in part because a series set in the 1940s was expensive to produce. But CBS liked the program enough to pick it up, and later that year an updated take on the show, set in the 1970s and called “The New Adventures of Wonder Woman,” made its debut.

Carter once again played Diana, and Waggoner played his original character’s son, Steve Trevor Jr., an agent of a U.S. intelligence organization that turns to Diana for help.

“I couldn’t believe they wanted me to play my own son,” Waggoner said in an interview with the website SciFiAndTvTalk in 2011. “I figured: ‘Well, they’re professionals. They must know what it is they’re doing, but this doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense to me.’ I’m sure it didn’t make much sense to the viewers either, but they stuck with us for two years.”

CBS canceled the show in 1979, but it lived on in reruns and continued to find new fans for many years.

Waggoner went on to make guest appearances on many shows, including “The Love Boat,” “Mork and Mindy,” “Happy Days” and “Murder, She Wrote.”

Waggoner said that people recognized him from “Wonder Woman” decades after it went off the air.

“I can go anywhere in the U.S. and sometimes the world and people walking down the street will stop me and say, ‘Hey, Lyle, how are you?’” he said in 2011.

Waggoner drew on that recognition in some of his last roles, parodying his 1970s image on the sitcoms “That ’70s Show” and “The Naked Truth.”

Lyle Wesley Waggoner was born on April 13, 1935, in Kansas City, Kansas, to Marie (Isern) and Myron Waggoner. His father worked for the Southwestern Bell telephone company.

Lyle attended Washington University in St. Louis, served in the Army in Germany and appeared on “Gunsmoke” and “Lost in Space” before landing his breakout role with Burnett.

He married Sharon Kennedy in 1960. His survivors include his wife; two sons, Jason and Beau; and four grandchildren.

When his acting career quieted down in the 1980s, Waggoner founded Star Waggons, a company that supplies custom-made trailers for actors on film and television shoots. Star Waggons employs around 100 people and is now run by his sons.

Years before Waggoner got an important part on a beloved if campy television show based on a comic book, he auditioned for the lead role on perhaps the most beloved and campiest one of them all. But the role of “Batman” was given to Adam West.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

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