LocalObituaries

Bernie West dies at 92; writer and producer on 'All in the Family' and 'The Jeffersons'

Obituary DatabaseObituaries

Bernie West, a writer and producer on such TV shows as " All in the Family," "The Jeffersons" and "Three's Company" during a wide-ranging show business career, has died. He was 92.

West died Thursday at his home in Beverly Hills of complications from Alzheimer's disease, according to his daughters, Isabel Davis and Ellen Harris.

West started as a vaudeville and nightclub performer after graduating from college and acted on the stage and in early television before turning to writing and producing.

With his writing partner, Michael "Mickey" Ross, he wrote more than 30 episodes of the groundbreaking "All in the Family" beginning in 1971, chronicling the lives of outspoken Archie Bunker and his family. West shared an Emmy Award with Ross and Lee Kalcheim for a 1972 episode called "The Bunkers and the Swingers."

"Bernie was the sweetest, the funniest," Norman Lear, who created "All in the Family" and hired West and Ross as writers, told The Times on Monday. "He reminded me of the great comics of burlesque, Bert Lahr, Ed Wynn; he was out of that tradition."

West was born Bernard Wessler on May 30, 1918, in the Bronx and graduated from Baruch College in New York in 1939 with a bachelor's degree in business science, majoring in advertising.

Unable to find work in advertising, he formed the comedy team of Ross and West with Martin Rosenblatt, who later became famous as the actor Ross Martin. Martin left the act after a couple of years and was replaced by Ross, West's friend and college classmate.

They performed together until Ross enlisted in the military after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, West's daughters said. West was classified 4F because of his eyesight but performed with the USO in the Pacific and as a solo act in New York City.

West's stage career started in 1956 with a role in the Broadway musical "Bells Are Ringing."

His television credits included "Car 54, Where Are You?" in 1961 and '63 and "The Gary Moore Show" in 1964. West also made two appearances in 1972 as Marvin the repairman on "All in the Family" and another spinoff, " Maude."

Lear said he contacted West and Ross to help write "All in the Family" once the pilot had been sold to CBS. West had no difficulty dealing with controversial topics that were a staple of "All in the Family" episodes.

"Bernie was a husband and a father and an uncle. He understood life from all those angles," Lear said. "We were all scraping the barrel of our own individual experience."

After "All in the Family," West moved on to another Lear sitcom as a writer and producer on "The Jeffersons," which dealt with an African American family that moved out of the Bunkers' working-class neighborhood. He also was a writer, producer and executive producer of "Three's Company."

He and Ross teamed with Don Nicholl to produce "Three's Company" and "The Ropers." Ross died last year, Nicholl in 1980.

Among West's charitable endeavors was the Los Angeles Free Clinic, which was a favorite cause of his late wife, Mimi. In 1997, the couple donated $500,000 to provide more dental care for patients. Mimi West died in 2004; they were married in 1947.

In addition to his daughters, West is survived by two grandsons.

keith.thursby@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Comments
Loading