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PASSINGS: Frank Potenza, John Howard Davies, Jack Layton

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Frank Potenza

Jimmy Kimmel's uncle and comic foil

Frank Potenza, 77, a former New York City police officer who turned to comedy as "Uncle Frank" on his nephew Jimmy Kimmel's late-night talk show, died Tuesday.

In a statement, ABC's"Jimmy Kimmel Live!" show confirmed the death but released no other details.

The silver-haired Potenza had spent 20 years as a police officer and 10 more as a private security guard in Las Vegas when Kimmel asked him to join his fledgling show as a security guard and cast member in 2003.

During his nine years on the program, Potenza would stand to the side of the stage in his guard uniform while Kimmel used him as a comic foil. The comedian liked to stump his uncle, who was once Frank Sinatra's personal security guard at Caesars Palace, by asking him to name more than two Sinatra songs, according to the show.

Potenza did comedy bits with Guillermo Rodriguez, a real-life parking lot security guard for "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" Potenza was also paired with his ex-wife, Chippy, and sent on comic "adventures" that included working on a dairy farm and learning self-defense.

Born in 1933 in Brooklyn, N.Y., Potenza served in the military during the Korean War and had three daughters. He was working as a security guard at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City when Kimmel asked him to move west.

"People can tell that Uncle Frank is the genuine article," Kimmel told the New York Times in 2007. "That's why they like him."

John Howard Davies

British child actor became TV producer

John Howard Davies, 72, who grew from cherubic child actor to influential British television producer, died Monday at his home in Blewbury, southern England, his family said. He had cancer.

Davies is remembered by film lovers for playing the title role in David Lean's 1948 film of Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist."

He later became a producer and director on enduring comedies including "Monty Python's Flying Circus," "Fawlty Towers" and "Mr. Bean."

Born in 1939, the son of writers Jack and Dorothy Davies, the young actor followed "Oliver Twist" with roles in "The Rocking Horse Winner" (1949), "Tom Brown's Schooldays" (1951) and "The Magic Box" (1951).

As an adult he moved behind the camera as a producer and director, mainly at the BBC, where his work included British comedy classics of the 1970s and '80s: "The Good Life," "To the Manor Born," "Not the Nine O'Clock News" and "The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin."

Davies was head of comedy at BBC television between 1977 and 1982.

Jack Layton

Folksy Canadian political leader

Jack Layton, 61, a folksy and charismatic political leader who guided his party to become the dominant opposition group in Canada's parliament while battling severe health problems, died Monday of cancer at his home in Toronto.

Layton was at the height of his political career after the union-backed party took Canadians by surprise during the May federal election by winning official opposition status for the first time in its 50-year history. The party gained 103 seats, up from 37, most of which were won in Quebec.

The New Democrats' gains were attributed to Layton's folksy, upbeat message.

Born in Montreal, Layton was the son of a former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister and the grandson of a prominent provincial politician in Quebec.

Layton was a career politician, a former longtime city councilman known to work tirelessly on behalf of the poor and homeless. He ran for mayor in Toronto and lost in 1991 after being criticized for living in subsidized housing and for opposing Toronto's ultimately failed bid for the 1996Summer Olympics.

He also served as a part-time professor at Ryerson University, teaching city politics to students of its journalism school.

-- Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports

news.obits@latimes.com

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