Jay Stewart, the announcer of the long-running television game show "Let's Make a Deal," died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his Hollywood home, police said Monday
Police Detective Russell Kuster said the 71-year-old Stewart, whose real name was Jay Fix, shot himself in the head Sunday outside the garage of his Grace Street residence. An explanatory note and a last will and testament was discovered in his possession, Kuster said.
Stewart's death stunned friends and associates who knew him for his upbeat personality. He had worked in radio and TV for 50 years.
In a statement, "Let's Make a Deal" host Monty Hall said Stewart's "booming voice, his bubbly personality endeared him to millions.
"Those of us who worked with him on a daily basis appreciated his talents. He was more than an announcer, he was my co-star and my friend."
Not only a voice off camera, Stewart was a familiar presence on "Let's Make a Deal," which premiered on NBC in 1963, later moving to ABC until 1976. A regular feature was "Jay's Tray," in which the portly, bespectacled announcer carried a tray featuring a concealed prize into a studio audience that was filled with costumed contestants.
Stewart himself donned costumes to spice up the show's gags. Offered the option of "what's behind door No. 1, door No. 2 two or door No. 3 three" by Hall, a contestant "zonked" by the wrong choice might find Stewart behind the door--dressed as a baby in a playpen, for example.
Became an Agent
Stewart went on to work as an announcer for "The Joker's Wild," "Sale of the Century," "Tic Tac Dough" and other game shows. Early this year, talent agent Don Pitts said, Stewart retired from announcing and became an agent for emcees and announcers, specializing in game shows.
Before his television days, Stewart worked extensively in radio. His first radio job was at WBOW in Terre Haute, Ind. From there he went to Cincinnati's WLW and, in 1943, to KNX in Los Angeles. Among his radio credits were "The Kate Smith Hour." He was an early president of Pacific Pioneers Broadcasters.
Pitts, who represented Stewart for several years, said the announcer's death was "a complete shock to all of us. As far as we knew his health was fine. . . He was always a very positive, 'up' kind of person, always in very good spirits."
Pitts said that, in the suicide note, "Jay said he had been hurting for a long, long time."
Stewart is survived by his wife, Phyllis, and a daughter.