Jesse White; Maytag Repairman in Ads

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jesse White, veteran character actor and comedian best remembered for his 22-year commercial stint as the idle and bored Maytag repairman, died Thursday. He was 79.

White died after complications of surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said his daughter, Carole White Ita.

In the popular Maytag commercials, White humorously made the point that the washing machines rarely--if ever--needed repair, making his job unbearably dull.

"He was a real Joe and that is why people loved him. They felt they knew him," Ita said.

A native of Buffalo, N.Y., who grew up in Akron, Ohio, White started out shining shoes and selling the bathtub gin his mother made during Prohibition. He worked his way to Broadway via vaudeville and burlesque, and then moved to Hollywood, where he often portrayed the comic side of heels and small-time gangsters.

White made his screen debut as a nurse in "Harvey" starring James Stewart in 1950. Other films were "Million Dollar Mermaid," "The Bad Seed," "Designing Woman," "The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond," "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World," "Bless the Beasts and Children," "New Girl in Town" and "Monster in the Closet."

In addition to films, White acted in many popular television series, including his role as Danny Thomas' cigar-chomping agent in "Make Room for Daddy." He also had long-running roles in Ann Southern's "Private Secretary" and appeared in Marlo Thomas' "That Girl" and the variety shows of Milton Berle and Jack Benny.

White turned over the Maytag role to actor Gordon Jump several years ago. His last television appearance was a two-part role on "Seinfeld" last season. White's last motion picture was "Matinee," starring John Goodman, in 1993.

In addition to Ita, White is survived by his wife, Celia "Simi" White; another daughter, Janet White Jonas; two sisters, Honey and Tudy; two brothers, Al and Sid, and three grandchildren.

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