Robert Pastorelli, 49; Was Eldin in ‘Murphy Brown’

Times Staff Writer

Robert Pastorelli, an actor best remembered for his six-year run as Eldin, the eccentric, ever-present painter on television’s popular comedy “Murphy Brown,” has died. He was 49.

Los Angeles County coroner’s office spokesman Lt. Ed Winter said Tuesday that a personal assistant found Pastorelli’s body Monday afternoon in a bathroom of his Hollyridge Drive home. Winter called it “a possible accidental death” but said that drug paraphernalia were found and that an autopsy would be conducted.

The actor had recently completed filming on the movie “Be Cool,” a sequel to the crime comedy “Get Shorty,” starring John Travolta. Pastorelli played Joe Loop, a hit man -- a type of role more common for him than his part as the lovable, scene-stealing painter Eldin Bernecky.


On the pretense of painting the townhouse of “Murphy Brown” star Candice Bergen, the overall-clad character was a virtual house guest and unsolicited advisor from the start of the show in 1988 until 1994. After the unmarried Murphy Brown stirred controversy by having a child, Eldin became the nanny to baby Avery.

Painting walls to support his work in fine art, Eldin sold a painting for $1 million in 1991, but had become so entwined in the Murphy household that he continued working on the townhouse. He finally left the show -- “because,” the actor said, “it stopped being fun” -- purportedly so Eldin could study painting with a muralist in Spain. Eldin returned as the series ended in 1998 after young Avery told him Brown had breast cancer.

Born in New Brunswick, N.J., Pastorelli hoped to become a professional boxer. But he turned to acting after a near-fatal car crash on his 19th birthday.

He studied at the Actors Studio, and supported himself as a bartender while beginning his long career on stage.

He made his theatrical debut in 1977 in “Rebel Without a Cause” and went on to appear in such plays as “The Rainmaker,” “Death of a Salesman” and, more recently, with Glenn Close in a London production of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” He also played rough-around-the-edges Luther Billis to Close’s Nellie Forbush in the 2001 television production of “South Pacific.”

Pastorelli broke into TV in 1982 with guest roles on “Barney Miller,” and continued playing tough guys on “Beauty and the Beast,” “MacGyver,” “The A-Team,” “Miami Vice” and “Hill Street Blues.” He starred as a police psychologist in “Cracker,” an ABC crime drama based on a British series, in 1997-98.

The actor made his film debut in 1987 as a dealer in “Outrageous Fortune,” was Vinnie the hood in “Beverly Hills Cop II,” the memorable mule driver transporting Kevin Costner west in 1990’s “Dances With Wolves,” Whoopi Goldberg’s manager in the 1993 “Sister Act 2,” a mobster in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Eraser” in 1996, and a count in 1999’s “Modern Vampyres.”

Pastorelli’s 25-year-old girlfriend, Charemon Jonovich, with whom he had a daughter, was found dead in his home four years ago of what police described as an accidental, possibly self-inflicted, gunshot.

Information about survivors or memorial services was not immediately available.

Times staff writer Andrew Blankstein contributed to this report.