Hamilton Camp, 70; Folk Singer, Comic and TV and Movie Actor

Times Staff Writer

Hamilton Camp, half of the folk-music duo Gibson and Camp whose 1961 album, “Live at the Gate of Horn,” became one of the era’s must-have records and who later found steady work as a character actor, has died. He was 70.

Camp, who helped found the Committee satirical comedy troupe in San Francisco in the 1960s, died Sunday after a fall outside his Hancock Park home. The cause of death is still being determined, said his son, Hamilton Camp Jr.

When Albert Grossman, a Chicago manager, was trying to put together a folk trio, he introduced Bob Gibson to the singer-songwriter then known as Bob Camp. The pair decided they weren’t interested in adding a female vocalist, so Grossman formed Peter, Paul & Mary instead.

“They got the opening night in the Garden, and we got the one-way ticket to Palookaville,” Camp joked to The Times in 1987.


The pair worked folk clubs in New York and Chicago and became known for Gibson’s 12-string guitar stylings and adventurous harmonies that influenced the folk music scene.

The duo was “one of the hottest acts of the time,” Washington-area folk disc jockey Dick Cerri told the Washington Post in 1997.

Simon and Garfunkel recorded their “You Can Tell the World,” and Peter, Paul & Mary covered “Well, Well, Well.”

After more than a year together, and practically penniless, they broke up when Camp discovered improvisation and became one of the early members of Chicago’s Second City. He later became one of the original members of the Committee, which also produced Joan Rivers and Howard Hesseman.

A decade later, Gibson and Camp staged their first reunion show and performed together off and on until Gibson’s death in 1996.

Camp recorded several solo albums and wrote the song “Pride of Man,” which Gordon Lightfoot recorded and the 1960s psychedelic band Quicksilver Messenger Service became known for performing. In all, Camp wrote 70 songs.

Eventually, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting and adopted the name Hamilton Camp.

An entire generation knew him as the voice of several Smurfs on the long-running animated Saturday morning TV series rather than as a folk singer who embraced spontaneity. He appeared in more than 100 films and made-for-TV movies, and dozens of TV shows.


The 5-foot-2 actor had memorable guest roles on three CBS shows. He was the manic salesman Del on “WKRP in Cincinnati,” the insane “Boots Miller on “MASH” and Mary’s height-impaired date on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

“Short jokes are my life,” Camp told the Post in 1997. “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.”

His last television role was as a carpenter on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives.”

Camp was born Oct. 30, 1934, in London. After World War II, he moved to Canada and then to Long Beach with his mother and sister, and the siblings performed in USO shows. In 1946, he made his first movie, “Bedlam” with Boris Karloff.


On Broadway, he appeared in several productions, including the original “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” in the mid-1960s and “Paul Sills’ Story Theater” in the early 1970s. He also toured Europe and Canada in various productions and performed at theaters around Los Angeles.

More recently, he was Sir Andrew Aguecheek in a 2004 staging of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” at A Noise Within theater in Glendale. The Times called Camp “a master of the discreet double take ... outrageously silly but never cheap.”

Earlier this year, he finished his final film, “Hard Four,” and completed a CD, “Sweet Joy,” about the fragility of life and his love for Rasjadah, his wife of 40 years who died in 2002. The CD will be released in November.

In addition to his son, Camp is survived by three other sons, two daughters and 13 grandchildren, all of whom live in the Los Angeles area. Plans for his memorial service will be posted on his website,