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Married... With Children Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

"Married... with Children" was one of the Fox Network's first original shows. It went on to be the network's longest-running live-action sitcom, from 1987 to 1997. A modern (some might say cynical) evolution of the family sitcom, "Married... with Children" turns the traditional fantasy of a wholesome, functional clan on its head with several comically despicable characters. Al Bundy has become synonymous with the archetypal beleaguered husband, complete with a poorly-paid job he hates, a family he mostly can't stand, and a love of rehashing past glories and paying attention to beautiful women who don't give him the time of day. The rest of the family plays into stereotypes of the era, many of which might not fly today. But despite the family's dysfunction, they pull together in a pinch. This motley crew of thieving, conning, fighting suburbanites have each other's backs ... when they're not tearing each other down.

The actors who play the Bundys have all gone on to successful careers, and "Married... with Children" itself made Entertainment Weekly's 2008 list of top 100 new TV classics. Its vision of suburban discontent has become a standard theme in tons of family shows and films that followed. Yet while the legacy of "Married... with Children" is still alive and well, unfortunately, some of its cast and crew have passed on. Here are some you may not have heard about.

Kim Weiskopf

Kim Weiskopf started his career as a writer on such hit series as "Good Times," "Three's Company," and "The Jeffersons." He made the jump to executive producer on 1986's comedian-centered "Melba" (a credit his obituary said should be denied), and a few years later, Weiskopf was a co-producer for "Full House." Weiskopf joined "Married... with Children" as a supervising producer in 1990, eventually working his way up to executive producer by 1995.

Yet Weiskopf didn't just write and produce the show. He also voiced the family dog Buck from Season 8 until the end of the series, continuing his voiceover work even after Buck dies and is reincarnated as Lucky Bundy for the final seasons. After the show ended, Weiskopf would go on to co-executive produce the twin comedy "Sister, Sister" and serve as executive producer on the Malcolm-Jamal Warner/Eddie Griffin starrer "Malcolm and Eddie." The show he did the most work for, however, was "Married... With Children." His passing in 2009 from pancreatic cancer saw the death of a man who touched so many shows — and voiced two disgruntled dogs.

Joseph Bologna

Joseph Bologna was one of many actors who had successful, prolific careers that included appearing on "Married... with Children" for one or two episodes. Occasionally, these cameos and arcs left a mark that lasted long beyond their short time onscreen. Bologna had starred in films, TV movies, and series since 1971. Yet Bologna's turn as Charlie Verducci, a construction worker friend of Al's on a single episode of "Married... with Children," led to a spinoff.

Of course, he was helped out by his son Vincent "Vinny" Verducci, played by a young Matt LeBlanc. Vinny is in a few episodes, but Charlie only joins him for one. After the episode, entitled "Top of the Heap," the duo starred in a spinoff following the Verduccis entitled, you guessed it, "Top of the Heap." The series only lasted for seven episodes, but both actors went on to more success. LeBlanc, of course, became Joey Tribbiani on "Friends." Bologna, on the other hand, appeared on TV shows ranging from "Arli$$" to "CSI", did voice work on cartoons such as "Superman: The Animated Series" and "Ice Age: The Meltdown," and acted in many movies, including his memorable turn as the father in Adam Sandler's "Big Daddy." According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Bologna died at the age of 82 on August 13, 2017, from pancreatic cancer.

Tim Conway

Tim Conway was another actor with a long, varied resume who made a few important appearances on "Married... with Children." His career blew up when he played Ensign Charles Parker in "McHale's Navy," first in the 1964 film and then on the subsequent 1966 TV series. He went on to play the title lead on the 1967 series "Rango," followed by hosting his own shows, "The Tim Conway Show" and "The Tim Conway Comedy Hour." He was a regular guest on "The Carol Burnett Show" and made appearances in countless other films and TV series. Later, he turned to cartoons, voicing characters on shows ranging from "SpongeBob SquarePants" to "DreamWorks Dragons." His last credit was 2016's "Chip and Bernie Save Christmas with Dorf," in which he played his trademark character Dorf.

On "Married... with Children," he had a brief appearance playing an extremely important character: Ephraim Wanker, Peggy's alcoholic father. Ephraim appears in several episodes, dropping such gems as the fact that he forced Al to marry Peg at shotgun because, in a classic take on the disapproving father-in-law, he really liked Al.

As reported by WebMD, Tim Conway died at 85 on May 14, 2019 of normal pressure hydrocephalus, capping off a successful career that lasted over half a century.

Kathleen Freeman

Kathleen Freeman voiced Peg Bundy's mom, Ma Wanker, the regular butt of Al's fat jokes. Ma Wanker never physically appears on "Married... With Children," but is referred to throughout the series. She finally quasi-appeared in Season 7, via Freeman's offscreen voice. Freeman herself had consistent work in Hollywood over the course of half a century.

Freeman's acting career began with "The Naked City" in 1948. One highlight of her long and illustrious time in showbiz is her turn as Sister Mary Stigmata in "The Blues Brothers." Many bios also mention her turn in "Singin' in the Rain" as the woman who gives Lina (Jean Hagen) diction lessons. Freeman also did a lot of voice work, especially in her later years. That includes performances on cartoons like "DuckTales," video games like "Curse of Monkey Island," and — of course — "Married... with Children." As reported by The Washington Post, Freeman died on August 23, 2001 of lung cancer.

Diana Bellamy

One of the running gags on "Married... with Children" is the abundance of larger women who come into the shoe store where Al works a thankless job, and how they all make his life tougher.  Diana Bellamy played several of these women.

Bellamy first appeared in Episode 1 as Customer #1, a woman who insists she wears a smaller shoe than she actually does, leading Al to rebut with a series of jokes centering around her inability to accept her size. She later appeared as Kathleen Morgan, a wealthy woman who is attracted to Joe Bologna's Charlie Verducci in his guest appearance. In her final performance on "Married... with Children," Bellamy played Shirley, who had previously been credited as Nancy, the head of an organization called Crimes Against Obesity. This group takes Al and his endless string of jokes against larger women to court, and wins

As a character actor, Bellamy appeared in many films and TV series. But her recurring role as the thorn in Al's side served as a great bookend, with her starring both in the pilot and in the final season. According to The Los Angeles Times, she died of cancer at age 57 on June 17, 2001, after her cancer treatment had aggravated her diabetes and left her blind.

Janet Carroll

Throughout "Married... with Children," there are a few constants. One is Al's miserable job as a salesman at Gary's Shoes, where he's constantly forced to cater to women who seem to take pleasure in denigrating him and his job. Yet a big surprise comes towards the end of the series, when it's revealed that Gary is, in fact, a woman. She was played by Janet Carroll.

Carroll had been acting onstage since the 1960s, even performing on Broadway. Starting in 1981, she went from the stage to the silver screen and then TV. Possibly one of her most memorable roles was playing the mother to Tom Cruise's Joel in "Risky Business," an upper-class woman completely oblivious to the fact that her son has turned the family home into a brothel. Gary, however, is a true boss, as the one woman who has corporate power over Al and knows how to keep her dog in line. She serves as an authoritative reminder that despite Al's misogyny, the women are in charge. 

While appearing on multiple episodes of "Married... with Children," Carroll was also acting on "Melrose Place," another Fox show, which saw her seamlessly jump from comedy to drama. Carroll would act until her death from brain cancer on May 22, 2012, as reported by Variety. She still earned two subsequent film credits in 2015 and 2016. Gary never rests, even in death.

Sam Kinison

According to Vulture, the Bundys were based on Roseanne Barr and Sam Kinison. Offers to play the characters they inspired were put forth to both actors. That's right: Sam Kinison could have played Al Bundy. Ed O'Neill, of course, took the role, and the rest is history. But Kinison, who enjoyed a full career, did appear on the show, if only for a holiday special.

The pastor-turned-comedian best known for his rage-filled screams appeared in a two-episode "Married... with Children" Christmas special in 1989 called "It's a Bundyful Life." Kinison played an angel sent to earth to convince Al not to kill himself, even though Al hadn't meant to try to kill himself. Kinison's raw, street-savvy angel steals the two-parter. The episode shows the Bundy clan much happier without Al, which leads Kinison's angel to feel like a failure ... only for Al to decide he wants to live because his family doesn't deserve happiness after all the aggravation they've caused.

Kinison died on April 10, 1992 in a head-on collision with a pickup truck, according to The New York Times. He was 38.

Kevin Curran

Kevin Curran was one of many comic geniuses who came out of the legendary "Harvard Lampoon," a college magazine whose alumni shaped 20th century comedy. It's no surprise, then, that Curran's longest credit was on "The Simpsons," a frequent landing place for "Harvard Lampoon" alums (via The Christian Science Monitor), where he tallied 282 episodes as a co-executive producer, and more as a supervising producer and a consulting producer. But he made his bones as a writer on "Married... with Children." Not only was Curran a writer and producer, he also voiced Buck the dog from Season 4 until his departure from the show in Season 7, after which point Kim Weiskopf voiced the dog. He also played the human version of Buck in Season 6's "Psychic Avengers."

Curran entered the world of TV as a writer for "Late Night with David Letterman" from 1984 to 1989. He left to join fledgling series "Married... with Children" as a story editor. Curran worked his way up to a supervising producer. He held that role until 1993, when he left to executive produce two new series: "The Good Life" and later a show strikingly similar to "Married... with Children" called "Unhappily Ever After." He went on to find a home with "The Simpsons," where he was a producer until 2015. According to The New York Times, Curran died on October 25, 2016 at the age of 59. He was a true giant of comedic storytelling — one who also briefly played a sarcastic dog.

Buck the dog, formerly Mike

Buck is the Bundys' dog whose cynicism and unhappiness, as voiced by several talented producers, mirrors his family's. Beloved enough to garner mention in an LA Times article about TV's top dogs, Buck Bundy fills out the bedraggled family to a T. On the show, Buck looks like a shaggy mutt, but in reality, the dog was played by a pedigreed Briard, originally born Mike, though he was renamed Buck after his adoption by trainer Steven Ritt. Aside from "Married... with Children," Buck appeared in a Janet Jackson video and the Bill Murray film "Scrooged."

By Season 10, Buck was having trouble identifying his cues and signals, according to "The Complete Married with Children Book." Buck's last episode was "Requiem for a Dead Briard," where the Bundy pup dies and goes to heaven. The episode ends with a title card reading "Dedicated to Buck the dog, who with this episode begins a well-deserved retirement and hopefully a nice gig at stud."

The dog died for real on May 28, 1996, less than a year after his retirement and a long run on a hit show.

Lucky (the reincarnation of Buck)

When Buck dies on "Married... With Children," he's reincarnated as a new, younger dog. He wonders who's adopted him in this reincarnated form and discovers, to his dismay, that God has punished him for his aggression towards cats by landing him with the Bundys once again. Unlike Buck, Lucky is a spaniel, and while the audience knows he's still Buck, the Bundys see Lucky as a completely new dog. They pour affection on him and pay him attention they rarely paid the original Buck. Talk about cruel irony.

Having arrived close to the end of the show's run, Lucky finished out the series as the Bundy family's faithful, bedraggled dog from 1995 until the series finale in 1997. Lucky enjoyed a much longer retirement than Buck, living until January 18, 2006, when the sweet canine died at the ripe old age of 10.

Steven Susskind

Steven Susskind had a long career as a journeyman actor. He made appearances on shows such as "MacGyver" and "Frasier" and had bit roles in films like "Friday the 13th: Part III" and "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier." He also did voice work on the series "The Tick" and the film "Monsters, Inc." Susskind most notably played Al's friend Barney/Stan in 6 episodes of "Married... with Children."

One of Al's many cronies, Barney helps kick Al off his softball team (The New Market Mallers) due to Al's poor play. He also beats Al handily in another episode's poker match. A classic Barney scene occurs in "Requiem for a Dead Barber," where all the men have to go to a salon because their barber has died. When they talk about going to a pool hall, Barney complains, "The severity of the neon will ruin the highlights of my hair." In another episode, he begs Al to let him watch a sunbathing beauty in Al's yard. And of course, he eventually joins Al's male liberation group, "No Ma'am."

Steve Susskind worked up until his death in an automobile accident on January 21, 2005, as reported by The Los Angeles Times. He was 62.

Bubba Smith

Many NFL fans, as well as all fans of the "Police Academy" series, know Bubba Smith. His death was, therefore, a very widely lamented occurrence; the big surprise here might not be that he's dead, but that he was on "Married... with Children." While his CV reaches across careers, Smith's cameo on "Married... with Children" references a compelling moment ripped from Al's glory days.

Bubba Smith plays "Spare Tire" Dixon in the Season 5 episode "All Night Security Dude." In that episode, it emerges that Al Bundy and Dixon had a rivalry reaching back to their time in high school. Dixon claims that in a big game, he got Al's knee to the ground before Polk High's legendary quarterback scored the game-winning touchdown. In revenge, Dixon has stolen Polk High's trophy, and will only give it back if Al can get past him. This results in an epic showdown full of eyeball gouges and bites, during which Al's knee is almost forced to kneel before he finally emerges victorious.

According to The New York Times, Smith died on August 3, 2011 at the age of 66.

Gilbert Gottfried

Gilbert Gottfried enjoyed many great film and TV roles over the course of his long and illustrious career. His appearance on "Married... with Children" stands out as one of his greatest one-off performances. Uniquely, Gottfried played himself in Season 9's "Ship Happens." He's performing on a cruise the Bundys are on, and comes up big when the ship sinks.

There are few fates worse than being trapped with people you hate on the big blue sea. Al endures this when he's stuck with Peg, the D'Arcys, a fellow passenger, and Gottfried, who annoys him. "I can't stand this for one minute more," Al says. Peg responds by pointing out the sea is calm, but Al protests that it's not the sea that irritates him, "it's ... Gilbert Gottfried." Gottfried starts doing some stand-up with food trays, driving Al even crazier. But through this humor, specifically his impression of Jerry Lewis, Gottfried repels a shark. As reported by NBC News, Gottfried died on April 12, 2022, from ventricular tachycardia related to type II myotonic dystrophy. He was 67 years old.

Tawny Kitaen

Tawny Kitaen was a model and actress who famously appeared in many heavy metal music videos. This history lent itself well to the raucous sensibilities of "Married... with Children." Though her role on the show is brief, it's quite memorable. 

Kitaen plays a lingerie model named Dominique who walks into Al's shoe store in Season 9's "Shoeway to Heaven." After finding a box of old shoes from the '70s, he turns the store into Al Bundy's House of Sole, as a way to tap into the hype surrounding nostalgic style. Dominique asks if somebody can help her, to which Al replies, "My name is Al Bundy and I was born to rock your world." He ends up giving her a free pair of shoes in exchange for her help promoting the store.

Kitaen appeared on a wide variety of TV shows, ranging from sitcoms like "Seinfeld" to reality programs like "The Surreal Life." She died on May 7, 2021. Months after this news broke, the cause of death was revealed to be dilated cardiomyopathy, as reported by People. She was 59 years old.

Fred Willard

Fred Willard was a comedy actor with a long list of credits to his name, ranging from parts in the "Anchorman" films to a significant role on "Modern Family." He was particularly good at playing smarmy characters, which made him perfect for the role of Stan, a cheesy salesman who appears in Season 6's "My Dinner with Anthrax." Stan, who is undergoing a midlife crisis and desperately needs to make a sale, tries to get Al and Peg interested in purchasing a timeshare.

By the time Willard appeared on "Married... with Children" in 1992, he had been acting for decades. His roles ranged from one-episode cameos to lengthy recurring roles. He became particularly well known for his performances in Christopher Guest's movies, including "A Mighty Wind" and "Waiting for Guffman." Willard delivered an especially memorable performance in "Best in Show," where he played Buck Laughlin, a colorful dog show commentator. As reported by Rolling Stone, Willard died on May 15th, 2020 at the age of 86.

Alan Thicke

Alan Thicke was perhaps best known as Dr. Jason Seaver, a loving father and psychiatrist on the classic sitcom "Growing Pains." Several years after that show ended in 1992, he portrayed two very different roles on "Married... with Children." First, he played Henry in Season 10's "Enemies." One season later, Thicke returned as successful businessman Bruce in Season 11's "Breaking Up Is Easy to Do: Part 2" and "Breaking Up Is Easy to Do: Part 3." These episodes are part of a brief arc in which Peggy and Al briefly split up. Bruce is interested in Peggy, and as he owns several used car dealerships, he offers her the life of luxury she often professes to desire. 

As reported by Reuters, Thicke died on December 13, 2016 at the age of 69. People later revealed that the cause of death was a type A aortic dissection.

Beckie Mullen

Beckie Mullen enjoyed a wide variety of roles over the course of her career. It's certainly not every actor who appears in productions as disparate as "MADtv," "Cybill," "Black Scorpion," and "Rude Awakening." Despite this plethora of projects, Mullen was likely most famous for her very first role: Sally the Farmer's Daughter. This wasn't just an acting role, either — this was a wrestling role. 

As Sally, Mullen was one of the original members of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, the group that provided the inspiration for the celebrated Netflix series "GLOW." Appropriately enough, Mullen wrestled in "Al... with Kelly," a Season 5 episode of "Married... with Children." As the beautiful Yvonne, she fights Pamela Anderson in a dream sequence that takes place in the Bundys' bed.

USA Today reported that Mullen died on July 27, 2020 at the age of 55. The cause of death was liver and colon cancer.

King Kong Bundy

According to Denise Noe's "The Complete Married With Children Book: TV's Dysfunctional Family Phenomenon," the Bundy family was named after wrestler King Kong Bundy. Given this distinction, it is perhaps surprising the man himself only appeared in two episodes of the series. He played himself in Season 10's "Flight of the Bumblebee," where he wrestles Bud Bundy, who's wearing a bee costume. Unsurprisingly, the larger Bundy trounces the smaller one. He also appeared in Season 2's "All in the Family" as Peggy's Uncle Irwin. 

Bundy was a legendary figure of 1980s and 1990s wrestling who grappled with icons like Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan. He was especially renowned for his massive physique: At 6'4" and 458 pounds, according to the WWE, he more than earned his reputation as a "walking condominium." According to The Washington Post, Bundy died on March 4, 2019, at the age of 63.