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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 and went on to be the network's longest-running live-action sitcom, from 1987-1997. A modern (some might say "cynical") evolution of the family sitcom, "Married... with Children" turned the traditional fantasy of a wholesome, functional clan on its head with several comically despicable characters. Al Bundy has become synonymous with the archetype beleaguered husband, with a poorly-paid job he hates, a family he mostly can't stand, and a love of rehashing past glory 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. Yet despite the family's dysfunction, they pull together well in a pinch — a motley crew of thieving, conning, fighting suburbanites who 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 (which aired from 1993-1994) until the end of the show, 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 had touched so many shows. And voiced two disgruntled dogs.

Joseph Bologna

Joseph Bologna is one of many actors who had successful, prolific careers that included appearing in "Married... with Children" for one or two episodes. Occasionally these cameos and arcs would leave 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 in 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 was in a few episodes but Charlie only joined 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 Tribbianni in "Friends." Bologna, on the other hand, appeared in TV shows 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." Bologna died at the age of 82 on August 13, 2017, from pancreatic cancer.

Tim Conway

Tim Conway is 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 in the subsequent 1966 TV series. He went on to play the title lead in the 1967 series "Rango," followed by hosting his own shows "The Tim Conway Show" and then "The Tim Conway Comedy Hour." He was a regular guest on "The Carol Burnett Show" and made appearances in seemingly-countless other films and TV series. Later he would turn mostly to cartoons, voicing characters in shows ranging from "Spongebob Squarepants" to "DreamWorks Dragons." His last credit was 2016's "Chip and Bernie Save Christmas with Dorf" in which he plays his trademark character Dorf.

In "Married... with Children" he had a brief appearance playing an extremely important character: Ephraim Wanker, alcoholic father to Peggy. 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.

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 voices Peg Bundy's mom, Ma Wanker, regular butt of Al's fat jokes. Ma Wanker never physically appears in "Married... With Children," but was referred to throughout the series. She finally appeared in the seventh season via Freeman's offscreen voice. Freeman herself had consistent work in Hollywood in a career lasting over 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," and many bios mention her turn in "Singin' in the Rain" as the woman who gave Lina (Jean Hagen) diction lessons. Freeman also did a lot of voice work, especially in her later years. That includes for cartoons like "DuckTales," vide games like "Curse of Monkey Island," and — of course — "Married... with Children." 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 plays several of these women.

Bellamy first appears in the pilot episode as Customer #1, a woman who insists she wears a smaller shoe than she actually does, leading Al to rebut the frustrating woman with a series of jokes centering on 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 plays 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 obese women to court, and it 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. Diana 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 the series 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 the 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 performed on Broadway, and starting in 1981 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 turned the family house into a brothel. Gary, however, was a true boss, the one woman who had corporate power over Al and knew how to keep her dog in line. An authoritative reminder that despite Al's misogyny, the women were in charge. 

While appearing in multiple episodes of "Married... with Children," Carroll was also acting in another Fox show — "Melrose Place," seamlessly jumping from comedy to drama. Carroll would act until her death from brain cancer on May 22, 2012, though she had two subsequent film credits in 2015 and 2016. Gary doesn't rest, even in death.

Sam Kinison

According to Vulture, the Bundys were based on Roseanne Barr and Sam Kinison, with offers for both of them to play the characters they inspired. That is, Sam Kinison could have played Al Bundy. Ed O'Neill, of course, took the role and the rest is history. Yet Kinison had a full career and did return to the show, if only for a holiday special.

The pastor-cum-comedian best known for his rage-filled screams appears in a two-episode "Married... with Children" Christmas special in 1989 called "It's a Bundyful Life." Kinison plays 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 caused.

Unfortunately, in real life Kinison, the tent preacher who became a screaming stand-up comic, died on April 10, 1992, in a head-on collision with a pickup truck. Reportedly he walked from his wrecked car asking God why he had to die now, following it with "Okay" and then passing on.

Kevin Curran

Kevin Curran was one of many comic geniuses who came out of the legendary "Harvard Lampoon," a college comedy magazine whose alumni arguably helped shape 20th century comedy (from Conan O'Brien to the guys who founded National Lampoon and produced its hit films). It's no surprise, then, that Curran's longest credit was on "The Simpsons," a frequent landing place for "Harvard Lampoon" alums, 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 for season 4 until his departure from the show in season 7, after which Kim Weiskopf voiced the dog. And he 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. Curran died shortly after, on October 25, 2016, of cancer, a true giant of comedic storytelling. One who also briefly played a sarcastic dog.

Buck the dog, formerly Mike

Buck was the Bundy's dog whose cynicism and unhappiness, as voiced by several talented producers, mirrored his family. Beloved enough to garner mention in an LA Times article about TV's top dogs, Buck Bundy filled 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 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."

After a long run on the show, 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 the reincarnated form and discovers, to his dismay, that God has punished him for his aggression towards cats by landing him, again, with the Bundys. 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.

While arriving close to the end of the run, Lucky finished out as the faithful, bedraggled dog of the Bundy family from 1995 until the series finale in 1997. Lucky would get a much longer retirement than Buck, living until January 18, 2006, when the sweet Spaniel died at the ripe old age of 10.

Steven Susskind

Steven Susskind had a long career as a journeyman actor. He made appearances in 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 is the leader of the people kick him off his softball team (The New Market Mallers) due to Al's poor play and 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 says, "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. Of course he eventually joins Al's male liberation group, "No Ma'am."

Steve Susskind worked up until his death in an auto accident on January 21, 2005.

Bubba Smith

Many NFL fans, as well as all fans of the "Police Academy" series, know about Bubba Smith. His death was therefore a very widely-lamented occurrence; the big surprise here might be not 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 story cameo ripped from Al's glory days.

Bubba Smith plays "Spare Tire" Dixon in the season 5 episode entitled "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 in a big game that he had gotten Al's knee to the ground before Polk High's legendary quarterback scored what became 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, an epic showdown full of eyeball gouges and bites in which Al's knee is almost forced to kneel before he finally emerges victorious.

Smith died on August 3, 2011, from, according to Bleacher Report, acute intoxication due to an appetite suppressant.