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ALF Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

"ALF" wasn't only an unlikely hit; it was an unlikely major network primetime TV series. The 1986 to 1990 NBC smash was a family sitcom with a twist: The suburban Tanner family shared their home with a crash-landed extraterrestrial, a short, brown, big-nosed furry alien from the planet Melmac named Gordon Shumway, whom they nicknamed ALF, short for "alien life form." Unlike other beloved lost aliens, ALF wasn't particularly sweet or cute: He was an obnoxious, highly confident, wisecracking couch potato who just wanted to have fun and eat the family's cat.

Never a critical hit, "ALF" was positively drenched in irony and camp, and as such, populated its cast whenever possible with recognizable TV stars and B-list celebrities, both past and contemporary. "ALF" didn't have a very large core cast, pretty much just the alien, the Tanner family, and a couple of neighbors, so the show welcomed a lot of guest stars. "ALF" went off the air more than 30 years ago, and so a lot of the people who made the show such a fun, memorable hit no longer walk the second planet that the titular alien goofball called home. Here are all the notable cast members of "ALF" who have died.

Max Wright

More often than not, "ALF" was a sitcom built around a comedy team, the 1980s and human-alien version of a classic team-up like Laurel and Hardy or Abbott and Costello. Playing the long-suffering foil to the gregarious, destructive, and wild ALF: actor Max Wright as perpetually disapproving, and apoplectic suburban dad Willie Tanner.

Wright also put in memorable stints on "Cheers" as a nerdy local politician and played a Willie-esque role of an overwhelmed TV station manager on the early '80s cult hit sitcom "Buffalo Bill." But it's "ALF" for which he'll probably always be best known, much to his chagrin. Wright once told People that working on the sitcom was "hard work and very grim" and that upon its cancelation, he "was hugely eager to have it over with." After "ALF," Wright made a lot of TV, showing up on "Friends" as Central Perk manager Terry, and as Max Denby on the Norm Macdonald sitcom "Norm." He also returned to theater work, where he worked extensively in the 1970s, co-starring in productions of "Ivanov" and "Twelfth Night."

In 2019, according to the New York Times, Wright died at the Lillian Booth Actors Home from complications of cancer. He was 75.

Michu Meszaros

"ALF" was one of the most technically complex and demanding sitcoms of its era. To operate the main character, a talking animalistic alien from outer space, in a realistic fashion required a voice actor (creator Paul Fusco), puppeteers, and for full-body or motion shots of ALF, an actor inside of a sophisticated ALF costume that perfectly resembled the puppet version. 

On those and many other occasions, the man controlling and portraying ALF was Michu Meszaros, a Hungary-born entertainer who got his start as a circus performer with Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circuses as a teenager in the 1950s, according to the BBC. Standing 2'9" tall, Meszaros was promoted as the "smallest man in the world." Along with ALF, Meszaros performed for multiple presidents and took on supporting roles in "Look Who's Talking" and "Big Top Pee-wee."

According to Meszaros' manager, Dennis Varga, the actor fell into a coma in June 2016. About a week later, the performer died. Meszaros was 76.

John LaMotta

The Tanner family did a pretty good job keeping ALF hidden from the outside world, lest they take the alien away for experimentation or worse. It's a close call many times with the Ochmoneks, the next-door neighbors who spy on the neighborhood and on whom ALF himself spies, frequently witnessing their many marital spats. Opposite Liz Sheridan as Raquel Ochmonek, veteran tough-guy actor, character actor, and bit-part actor John LaMotta played grouchy husband Trevor Ochmonek in 40 episodes of "ALF."

In 2010, the long-canceled "ALF" made headlines after rehearsal footage went viral, depicting ALF operator Paul Fusco making inappropriate comments to a female co-star and uttering a racial epithet. When reached for comment, LaMotta told TMZ that he had nothing to say about Fusco, but did have thoughts on the series itself. "I thought the show 'ALF' was a piece of s*** ... Worst work I ever did."

According to his IMDb page, LaMotta, who had largely retired from acting after a couple of TV sitcom appearances in the late 1990s, died in January 2014 in Brooklyn, New York. LaMotta was 75.

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Anne Meara

Between 1987 and 1989, Anne Meara guest starred on eight episodes of "ALF" as Dorothy Halligan, mother of Kate Tanner who doesn't care for ALF at all but has to deal with him after briefly moving in with the Tanner family. Dorothy and ALF constantly insult each other, but enjoy the game of it all. Her stint going toe-to-toe with an alien puppet was just one fun comic performance from Meara, an entertainment institution by the time she popped up on "ALF." 

According to the New York Times, she was a seasoned New York stage actress turned member of the Compass Players, a pioneering improv comedy troupe that became Second City, from which she broke off with husband Jerry Stiller (George's father on "Seinfeld) to form the bombastic comedy duo "Stiller and Meara," a fixture of the nightclub and TV variety show scenes of the 1960s. Meara earned two Emmy Award nominations for her early '80s work on "Archie Bunker's Place" and often appeared onscreen opposite her husband and their son, actor-director Ben Stiller.

In May 2015, Meara's family confirmed that the actor had died in New York. She was 85.

Bill Daily

The alien ALF from "ALF" loved to watch TV, just like millions of his viewers, a great many of whom would recognize actor Bill Daily from his two huge roles on classic, long-running, often-rerun mid-20th century sitcoms. Between 1987 and 1989, Daily appeared on four episodes of "ALF" as Larry, or rather Dr. Larry Dykstra, a psychologist friend of Willie Tanner he hires to mediate a spat between the man and his alien. (Willie isn't worried about Larry knowing he's harboring an alien because psychologists can't reveal information about their patients.) 

Daily was a familiar TV face from his similar role on "I Dream of Jeannie": Colonel Roger Healey, best friend of astronaut Tony Nelson who knows his partner is secretly a genie. Daily later starred on 140 episodes of "The Bob Newhart Show" as airline navigator and neighbor Howard Borden. According to CNN, Bill Daily died in September 2018 at his home in New Mexico. The actor was 91.

Cleavon Little

Cleavon Little's breakout role came in one of the most financially successful and influential comedies ever made. In Mel Brooks' 1974 western sendup "Blazing Saddles," Little portrayed Bart, a small, horrible Old West town's first Black sheriff. After "Blazing Saddles" made him a star, Little became a TV fixture in the '70s and '80s, appearing on dozens of popular TV sitcoms, including "ALF." 

In the poignant and dark 1987 two-part Christmas episode "ALF's Special Christmas," Little guest-starred as Mr. Foley, a kind man who once let young Willie Tanner and his family live in his cabin rent-free after Mr. Tanner loses his job and the family home. In the present-day, Little plays Mr. Foley as a despondent, possibly clinically depressed widower who acts as Santa to hospitalized children with terminal illnesses.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Little, also an accomplished, Tony Award-winning stage actor, died in Sherman Oaks, California, in October 1992, from colon cancer. Little was 53.

David Ogden Stiers

A prolific actor who dove into his roles, David Ogden Stiers had more than 160 screen credits, including important roles on "The Dead Zone," "Stargate: Atlantis," and two "North & South" event miniseries, along with a slew of voice acting credits, but he was certainly most recognizable for his six years on the mega-popular military sitcom "M*A*S*H." 

In 1977, Stiers joined the show as Charles Emerson Winchester III, a Korean War army surgeon and pretentious, snooty windbag who was often the butt of jokes and pranks courtesy of Hawkeye Pierce and B.J. Hunnicutt. In the memorable two-part 1988 "ALF" episode "Turkey in the Straw," Stiers portrayed Pete Finnegan, or Flakey Pete, a former political radical now unhoused in the Tanners' neighborhood to whom ALF gives food and clothes in observance of Thanksgiving.

According to a tweet from Stiers' representatives at the MKS Talent Agency, the actor died at his home on the Oregon coast in March 2018 following a bladder cancer diagnosis. Stiers was 75.

Marcia Wallace

Marcia Wallace worked often and memorably on TV sitcoms in the 1970s and 1980s, including appearances on "The Love Boat," "Bewitched," "Love, American Style," "The Brady Bunch," and most notably, and for six years, as jubilantly wisecracking psychiatry office receptionist Carol Kester on "The Bob Newhart Show." To younger viewers, Wallace is likely better known by her voice: She voiced the lovelorn and dispassionate fourth grade Springfield Elementary teacher Edna Krabappel on "The Simpsons" for 24 years, a role that won the actor an Emmy Award in 1992. "ALF" fans will recognize Wallace from her two-episode run as Mrs. Lyman, Brian Tanner's adversarial and vaguely creepy elementary school principal who rejects the young student's discussion of planets in a science fair project that ALF told him about (which are otherwise unknown to humans).

Wallace received a breast cancer diagnosis in 1985 and became an outspoken champion of awareness for the disease, according to The Hollywood Reporter. According to the Los Angeles Times, Wallace fell ill in 2013 and in October of that year died from complications of pneumonia. Wallace was 70 years old.

Nedra Volz

Nedra Volz didn't start her on-screening acting career until 1973, when she was well into her sixties, but she spent the next three decades playing lots of quirky, quick-witted, and surprisingly robust older characters — a quintessential and go-to actor for the "wacky granny" type. 

In the '70s and '80s, Volz landed recurring roles on network TV hits like "Alice," "Eight is Enough," "One Day at a Time," "The Fall Guy," "Diff'rent Strokes," and "The Dukes of Hazzard," while maintaining a second line as a participant in celebrity panel-driven daytime game shows, such as "Tattletales" and "The Match Game / Hollywood Squares Hour." Certainly one of her most memorable TV pop-ins came on the 1987 "ALF" episode "Some Enchanted Evening," in which Volz played "Cat Woman," a kooky figure ALF encounters during a furtive trick-or-treating session.

After a supporting role in the 1996 comedy movie "The Great White Hype," Volz retired from her showbiz career. In 2003, according to the Los Angeles Times, Volz died in Mesa, Arizona, from complications relating to Alzheimer's disease. The actor was 94.

Gene Greytak

Whoever occupies the position of pope, worldwide head of the Roman Catholic Church, is widely known, but few were more famous or media-savvy than Pope John Paul II, who made thousands of public appearances during his historically long tenure of 26 years (1978–2005). He was such a public figure that a man who looked enough like the guy could make a decent living and find recognition by impersonating John Paul II, which is exactly what Gene Greytak did. Between 1987 and 1999, Greytak made around 20 silly appearances on mostly comic TV shows and in movies as the pope, including on "Night Court," "The Golden Girls," "Murphy Brown," "Picket Fences," and "Tonight, Tonight, Part 2," a 1988 installment of "ALF" in which the titular alien substitutes in for Johnny Carson as host of "The Tonight Show" (on which Greytak had previously appeared as His Holiness).

Greytak, a World War II veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, retired from his job as a real estate broker in the mid-1980s to portray the pope on screen and at public events, according to the Los Angeles Times. In February 2010, he died of cancer at his home in North Tustin, California. The not-really-the-pope was 84.