John Ritter: 1948-2003

Sep 15, 2003  •  Post A Comment

He was always funny. Always optimistic. A joy to work with.
Such was the refrain from colleagues last week in the wake of actor John Ritter’s unexpected death at the age of 54.
The Emmy-winning actor collapsed on the set of his ABC show “8 Simple Rules … for Dating My Teenage Daughter” during a Thursday night rehearsal and was rushed to Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, Calif. He died shortly after 10 p.m. of a torn coronary artery despite surgeons’ attempts to save him. Mr. Ritter was reportedly accompanied to the hospital by co-workers and family members.
“John was the most beloved, positive, happy person. There was never an unpleasant moment with the guy,” said Lisa Kasteler, his publicist. “He was just a class act all the way around-what you saw was who he was.”
Ms. Kasteler said Mr. Ritter showed no sign of ill health before his collapse.
“He was perfectly healthy,” she said. “That’s why this is such a shock, he was in great health.”
Henry Winkler, a longtime friend of Mr. Ritter, was rehearsing for an appearance on the set when the actor collapsed.
“It is inconceivable to me that this man is no longer with us,” Mr. Winkler said. “Though he is gone, John’s Ritter-ness will live on through the legacy of his work. My entire family loved him, and we will miss him more than words can say.”
Mr. Ritter was a Southern California native who graduated from Hollywood High School and the University of Southern California. In 1977 he landed the career-defining role of Jack Tripper on “Three’s Company” as a bachelor who shares a Santa Monica, Calif., apartment with two female roommates. Mr. Ritter became famous for his agile physical comedy, deftly timed line delivery and his seemingly effortless ability to make a randy cad irresistibly likeable. The performance won Mr. Ritter an Emmy and a Golden Globe.
After the end of “Company’s” run in 1984, Mr. Ritter starred in the series “Hooperman” and “Hearts Afire” and lent his voice to the animated PBS series “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” for which he was nominated for an Emmy.
With “8 Simple Rules,” Mr. Ritter’s career was on an upswing. The show was a strong ratings performer and was scheduled to begin its second season Sept. 23.
“We are all of us at ABC stunned and profoundly saddened by the sudden death of John Ritter yesterday,” Susan Lyne, president, ABC Entertainment, said in a statement. “I can truly say that his loss will be felt very personally across the industry as John had the wonderful ability to make everyone he worked with feel like not just a colleague but also a friend. In a career that spanned three decades, he shared his splendid talents on television, film and stage. He made us laugh, and what a gift that was. We will miss John deeply, and send our sympathies and prayers to all his family.”