Former “Carol Burnett Show” co-star and “Wonder Woman” co-star Lyle Waggoner, who was also the first cover model for Playgirl magazine, passed away on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. He was 84.
According to his agent, Robert Malcolm, the cause was c@ncer complications. Mr. Waggoner’s dulcet voice, square jaw, and powerful body suggested that he was destined to be a leading man.
A family statement said that Waggoner, who had been battling c@ncer, passed away quietly at home with his wife of 60 years, Sharon.
Waggoner rose to fame in the 1970s and became a prosperous businessman. He established a backstage company to supply celebrities with private trailers during filming breaks. Star Waggons is a pun on his last name.
Waggoner, a native Kansan who had appearances in B-movies like “Swamp Country” and “The Catalina Caper” in the mid-1960s and was a finalist for the role of “Batman” in the cheesy TV series that ultimately starred Adam West, was born in Kansas. Afterward, Burnett’s variety show was contacted to see if he wanted to try it out.
The actress-comedian remembers wanting a more active role as the show’s announcer than just introducing advertisements. He needed to look good so she could play her ugly duckling, love-struck persona off of him, and he needed to be witty so they could have a wonderful time together onstage.
“In walked Lyle Waggoner,” she wrote in her 2010 book “This Time Together.” “Gorgeous? Yes. But so much more. He was hilarious. He had a sly, tongue-in-cheek delivery that told you he was putting himself on and not taking himself seriously. “
She claimed that his comedic skills improved as the series progressed, earning him parts in skits and eventually a full cast role. He was there from the pilot episode in 1967 to the series finale in 1974.
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In 1973, he made history when the then-nascent Playgirl magazine featured him on the cover, dubbing him “the stuff of which s*xual fantasies are made, a 6-foot-4 hunk of gorgeous beefcake.” His naked but covert posture at his desk was observed by the Chicago Tribune, which concluded that he was “slightly embarrassed at having it widely known that he sits at his desk in the n*de.”
Waggoner was cast as the title character in the 1976 film “Wonder Woman,” based on the long-running DC Comics superhero. Lynda Carter portrayed Wonder Woman, a superheroine originating on a mythical island with a tribe of other female warriors known as the Amazons. Major Steve Trevor (Waggoner) landed on the island when his plane cr@shed during WWII. Wonder Woman accompanied Steve back to the United States and spent most of her time-fighting Nazi operatives with her hidden abilities while acting as his secretary.
In 1977, “Wonder Woman” was rebranded as “The New Adventures of Wonder Woman” and relocated from ABC to CBS. The show jumped from the 1940s to the present day, with Carter continuing as Wonder Woman and Waggoner playing Steve Trevor Jr., the son of Trevor from the first series. After the series ended in 1979, Waggoner focused on his rental business and occasionally took on acting roles as a hobby.
In a 2002 interview with CNBC, he said, “I was always looking for a backup because I knew the [television] series; they don’t last forever. They can yank the rug out from under you at any time.”
Working on “Wonder Woman,” for which he was assigned a rented motor home, is where he came up with the concept. When Waggoner proposed renting a motor home to the studio, they initially declined. As a result, Star Waggons were born luxurious vehicles that could measure up to 40 feet in length and have amenities such as carpets, leather easy seats, and satellite television for as much as $100,000.
Over time, he amassed hundreds of them, each made to order. Steven Spielberg requested that mirrors be covered, Teri Hatcher had her dinette converted into a makeup station, and Jaclyn Smith claimed to have gotten “bad vibes” from one of the trailers. Actor Martin Sheen, who played the president on “The West Wing,” and President Bill Clinton (on a visit to California in 1996) used them.
“I used to go on location and sit outside in a canvas chair with a fold-down counter as a makeup station,” Waggoner recalled to the Associated Press in 1998. “Now we have these 40-foot, eight-station electronic slide-out rooms with surround sound and CD players. “
Moreover, he said, “Our job is to spoil the actors.”
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Waggoner kept performing on occasion, including guest spots on shows like “Murder, She Wrote,” “Ellen,” and “Love Boat,” as well as TV specials starring her longtime friend, Burnett.
Waggoner, born in April 1935, leaves behind a wife, Jason and Beau, and four grandchildren. The family said that funerals in Los Angeles and Wyoming were still being planned.
The actor’s de@th was first reported by TMZ.