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'Laugh-In' comedian Alan Sues dies at 85

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 3rd, 2011
Catholic Online (

Alan Sues, an actor known for his loud, clownish comedic style on "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In," one of the top-rated shows on television in the late 1960s has passed away. He apparently died of a heart attack at his home in West Hollywood. Sues was 85.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Sues was part of an ensemble cast in a comedy-sketch show that prefigured "Saturday Night Live" and began the careers of such stars as Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin and Flip Wilson.

Popular characters played by Sues included Uncle Al the Kiddies' Pal, a consistently hung-over children's entertainer; Big Al, an effeminate sportscaster more obsessed with ringing a bell than announcing the day's action; and a drag imitation of the cast member Jo Anne Worley.

Sues first performed on the show in 1968 as a manic fan who accosts Rowan and Martin with a 30-second recap of a "Laugh-In" episode.

Sues played with over-the-top flamboyance on the show, displaying stereotypically gay mannerisms. Sues never admitted to his sexuality, fearing it would have ended his career.

"It wasn't because he was ashamed of being gay; it was because he was surviving as a performer," his agent said.

"Many gay men came up to him and said how important he was when they were young because he was the only gay man they could see on television," he added.

Sues left the show before its last season, said his success on "Laugh-In" left him typecast as a wacky comedian.

"When I first started out," he told The Los Angeles Times in 1993, "I did a lot of straight dramatic roles, but after 'Laugh-In,' audiences wouldn't accept me in anything but a comedy."

Serving in the Army in Europe during World War II, Sues used his veteran's benefits to pay for acting lessons at the Pasadena Playhouse, where he performed during the late 1940s before moving to New York in 1952. He made his Broadway debut in 1953 in Elia Kazan's "Tea and Sympathy." He met and married a dancer and actress while the play was running.

He and his wife, Phyllis Sues, started a Vaudevillian nightclub act in Manhattan, then took it on the road across the country.

After he and his wife were divorced in the late 1950s, Mr. Sues settled in California, where he appeared in "The Masks," a memorable episode of "The Twilight Zone," and other television shows and films like "The Americanization of Emily" in 1964.

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