Actor Van Williams, star of The Green Hornet television series of the 1960s, died last week at the age of 82.
Actor and Williams’ friend Pat Priest confirmed Williams’ death to Variety after receiving an email about his death from Williams’ wife, Vicki Flaxman.
“Sad news. Van passed away last Monday night,” Flaxman wrote. “He really fought hard, but he had more health issues than he could manage. I am heartbroken.”
Producer Kevin Burns also revealed the news on Facebook after receiving the same email.
Williams was discovered while working as a driving instructor in Hawaii in 1957. Producer Mike Todd, husband of Elizabeth Taylor at the time, convinced Williams to give acting a shot, and so Williams moved to Hollywood. He broke in with the role of Ken Medison on Bourbon Street Beat on ABC. He reprised the role for Surfside 6.
Williams is best known to superhero fans for playing Britt Reid, aka the Green Hornet, on the 1966 television series. He was joined by Bruce Lee as the Green Hornet’s sidekick and martial artist Kato. The Green Hornet was produced by 20th Century Fox and crossed over with Fox’s other hit superhero series, Batman.
Williams career led him to roles on other classic television shows, including The Beverly Hillbillies, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Westwind.
After his acting career seemed to have run its course, Williams became a reserve deputy sheriff and firefighter in the Los Angeles area.
“We had many fun dinners around our dining room table,” Priest told Variety. “We laughed a lot and he was my mentor in helping me with memorabilia shows. He was very special. We saw him last year and we have wonderful memories.”
According to Priest, Williams was in poor health before his death. He had singed his lungs as a firefighter and had suffered from bronchial problems and back pain ever since.
“Through it all he remained strong and rarely spoke of what he went through. He was a great guy and a class act all the way,” Burns said in his Facebook post.