Paul Lynde who was best known for his roles as Uncle Arthur on Bewitched and Harry MacAfee, the befuddled father in Bye Bye Birdie would have been 91 years old today. Lynde, a noted character actor with a distinctively campy and snarky persona that often poked fun at his barely-in the closet homosexuality
Lynde made his Broadway debut in the hit revue New Faces of 1952 had a prestigious career on both Broardway and in television. Over the years, Lynde made regular appearances on sitcoms such as The Phil Silvers Show, The Munsters, and I Dream of Jeannie, and variety shows such as The Perry Como Show and The Dean Martin Show. Then came Lynde’s first appeared in episode 26 of Bewitched, “Driving is the Only Way to Fly,” as Samantha’s driving instructor Harold Harold, before taking on the recurring role of Uncle Arthur, Endora’s brother. He was also a frequent guest on the 1976-79 variety show, Donny and Marie and the game show The Hollywood Squares.
But despite his remarkable career Paul Lynde’s personal life was far from happy.
Paul Lynde’s sexual orientation was something of an open secret in Hollywood, although, in keeping with the prejudices and social mores of the time, it was not acknowledged or discussed in public.
In 1965, Lynde was involved in an accident in which a young actor, reputed to be his lover, fell to his death from the window of their hotel room in San Francisco’s Sir Francis Drake Hotel. The two had been drinking for hours before 24-year-old James “Bing” Davidson slipped and fell eight stories to his death, an event witnessed by two policemen, yet the event was largely kept out of the press, thus saving Lynde’s career.
Despite his campy television persona, Lynde never publicly came out as being gay and the press generally went along with the deception. In a People magazine article the magazine featured Lynde and Stan Finesmith who was dubbed Lynde’s “suite mate” and “chauffeur-bodyguard.”
In 1978, Lynde career took a downturn after he was arrested outside of a gay bar in Salt Lake City. As a result of the arrest, he lost his guest starring role on The Donny and Marie Show and acting jobs became harder for him to find, although it is unclear if this was because of anti-gay prejudice or his substance abuse problems and noted erratic behavior, which often made him difficult to work with. He had been arrested for drunk driving and, while under the influence of alcohol, he was known to make rude and racist public comments towards people. Lynde finally became sober and drug free in the early 1980s, shortly before his death.
Paul Lynde was found dead in his Beverly Hills, California, home by friend Paul Barresi on Monday, January 11, 1982.
May he find the peace and acceptance in death that he was never able to find in life.
Happy Birthday Uncle Arthur.
* Watch this rare and hysterical clip below of Paul Lynde visiting WSPD, Ch. 13, In Toledo, OH in 1978 where he does a guest weather forecast with the (now) openly gay Boston anchor man Randy Price.