January 13, 1931 – May 25, 2007
“You can’t do anything else once you do game shows. You have no career.”
Obviously he said this when he was in some sort of career slump, because from the look of his IMDB page, he did quite a bit after being on game shows, including a near record 97 appearances on The Tonight Show.
Findadeath friend Doug Goding sent me this: “Back in the 70’s and early 80’s, Charles Nelson Reilly was a fixture on the talk show circuit. I guess scale made the house payments. At any rate, I vividly recall him being on Johnny Carson one night with Rob Reiner. Reiner treated him like a dog. That totally spoiled me on Rob Reiner to this day. Not long after, he was on again and this time Bob Hope was on. Hope always came on first and then left….he always said he had something to do when in reality he probably just didn’t want to listen to the drivel. The night in question, his segment was up, Johnny told him goodbye, and started to go to commercial. Hope didn’t leave and Johhny turned to him kind of confused and said, ‘don’t you have to go?’ Hope just replied, ‘No, I want to say hello to Charles.’ They came back from commercial and Charles Nelson Reilly came out. Hope gave him a warm greeting and THEN he left.
The two events may have been totally unrelated, but it always seemed to me that Hope was making amends for Rob Reiner and showing that, at least in his circle, Charles Nelson Reilly was a good guy deserving friendship and respect. Whatever the truth, I carried a soft spot in my heart for Bob Hope after that. To me it showed class.” Thanks Doug, I’d have to see that myself before I unpass any judgment on Hope, and I appreciate you sending it.
Now, does anyone else think he was cut from the same cloth as JoAnne Worley? Same thing as Paul Lynde and Alice Ghostly. Both JoAnne and Charles made that same weird noise. He does it at the end of the Lidsville song. How’s that for a topper- she usually made it while laughing and twisting a finger into her cheek. Just a weird, indescribable noise, but oddly alike to each other.
My favorite CNR moment was a Match Game moment, when he was mocking Brett Somers claim that she lived in Beverly Hills. One of probably mostly local interest to those in LA, but it still makes me laugh every time I see it.
Charles had been living in a house way up in Coldwater Canyon, I would imagine with his boyfriend of over 25 years, Patrick Hughes.
For the past few years of his life, Charles had been performing in his one man show, The Life of Reilly. During his last performance in October 2004, his health started to deteriorate. He started losing weight and getting worse. According to one report he almost died in January of 2006. His last six months – he was quite aware of what was going on, and that he had little time left. Friends (Angie Dickinson, Dom Deluise and fellow deadie Beverly Sills) stopped by to keep him company – his home was converted into a mini hospital.
In spring of 2007 he was admitted to UCLA Medical Center and on the 24th he headed for organ failure, he died eventually on May 25, 2007. He was 76 years old. Official cause of death: Pneumonia.
I met him once in Chicago when he was directing The Nerd, this was during a time I was working on a show called Pump Boys and Dinettes. Did you ever notice how showbiz people have to shorten names to make them less taxing to discuss? Instead of Pump Boys and Dinettes, they reduced it to ‘Pump Boys’. Little Shop of Horrors became’Little Shop’. They even shortened The Nerd, down to just ‘Nerd.’ I hated that. As a kid, I adored him in Ghost…
I really want to know what the hell he and Angie Dickinson had to talk about.
Wanna see his mailbox?
My pal Mark Langlois sends this:
Back story as told in his one man show/movie:
Charles’ overbearing Mother saw him sneaking off to the Circus with his friend Donald, after she had forbade it.
Mom yelled out in spite from their apartment window, “I HOPE IT BURNS DOWN !!!”
Charles and Donald escaped the horrors. Charles said, “Donald never repeated what he heard my Mother yell that day. He was a good friend.”
Salacious Dept – don’t read if you easily offend – I’m not stating this as fact, this is gossip: Someone who wished to remain anonymous sent this: Bit of trivia about Charles Nelson Reilly: One of his favorite games to play was naked lost boy…. He’d pick up a hustler on Santa Monica Blvd. And drive them to his home. At the gate, he’d have them get out and take all their clothes off – he’d continue up to the house and go inside and then act surprised when poor, lost, naked boy arrived at his door step. I got this info first hand when I lived in Hollywood in 1981. I was “dating” an exec from MGM/UA around the time of their merger.