April 13, 1923 – September 25, 2005
Like many stars of Sixties television, Don Adams was typecast in the role that brought him fame, as the bumbling Agent 86 on the TV show, Get Smart. The show ran from 1965 to 1970. He would reprise the role in later years, including in the 1980 film The Nude Bomb (that lived up to its name, except for the nude thing). From all accounts, he was a great guy, but he was never able to repeat his success after Get Smart. He also did the voice for the Inspector Gadget cartoon series in the Eighties, and made a cameo appearance in the 1999 Inspector Gadget live action film, starring Matthew Broderick in the title role.
He had developed bone lymphoma, and in 2004, his daughter Cecily Adams died at 46 of lung cancer. This was the beginning of the end. Don lived in a condo in Century City, same entrance that Mary Wickes and Fay Wray used when they breathed.
Don was a former Marine, and served in Guadalcanal. During his time there, his two best friends were shot and killed, while standing to his right and left. He beat death too many times to count, starting with black water fever at Guadalcanal when he was 16, and continuing throughout his life. He would get touches of malaria at times, and had a lot of upper respiratory problems.
Don had a beloved pooch, a cocker by the name of Sweetie Pie. Don adored his dog, and had him for about 12 years. He had broken his hip in 2004, and never quite recovered from it. At one point he was treated for an Ambien addiction. Sweetie Pie had to be given to a caregiver.
According to one report, Don was active, even visiting a casino two days before he died. This conflicts other reports, but ultimately they all end on Sunday, September 26, 2005, at 8:02 PM. He died of a lung infection at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
He was 82 years old.
Upon hearing of his death, former Get Smart co-star Barbara Feldon released this curious statement: “Being in front of the camera with him, doing the scenes with him, was like getting high on something. He had so much energy, and his timing was so beautiful, his comedic timing, that it was like you could almost inhale it and get high on it.”
Don is buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, there was first a memorial service was held on October 5th at The Writers Guild. Don Knotts was invited, and planned to be there but called the day of the memorial to say he was not well and could not attend. No response from Tim (real name Tom) Conway, or Harvey Korman. People that spoke at the service included Jim Beaver, Don Rickles, Bob Newhart, Barbara Feldon, Bill Dana, Gloria Burton (Don’s older sister and Get Smart writer), James Caan, Bernie Kopell, Dick Gautier. All three of Don’s ex wives were in the front row. Other guests included Martin Laundau, Carl Reiner and Peter Falk.
View his grave.
Originally Don wanted to be buried in Arlington Cemetery, but he didn’t have the credentials at the time, but this is still being worked on.
Trivia: Mel Brooks co created Get Smart, and co-wrote the pilot with Buck Henry. Mel blew off the funeral. Never even responded, but apparently this isn’t a big shock as they only worked together briefly, and Mel is still grieving.
More: He used the alias Barney Frank on one of his visits to UCLA.
Don owned a percentage of Get Smart, which made him very wealthy. The entire series is supposed to be available on dvd this year.
He won three Emmy awards for the role.
My pal Jim sends this: Don’t forget he was the voice of Tennessee Tuxedo. (Chumley? It’s time to go see Mr. Whoopee!)
Added June 2006:
Just a tidbit if you’re interested! I was a Playboy Playmate (you can google me), and my husband was a butler at the Playboy mansion, where Don Adams was a regular and would come for card night. He would bring his dog up with him, and it would always pee on the floor, and my husband (now ex) would have to clean it up. And Don was always a bit of a dick.
Tina BockrathThanks Tina – Ladies and gentlemen, we have a hottie in our midst!
UPDATE March 2007, from Findadeath friend John Greff:
One thing you didn’t mention was a really fun show he had in the late 70s, I think it was Saturday nights: “The Don Adams Screen Test.”
He would have contestants acting in recreated scenes from famous movies (very well done too!), and I think they would have famous actors in the scenes with them.
Thanks for the info, John! Check out John’s fantastic website, HERE.
Thanks Kevin as usual, and debtage to Don’s friend Nancy Barr for details, and Carl for clarification. Don was a great guy, by all accounts. He was lucky to have someone as nice as you working for him, Nancy.
Check out this great Get Smart website, HERE.