Frank Bonner, Actor Who Played Herb Tarlek on ‘WKRP in Cincinnati,’ Dies at 79

by Joe Rutland

Actor Frank Bonner, who played flashily-dressed radio sales guy Herb Tarlek on the classic TV show “WKRP in Cincinnati,” has died. He was 79.

Bonner died on Wednesday, according to his family, from Lewy body dementia, The New York Post reports.

“WKRP in Cincinnati,” which recently marked 39 years since airing its final episode on CBS, let Bonner to depict a guy looking to get sponsors for the radio station. From his plaid suits to rather suave-looking shirts, ties, and shoes, Herb Tarlek would go out and attempt to get the big client. He’d often come back to the station, though, without one in hand.

His tenacity, though, proved worthwhile on the show. Tarlek often had interesting interactions with Jennifer Marlowe, played by Loni Anderson.

‘WKRP in Cincinnati’ Star Also Directed Episodes Of CBS Sitcom

“WKRP in Cincinnati” ran for four seasons between 1978-82 on CBS. Besides Bonner and Anderson, other stars included Gary Sandy, Gordon Jump, Howard Hesseman, Richard Sanders, Tim Reid, and Jan Smithers.

Bonner also directed a few episodes of “WKRP in Cincinnati.” He reprised his high-fashion salesman role when “The New WKRP in Cincinnati” rolled out between 1991-93. From the show’s original cast, though, Bonner, Jump, and Sanders were the only full-time stars in that series.

Other shows Bonner played a part in behind the camera included “Who’s the Boss?”, “Head of the Class,” “Newhart,” and “Evening Shade.”

Bonner Receives Kind Words From Former Costar Upon Hearing of His Death

“Very sad news for me,” SiriusXM radio host Michael Des Barres wrote on Twitter. “I loved working with him. Impeccable timing as a comedic actor and a really nice man. RIP.” Des Barres worked with Bonner on the “WKRP” reboot.

Writer Rob Sheffield posted this out on Twitter, too. He shared a picture of Bonner dressed as Tarlek on “WKRP in Cincinnati” along with some kind words toward the actor.

SiriusXM host Eric Alper also had some kind thoughts toward Bonner and his character.

“Frank Bonner, the actor and TV director best known as Herb Tarlek on WKRP in Cincinnati, has died,” Alper wrote on Twitter. “He was 79. He also directed episodes of ‘Family Ties,’ ‘Who’s the Boss?,’ ‘Just the Ten of Us’ and ‘City Guys’ and will be sadly missed.”

Frank Bonner was born on Feb. 28, 1942, in Little Rock, Ark. Bonner, before “WKRP in Cincinnati” came along, appeared in a number of TV shows. They included “Cannon,” “Emergency!”, “Mannix,” and “Police Woman.”

According to The Post story, Tim Parent, news director at Calgary, Canada’s 660 News, concluded that “WKRP” was “was a documentary, not a sitcom” — though he couldn’t say the same for Tarlek’s attire.

“Every #radio sales department has someone like Herb Tarlek (only with nicer suits.) RIP Frank Bonner,” Parent said.

Funeral arrangements are pending for Bonner.

Outsider sends its condolences to Bonner’s family at this time.