John Mahoney, 'Frasier' star, dies at 77

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Long-time Oak Park resident and "Frasier" star John Mahoney has died at the age of 77, after starring in a play at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre. (WLS)

Long-time Oak Park resident and "Frasier" star John Mahoney has died at the age of 77, after starring in a play at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre. The theater confirmed Mahoney's death to ABC7 Monday.

The theater canceled Monday night's performance of "You Got Older" and invited the public to join them in Front Bar to remember Mahoney Monday night for an impromptu wake.

"John's impact on this institution, on Chicago theater and the world of arts and entertainment are great and will endure," the theater said.

The actor died Sunday in Chicago after a brief hospitalization, Paul Martino, his manager for more than 30 years, said Monday. The cause of death was not immediately provided.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement, saying: "John Mahoney was a fixture on the Chicago stage for over 30 years through countless award-winning performances. Even as his fame grew through his fantastic work in movies and television, John stayed connected to his artistic home here in Chicago in theaters and as a member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Though he will be missed, his work and impact will endure for generations to come."

In "Frasier," the hit "Cheers" spinoff that aired from 1993 to 2004, Mahoney played Martin Crane, a disabled ex-policeman who parked himself in a battered old armchair in Frasier's chic Seattle living room.

Martin's beloved dog, Eddie, also took up residence to annoy Frasier, played by Kelsey Grammer.

Mahoney, a British native who made Oak Park his home town, was a two-time Emmy nominee for "Frasier" and won a 1986 Tony Award for "The House of Blue Leaves."

John Cusack, who appeared with Mahoney is the 1989 film "Say Anything," tweeted that he was a great actor and a "lovely kind human - any time you saw him you left feeling better."

Mahoney's recent TV credits included a recurring role as Betty White's love interest on "Hot in Cleveland" and a 2015 guest appearance on "Foyle's War." On the big screen, he was in "The American President," ''Eight Men Out" and "Tin Men," with 2007's "Dan in Real Life" starring Steve Carell among his last movie credits.

The actor was born in 1940 in Blackpool, England, during World War II. That's where his pregnant mother had been evacuated for safety from Nazi attacks, but the family soon returned to its home in Manchester.

In a 2015 interview with The Associated Press, Mahoney recounted memories of huddling in an air raid shelter and playing among bombed-out houses. The accounts his four older sisters shared with him, he said, included tucking him into a baby carriage outfitted with a shield against feared gas attacks.

One sister, who moved to the Midwest after marrying a U.S. sailor, was responsible for Mahoney's decision to make his life in America. He visited Chicago as a college student and fell in love with it.

"The lake, the skyline, the museums, the symphony, the lyric opera," he said in extolling the city in 2015. Add in reliably friendly Midwesterners, Mahoney said, and it's "my favorite place in the world."

"I give up nothing (professionally) by being in Chicago," said Mahoney, who at the time was preparing to begin rehearsal on a Steppenwolf Theatre Company production of "The Herd."

In Mahoney's last play, "The Rembrandt," a museum guard touches a painting, and the audience is taken on an artistic spiritual ride through centuries, meeting Rembrandt and the poet Homer.
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ABC7's Janet Davies interviews Oak Park's John Mahoney.

"Mr. Mahoney is fantastic to watch, he makes it look so easy you forget it's tough work," said Grabriel Ruiz, an ensemble member of Chicago's Latino theatre Teatro Vista.
"It's kind of hard when you get to my age...all of a sudden you look at this page after page after page of dialogue to learn and trying to get that into your brain, it's pretty tough," Mahoney said.

In September, Mahoney told ABC7 his future plans were to do absolutely nothing - just kicking back at his home in Oak Park.

"First of all I want to stay in Chicago. I learned my lesson about traveling with Fraser... 11 years living out of a suitcase in New York. Having the only car in the Paramount lot with an Oak Park sticker on it. I just want to be back home. Be onstage where I enjoy it," Mahoney said in the fall.

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WLS-TV contributed to this report.
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