Actor, comedian John Ritter dies at 54

On the second anniversary of one American tragedy another occurred. Actor, comedian, father and friend, John Ritter died unexpectedly at the age of 54. Ritter, who was best known as Jack Tripper, died after suffering a tear in his aorta while on the set of “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter”. His family and close friends remembered him at a private service on Monday. Last night his colleagues did a wonderful television tribute to him in an ABC News special, “A Life of Laughter: Remembering John Ritter.” The program was hosted by Diane Sawyer. Suzanne Somers, Joyce DeWitt, Henry Winkler and Katey Sagal were among the many on the show who paid tribute to Ritter.Ritter was born Johnathan Southworth Ritter on September 17, 1948 in Burbank, Calif. to singing star/actor Tex Ritter and his wife Dorothy Fay. He was their second son. Ritter’s first taste of show business came when his mother became a greeter at The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. He and his brother would visit often. In 1977, Ritter and his brother, Tom, began hosting the annual United Cerebral Palsy Telethon. They began hosting it because Tom had beat the illness and they wanted to help others.Ritter’s father didn’t want John to go into show business. He did his best to stay away from it. He graduated from Hollywood High School and then went to the University of Southern California where he majored in psychology and minored in architecture. During his sophomore year, he was persuaded to take a theatre class. Ritter soon changed his major to theatre arts. Ritter studied acting with Nina Foch, Stella Adler and the Harvey Lembeck Comedy Workshop.In 1968 and 1969, Ritter did several stage performances in England, Scotland, Holland and Germany. During this time, Ritter’s father was performing for troops in Germany when he saw his son perform. After the performance, he felt that his son had what it took to make it in show business and gave him his blessing. Ritter made his movie debut in 1971 in “The Barefoot Executive.”Before his success in 1977 with the television show, “Three’s Company,” he made numerous guest appearances on various sitcoms including “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Love Boat,” “M.A.S.H.,” “Hawaii Five-O,” and “Kojak”.He hosted a number of specials for various networks including, “The Secret World of the Very Young” (CBS), “The World’s Greatest Magic Show,” “TV Road Trip,” and “John Ritter: Being of Sound Mind and Body” (ABC). He also appeared in a number of instructional videos and recorded several audio books.In the late 1970’s, he met actress Nancy Morgan who he was married to for nineteen years. They had three children: sons Jason and Tyler and daughter Carly. Ritter and Morgan divorced in 1996.In 1983, Ritter won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Series for his portrayal of Jack Tripper on “Three’s Company.” He also won an Emmy in 1983 and 1984 for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for the same character and show.In 1984, Ritter formed his own production company, Adam Productions. With this company he produced the show “Hooperman” and “Anything But Love,” starring Jamie Lee Curtis.In September of 1999, Ritter married actress Amy Yasbeck. They had one daughter, Stella, in September of the previous year.In 1999, John appeared in episodes of “Touched by an Angel” and “Chicago Hope.” The following year, he appeared in an episode of “Family Law”. That same year, he had a successful stint on Broadway with “The Dinner Party.” He also performed the voice of Clifford in the animated series, “Clifford, The Big Red Dog.” He received two consecutive Daytime Emmy nominations for this show.From there Ritter continued to make guest appearances on television shows, appeared in several stage plays and was in a number of movies. In 2002, he started his current project, ABC’s “Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.”

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