John Mahoney, best known for his role as the crotchety dad Martin Crane on “Frasier,” has just passed away at the age of 77 years old. Mahoney died on Sunday in the hospital following a short, as-of-yet unidentified illness.
While we can all instantly imagine him on the set of “Frasier,” here are five facts you may not know about the veteran performer:
1. He Was A Chicago Icon…Even Though He Hailed From The United Kingdom
Although Mahoney was born in Blackpool, Lancashire, England, he moved to America as a young man and spent most of his adult life state-side. What made the actor decide to move?
“It was so bleak and dark in England—those gray and foggy postwar years,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “Here it was so sunny. The people smiled.”
Mahoney died in Chicago, where he had spent many decades living and performing. Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel had this to say about Mahoney’s passing: “[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.”
2. He Served In The Army
Despite his British roots, Mahoney wanted to join the United States Army following World War II. He was part of the Army for three years and, through his service, he earned his American citizenship.
3. He Worked Hard To Lose His Accent
Mahoney didn’t want his British accent to make him seem more “posh” or upper-class than he really was.
During an interview with Britain’s Radio 4, he said, “People say there’s no trace of an accent anymore, and there isn’t because I worked very hard to lose it. And the reason I did that is a British accent in America is a real status symbol.”
4. He Didn’t Start Acting Until He Was 37 Years Old
While Mahoney was a highly skilled and impressive actor on stage and on screen, he actually had a very late start in the industry. He spent years teaching at Western Illinois University, and he also had other gigs—such as working as an editor—that he took on before deciding to take a stab at acting.
“So I was the associate editor of a medical journal in Chicago, and I was thirty seven,” he told Radio 4, “and all of a sudden I just sort of started going through this dark night of the soul. … Is this going to be it for me? Am I going to be spending the rest of my life writing about cataracts and hemorrhoids?”
Wow. Just goes to show that it’s never too late to start following your dreams.
5. He Eschewed Hollywood For The Stage
Following the completion of the wildly successful “Frasier,” Mahoney had several tempting television offers. However, the actor was tired of the screen and wanted to return to his roots—not just the city of Chicago, but also the stage. He wouldn’t participate in any cast reunions, not even when Oprah Winfrey herself hosted a special “Frasier” episode on her infamous talk show.
About the decision, Mahoney said, “I just couldn’t be bothered. That kind of thing bores me. I have better things to do with my life. I’m 63, I’ve made a ton of money and I don’t have to worry about my next job. It’s over. It’s done. Let it go. I don’t want to talk about it for the rest of my life.”
It was there in the Windy City that Mahoney spent his full, final years, acting in numerous plays and giving several memorable performances. His home base, the iconic Steppenwolf Theater, tweeted this about their beloved actor’s passing:
It is with our deepest sorrow that we share the news that ensemble member of 39 years John Mahoney passed away. Tonight’s opening night performance of You Got Older has been cancelled. We are instead inviting all to gather in Front Bar this evening. All are welcome to join us. pic.twitter.com/k8yrrR7ICA
— Steppenwolf Theatre (@SteppenwolfThtr) February 6, 2018
Sending comfort and condolences to his family and friends. He will be missed.