Society

Bill Dana Of 'Jose Jimenez' Fame Dead At 92 (Photo)

| by Lauren Briggs
Comedian Bill DanaComedian Bill Dana

Legendary comic Bill Dana died on June 15 at the age of 92.

Dana, born William Szathmary, died at his home in Nashville, Tennessee, and is survived by his wife, Evelyn Shular, reports USA Today. The cause of death has not been confirmed.

The comedy writer and actor recorded eight successful comedy albums, ran a talent management company and advertising agency and appeared on a number of TV shows, all while writing comedy pieces such as the "Sammy's Visit" episode of "All in the Family."

He was best known for playing a Mexican immigrant named Jose Jimenez, a character who first debuted on a 1959 episode of "The Steve Allen Show" and instantly became iconic with the famous introductory line, "My name .. Jose ... Jimenez."

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Jimenez was reincarnated as an astronaut, a rancher, a bellhop and an instructor teaching people in broken English how to impersonate Santa Claus by saying, "Jo Jo Jo."

The Massachusetts-born jokester's character might have gotten a different reception had he debuted in 2017, but he received widespread acclaim in the 1950s and 60s for the act, even among the Latino population.

Dana, who had Hungarian-Jewish lineage, described Jimenez as "a perfect example of a person that wanted to be assimilated into American culture, learn the language, always looked spiffy."

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Through the years, Dana brought the character to the Allen's program's "Man on the Street" interviews and other variety shows. In 1963, he appeared on "The Bill Dana Show," which ran for two years and also featured an early version of Don Adams' detective character from "Get Smart."

In accordance with the changing times, Dana stopped appearing as Jimenez in the 1970s.

"I said, 'My name ... Jose Jimenez,' and the [live] audience laughed," Dana told the Archive of American Television in 2007 of his character's beginnings, according to The Hollywood Reporter. "I remember thinking, 'This guy just said his name and everybody [went crazy].'"

Dana said he was amazed by the "B-movie" type of cult following he got after Jimenez debuted and he embraced the character, even though his true love was writing.

"As a performer, I was always frightened to death until I got on stage, and then I wanted to stay there forever," Dana said. "But I hated the fear of performing. Writing the stuff and then standing there, massaging the boxer's shoulders, saying, 'Go in there and get 'em!' ... that was for me."

Sources: USA Today, The Hollywood Reporter / Photo credit: Alan Light/Flickr, NBC Television/Wikimedia Commons

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