Wendell Burton, whose Hollywood acting career began at age 21 with a starring role opposite Liza Minnelli, has died.
Burton, 69, died of brain cancer on June 6, reports Deadline.
Born in San Antonio on July 21, 1947, he made his name as the co-star of "The Sterile Cuckoo" in 1969, which garnered Minnelli an Academy Award nomination. But he was never again able to duplicate that success, as he humorously explained on his official website's autobiography:
So, figuring that he was evidently destined to become rich and famous, he made the move to Hollywood where he managed to achieve neither -- at least to the degree he had imagined. Although, along the way, he did get to star and guest-star n a number of other films, television movies and series episodes, including MGM’s "Fortune and Men’s Eyes," the television versions of "The Red Badge of Courage," "Go Ask Alice," "East of Eden," and the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of "You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown." His last feature role was in "Heat," with Burt Reynolds. As he tells his friends in LA, "If you took everything I did over twenty years and crammed into four or five… I’d have been really hot!"
The last feature role he acted was reportedly alongside Burt Reynolds in "Heat."
Burton eventually abandoned his acting career and turned to religion, notes The New York Times. He worked in sales for the Family Channel and for KTBU, which was owned by the family of megachurch minister Joel Osteen.
Burton became a Christian minister himself and moved to Houston, where he was affiliated with Osteen and the Lakewood Church.
Don Iloff Jr., a senior executive at the Joel Osteen Ministries, said Burton's acting career waned when he began a spiritual quest that included studying Eastern religions. “He was searching for a while, and his career subsided as his priorities shifted."
Burton chronicled his spiritual journey in his 2016 book, "Godsmacked, A Souljourner's Guide to the Heart of God."
Upon being diagnosed with cancer, he said: "I honestly can say that I had no fear of death. I know that sounds strange. But I didn’t. I had a peace. I knew it would be inconvenient. Because I had things I wanted to do."
Burton is survived by his wife Linda, son Adam, and daughter Haven, who is a voice and Broadway actress whose credits include "Rent," "Shrek the Musical," "Legally Blonde," and "Kinky Boots."