Lyle Waggoner, who used his heartthrob status for comedic effect on “The Carol Burnett Show” and was Maj. Steve Trevor on TV’s “Wonder Woman,” died Tuesday after battling an unspecified illness, TMZ reports. He was 84.
Waggoner died surrounded by his wife of 59 years, Sharon, and their sons Jason and Beau.
Waggoner had also become known in Hollywood for his successful business Star Waggons, a manufacturing and equipment-rental firm featuring over 800 custom-built trailers used in the film industry. Waggoner had run the business with his family for nearly 40 years.
Born April 13, 1934, in Kansas City, Kansas, Waggoner was led into acting by his physique — following a stint in the army and as a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman, a shirtless appearance in a local production of “Li’l Abner” gave him the courage to move to L.A. in search of more acting work.
Modeling and studying acting, he became a part of 20th Century Fox’s new-talent program with Sam Elliott, Tom Selleck and James Brolin.
He went on to make his TV debut on an episode of “Gunsmoke” in 1966, narrowly missing out as the lead on “Batman” that same year, a part that went to similarly square-jawed, deadpan Adam West.
Almost immediately, Waggoner landed a spot among the cast of “The Carol Burnett Show” (1967-1974), often as announcer and as straight man to the show’s star and her cast of comics. He described getting that job “probably the luckiest thing that could’ve happened to anybody.” Soon, he demonstrated his comedy chops, and appeared in many classic sketches, including as a POW in “The Interrogator” with Harvey Korman and Tim Conway, in a parody of Olympian Mark Spitz, and in the show’s send-ups of “Sunset Boulevard.”
During his run on the show, Waggoner appeared in the debut issue of Playgirl magazine as its first celebrity centerfold. In contrast to the image the magazine struggled to portray, he told The Chicago Tribune in 1974, “I think there are subscribers from the gay community. There’s nothing wrong with that. Who cares?”
Waggoner at an autograph show in 2018
After leaving the show, he enjoyed three successful seasons on “Wonder Woman” (1975-1979), playing Maj. Steve Trevor and, when the show switched from being set during WWII to the ’70s, Maj. Steve Trevor Jr. The show’s credits featured a wink at Waggoner’s marquee looks, inserting an animated sparkle when he smiled.
Though he worked extensively on episodic TV, he was increasingly focused on Star Waggons. His final role was on the series “The War at Home” in 2005, though he frequently appeared at reunions with his “Carol Burnett Show” castmates.