‘The Jeffersons’ star who played Ralph the doorman dead at 89

Ned Wertimer, who played the famously greedy doorman Ralph who regularly extorted George Jefferson for more money on “The Jeffersons,” died Jan. 2 at the Sherman Valley Health Care Center in California. He was 89 years old.

He had been suffering from multiple health problems, his manager Brad Lemack said.

Wertimer’s last role was in 2007’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” where he played a pirate extra.

However, Wertimer lived a most interesting life:

  • He was born in Buffalo and served as a pilot in World War II.
  • Wertimer earned a business degree from the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, the premiere business school in America.
  • It was at Penn that Wertimer got active in drama and, after graduation, moved to New York and began a theater career as an actor and assistant stage manager.
  • He appeared on Broadway in “Texas Lil Darling” in 1949 and “The Live Wire” in 1950. In 1961, he replaced Paul Lynde in the Tony-winning production of “Bye Bye Birdie.”

When the relatively new medium, television, had moved West to Los Angeles in the 1960s, Wertimer rolled with the tide.

Wertimer’s TV career began when he got a small part in the 1950 show “Rocky King, Detective.”

Meanwhile, he also worked in numerous stock and traveling companies while moving into the embryonic world of television. He became a regular on the 1950s children’s program “The Shari Lewis Show.

He worked regularly for the rest of his career, starting with character roles in classics like “Get Smart” and “Car 54, Where Are You?”

In addition to his iconic “Jeffersons” role, Wertimer appeared in “Ironside,” “Mayberry RFD,” “CC and Company,” “I Dream of Jeannie,” “Gunsmoke” and “That Girl.” He played two different characters in two seasons of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

He introduced Ralph the Doorman in a 1975 episode of “All in the Family,” then became a recurring player when “The Jeffersons” spun off into its own series. He appeared in 51 episodes over the show’s 12-year run.

In later years he also appeared in shows like “Sanford and Son,” “Happy Days,” “227,” “The Practice,” “Starsky and Hutch,” “Mork and Mindy” and “Simon & Simon.”

Terry Shropshire
Terry Shropshire

A military veteran and Buckeye State native, I've written for the likes of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta Business Chronicle and the Detroit Free Press. I'm a lover of words, photography, books, travel, animals and The Ohio State Buckeyes. #GoBucks

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