A sad-eyed comedian with a mischievous grin who became a ubiquitous presence on television in its golden era through to modern times, Louis Nye created a national catchphrase belting out "Hi, ho, Steverino!" as one of the players on Steve Allen's groundbreaking 1950s TV show.
Nye was born May 1, 1913, in Hartford, Conn., where he began his career in theater before moving to New York City to enter radio. It was after a stint in the Army, where he was stationed in "a wild town" in Missouri, that he set aside dramatic roles and dove into sketch comedy. A master of voices and accents, he could go from being droll one moment to prissy the next. He could also switch effortlessly from comically evil Nazis to bumbling Russians. Already well established as one the era's hippest comics, appearing regularly on radio, in clubs and on early TV shows, Nye's chance meeting with Allen in an elevator led to his greatest success. Allen eventually hired Nye for "The Steve Allen Show," which ran from 1956 to 1961.There, Nye hatched his alter ego Gordon Hathaway, a self-important and effete country-club advertising exec who always greeted Allen with the salutation, "Heigh-ho, Steverino." An exuberantly boastful man in a suit and tie who always seemed to be standing on his toes, smiling so brightly that his teeth sparkled as if he were in a toothpaste commercial, Hathaway was featured in mock man-on-the-street interviews Allen did with other regulars including comedians Don Knotts, Tom Poston and Bill Dana. Nye's signature greeting proved so popular he took the act a step further and recorded an LP, Heigh-Ho, Madison Avenue, with a group called the Status Seekers that satirized the advertising biz in such ditties as "The Ten Commandments of Madison Avenue (Plus Big Bonus Commandments)" and "The Conspicous Consumption Cantata."
After the show's run ended, Nye appeared often on TV game shows, in films and as a regular on "The Ann Sothern Show." He was often cast as the second banana, never the lead. Nye appeared as Sonny Drysdale, the prissy son of harried banker Milburn Drysdale, in the debut 1960-61 season of "The Beverly Hillbillies." He once said his character was dropped after one season because a CBS executive thought he was "too sissified." Nye returned as Sonny for the 1993 TV movie "The Legend of the Beverly Hillbillies."
Nye teamed with Allen again in 1967, on "The Steve Allen Comedy Hour," a CBS show in which he also portrayed Gordon Hathaway. His cohorts included Allen's wife, Jayne Meadows, Ruth Buzzi and John Byner, among others. In the summer of 1970 he hosted the variety show "Happy Days" on CBS, co-starred with Norman Fell in the New York garment industry sitcom "Needles and Pins" (1973) and played Kirby Baker in the 1978 TV show "Harper Valley P.T.A."
His film credits included "Cannonball Run II," "Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood," "A Guide for the Married Man," "Good Neighbor, Sam" and "Sex Kittens Go to College." On television, he also guest starred on such shows as "St. Elsewhere," "The Love Boat," "Laverne & Shirley" and "The Munsters," and appeared frequently as a guest on "The Jackie Gleason Show," "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" and "The Andy Williams Show."
In the 1980s and '90s Nye provided various voices for the "Inspector Gadget" cartoon show. Nye had worked regularly in nightclubs and on television into the mid-2000s. He had a recurring role from 2000 to 2002 in the HBO comedy "Curb Your Enthusiasm" as the father of Jeff Garlin's character.