Actor Gordon Jump, who played dimwitted radio station manager Mr. Carlson on the ’70’s sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, died Monday at the age of 71.
Jump had been under hospice care at his home southeast of Los Angeles. His cousin, Katherine Jump Wagner, told The Associated Press that Jump suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, which causes scarring of the air sacs of the lungs that leads to heart and respiratory failure.
Jump, a native of Dayton, Ohio, began his career working at radio and TV stations in the Midwest. In 1963, he moved to Los Angeles and launched his acting career, appearing in the television series Daniel Boone, Get Smart and The Partridge Family.
His most popular role, however, was that of Arthur Carlson on the CBS sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati. The series, which ran from 1978 through 1982, focused on the antics of the staff and management of WKRP, a rock ‘n’ roll format AM radio station in Cincinnati, Ohio.
One of WKRP‘s most famous and still talked-about shows is a Thanksgiving episode where Mr. Carlson arranges to have live turkeys dropped from a helicopter as an advertising stunt for the station. The turkeys, of course, plunge to their death to reporter Les Nessman’s (played by Richard Sanders) blow-by-blow account of the event:
“It’s a helicopter, and it’s coming this way. It’s flying something behind it, I can’t quite make it out, it’s a large banner and it says, uh – Happy… Thaaanksss… giving! … From … W … K … R… P! … I can’t tell just yet what they are, but – Oh my God, Johnny, they’re turkeys!! Johnny, can you get this? Oh, they’re plunging to the earth right in front of our eyes! One just went through the windshield of a parked car! Oh, the humanity! The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement! Not since the Hindenberg tragedy has there been anything like this!”
The miscalculation is hysterically summed up at the end of the episode by Jump‘s immortalized line: “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”
In the late ’80s, Jump became a well-recognized talisman for Maytag as “Ol’ Lonely,” the repairman.
“Gordon was an incredibly talented actor and a remarkable human being,” Maytag Corp chairman and chief executive officer Ralph Hake said.
Jump is survived by his wife, Anna, four daughters and a son.