This article was corrected on March 19, 2001.
Morton Downey Jr., songwriter and actor-turned-growling and opinionated TV talkshow host who shocked viewers from behind a haze of cigarette smoke during the late 1980s, died Monday of lung cancer and other respiratory problems in Los Angeles. He was 68.
Downey was born Sean Morton Downey Jr., the son of popular singer Morton Downey and his dancer-wife, Barbara Bennett. The future talkshow host attended military school and earned a marketing degree and a law degree. He pursued a number of professions including businessman, author, radio host, singer and songwriter.
But it wasn’t until the late 1980s that he became a household name with “The Morton Downey Jr. Show.” Debuting in the New York City area in 1987, it became a hit almost immediately and was syndicated nationally the following year. The show was canceled in 1989.
In 1994, Downey launched a comeback with a new show, “Downey.” It met with less success, and Downey acknowledged he had toned it down.
He also appeared as an actor in 22 TV films and features including “Tales from the Crypt,” “Meet Wally Sparks,” “Revenge of the Nerds III,” “Predator II” and the new “Rockford Files.”
He is survived by his wife, actress-producer Lori Krebs; their young daughter; three grown daughters from former marriages; and seven grandchildren.
Services will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturdayat St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Family suggests donations in his name be made to the American Lung Assn. in care of Morton Downey Jr. and Dr. Martin Gordon.