Brought Brit comedies to the U.S.
Donald L. Taffner, an independent distributor and producer of television programming and live theater attractions, died of an aneurysm or blood clot in the heart on Tuesday, Sept. 6, after a brief hospitalization. He was 80.Taffner and his wife-business partner Eleanor Bolta were responsible for bringing to the U.S. such television shows as “Three’s Company,” “Too Close for Comfort” and “The Benny Hill Show.” Taffner grew up above his family’s candy store in Brooklyn. After graduating from St. John’s College (now University), he began his showbiz career in 1952 with a job in the mailroom of the William Morris Agency. He had been an agent there for four years by the time he left WMA in 1959 for Paramount, where he built his expertise in television distribution by helping to begin the Television Distribution Program Dept. The Taffners were married in 1961 and launched their business D.L. Taffner Ltd in 1963. The company began as a worldwide distributor of TV programs but later, as DLT Entertainment Ltd., expanded to include TV and stage production. In the 1970s Taffner negotiated a deal with the U.K.’s Thames Television under which Taffner’s company would produce an American version of “Man About the House” that became ABC’s “Three’s Company.” Later he negotiated a similar deal to adapt Thames’ “Keep It in the Family” as ABC’s “Too Close for Comfort.” Taffner also packaged “The Benny Hill Show” for syndication on American television. Later work included the popular BBC sitcom “My Family” and Judi Dench laffer “As Times Goes By.” As an offshoot of his television business, Taffner became involved with the Theater of Comedy in the U.K., and the company continues to own and manage the Shaftesbury Theater on London’s West End. In 1986, Taffner’s contributions to the development of the industry were recognized by the International Council of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which presented him with its Founders Award Emmy “for setting new levels of creativity in the worldwide exchange of television programs.” As a result of his work in British television, Don Taffner was awarded an OBE in 2002. Eleanor Bolta died a year ago. Taffner is survived by a son, producer Donald L. Taffner Jr.; two daughters, Karen Butler and Rhonda Taffner Cantor; and three grandchildren. A funeral service will be held on Saturday, Sept. 10, at 10:30 a.m. at the Greenwich Village Funeral Home, 199 Bleecker St., followed by a luncheon at Villa Mosconi, 69 MacDougal St. Donations may be made to St. John’s Bread for Life at Breadandlife.org.