‘Untouchables’ thesp Picerni dies

Was romantic lead in 'House of Wax'

Paul Picerni, who played Eliot Ness’ sidekick in TV’s “The Untouchables,” died Jan. 13 in Palmdale, Calif., following a heart attack. He was 88.

Picerni joined the Robert Stack-toplined series that ran on ABC, from 1959-63, in its second season, playing federal agent Lee Hobson.

He played the romantic lead in 1953’s Vincent Price-toplined 3D “House of Wax.”

New York native Picerni served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, flying 25 combat missions in the India-Burma theater. He was awarded the Air medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After the war, Picerni studied drama at Loyola U. and taught at Mount St. Mary’s while emceeing halftime shows for the Los Angeles Rams football team.

He was signed to Warner Bros. and worked in 1950 war tale “Breakthrough.” A seven-year contract with the studio followed, in which he was featured in “Mara Maru,” “Desert Song” and “Operation Pacific” among other pics. Other film credits include “The Scalphunter,” “Airport” and “Beyond the Poseidon Adventure.”

In TV, Picerni had recurring roles in such series as “Kojak,” “Mannix,” “Starsky and Hutch,” “Gunsmoke” and “Diagnosis Murder.” He also worked in the commercials arena as spokesman for GE, Rexall Drugs and the Weber Co.

Known as “the benefit king,” Picerni emceed hundreds of charity dinners for Italian and Catholic orgs, the annual Hollywood Actors Communication Breakfast, and the Columbus Day Banquets.

Survivors include his wife of 63 years, Marie; four sons including stuntman Paul Jr.; four daughters, including stuntwoman Marilyn; 10 grandchildren including stuntman Rick; a brother, stunt coordinator Charlie, and two sisters, Paula and Marilyn, both of whom do stunts.

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