Larry Hovis, who played Sgt. Carter the demolition expert on TV’s “Hogan’s Heroes” and was a singer, writer and teacher as well as thesp, died Tuesday Sept. 9 at Christopher House — Hospice Austin after a three-month battle with cancer. He was 67.
He considered himself a singer first throughout his career.
Houston native became a professional entertainer in his teens. He was a singer with the Mascots, a popular Houston quartet in the 1950s, and appeared on Arthur Godfrey’s TV show in New York after the singing group won a talent contest. While in Houston, he was also a member of a popular jazz trio and was host of a daytime TV show, “Surprise Party.”
He began acting professionally in his early 20s, appearing in numerous stage productions. He began writing songs and was signed to a recording contract with Capitol Records, producing the solo album “My Heart Belongs to Only You.”
He then began writing plays and screenplays and, armed with a few scripts and a new standup routine, set out for Hollywood at age 28. He immediately sold the script for beach party/spy spoof “Out of Sight,” which gave him enough money to send for his wife, Ann, and their daughter.
Hovis next got a job as a standup comedian in showcase club the Horn in Santa Monica. Within weeks, he was discovered by Richard Linke, best known as Andy Griffiths’ producer and manager. He was hired as a regular on “The Gomer Pyle Show,” which led to his winning the part of Carter on “Hogan’s Heroes,” which ran for six years.
Next, he became a writer and performer on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In.” He spent the balance of his career in Hollywood working as an actor, singer and writer. He was head writer and a panelist on gameshow “The Liars Club” and continued to perform as a singer in jazz clubs around Los Angeles. He also toured in the first national roadshow of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”
After 30 years in Los Angeles, Hovis and his family moved back to Texas. He began teaching acting at Southwest Texas (now Texas State U.), where he remained for 12 years. He also appeared in and directed numerous stage productions.
He is survived by two daughters and two sons; three grandchildren; his mother; and two sisters and two brothers. His wife predeceased him, also from cancer.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday Sept. 13 at the Texas State U. Theater Building in San Marcos.
Donations are suggested to Christopher House — Hospice Austin, 4107 Spicewood Springs Road, Suite 100, Austin, TX 78759.