Bill Daily, the affable TV actor who starred as Major Roger Healey in “I Dream of Jeannie” as well as on “The Bob Newhart Show,” died Sept. 4 in Santa Fe, N.M., his son J. Patrick Daily confirmed. He was 91.
“He loved every sunset, he loved every meal — he just decided to be happy about everything,” said his son.
The longtime New Mexico resident was a staple on series of the 1960s through 1980s, notably as Bob Newhart’s daffy neighbor, airline pilot Howard Borden, on CBS’ “The Bob Newhart Show” sitcom from 1972 to 1978. In the 1980s, he appeared as psychiatrist Dr. Larry Dykstra on NBC’s “ALF.”
Newhart remembered his co-star from their early days in the Chicago comedy scene in the 1950s.
“I called him our bullpen man. Whenever we were having trouble with a script on the show, we’d have Bill make an appearance,” Newhart said. “In recent years we had hoped to have Bill be a part of ‘The Bob Newhart Show’ tributes at the TV Academy but by then he was no longer traveling. He was one of the most positive people I ever knew and we’ll dearly miss him.”
On “I Dream of Jeannie,” he co-starred with Larry Hagman and Barbara Eden on all five seasons of the NBC sitcom as U.S. Army Captain and then Major Healey, the best friend and fellow astronaut to Hagman, who at one point summons Jeannie by mistake and briefly becomes her new master.
Barbara Eden tweeted, “Our favorite zany astronaut has passed.”
Our favorite zany astronaut, Bill Daily has passed. Billy was wonderful to work with. He was a funny, sweet man that kept us all on our toes. I'm so thankful to have known and worked with that rascal. Until we meet again Billy, xo -B #RIPBillDaily pic.twitter.com/OVZjaWB9CP
— Barbara Eden (@Barbara_Eden) September 8, 2018
In 1980, Daily briefly had his own TV series, “Small & Frye,” but it lasted only three months. A longtime magic fan, he hosted several magic specials.
His other TV appearances included “Bewitched,” “Love Boat,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and “Love, American Style,” as well as recurring roles in the 1980s on “Aloha Paradise” and “Starting from Scratch.”
He returned for several “I Dream of Jeannie” and “The Bob Newhart Show” reunion specials in the 1980s and ’90s. Daily also served as director of the New Mexico Film Commission in the late 1980s.
Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Daily was raised in Chicago and started out doing stand-up and announcing at a Chicago TV station, when he first met Newhart.
He is survived by his son J. Patrick Daily, a key grip for motion pictures.