×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Katherine Helmond, ‘Who’s the Boss?’ and ‘Soap’ Star, Dies at 89

Emmy-nominated actress Katherine Helmond, best known for her role on “Who’s the Boss?,” died on Feb. 23 at her Los Angeles home due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. She was 89.

The star, whose career spanned more than five decades, played matriarch Jessica Tate on Billy Crystal’s primetime soap sitcom, aptly titled “Soap,” which ran from 1977 to 1981. She nabbed four actress Emmy nominations for the role. Helmond portrayed another famous mom, saucy Mona Robinson, in another ABC hit series, “Who’s the Boss?” (1984–1992). The role landed her two supporting actress Emmy noms.

Katherine Helmond Dead Who's The Boss

Helmond also had a recurring roles as Doris Sherman on ABC’s “Coach” (1995-1997), opposite Craig T. Nelson and Jerry Van Dyke, and as Debra Barone’s mother Lois Whelan, alongside Ray Romano and Patricia Heaton, on CBS’ massive hit “Everybody Loves Raymond” (1996-2004).

Born on Galveston Island in Texas on July 5, 1929, Katherine Marie Helmond was the only child of Joseph and Thelma Helmond. Her father was a fireman and her mother a housewife. Her parents divorced a few years after she was born, and she was raised in a strict Roman Catholic tradition by her mother and grandmother.

In addition to her TV work, the veteran actress also took Broadway by storm. She was nominated for a Tony in 1973 for her performance in Eugene O’Neill’s “The Great God Brown.” She also appeared in the plays “Private Lives,” “Don Juan,” and “Mixed Emotions.”

On the film front, Helmond was a regular collaborator of Monty Python director Terry Gilliam, starring in three of his films, namely “Time Bandits” (1981), “Brazil” (1985), and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (1998). Helmond’s casting in “Time Bandits” wasn’t exactly conventional, as she got the part only after Gilliam’s original choice for the role, Ruth Gordon, broke her leg while shooting a Clint Eastwood movie.

In “Brazil,” Helmond played the cosmetic surgery-addicted mother to Jonathan Pryce’s central character. Gilliam is said to have called her up to offer her the part, saying, “I have a part for you, and I want you to come over and do it, but you’re not going to look very nice in it.” Sure enough, she spent several hours a day with her face covered in a mask, which caused her to develop blisters.

Despite many difficult times on set, Helmond “never fell out of love” with acting.

“I felt I blossomed as a person when I got a chance to act,” she said. “It’s been like an incredible marriage that really worked. I enjoyed every minute of it.”

Her other major films include a gravestone-kicking character in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Family Plot” (1976), and the haughty Edith Mintz, who at one point threatens to castrate the main character played by Edward Herrmann, in Garry Marshall’s “Overboard” (1987). More recently, Helmond voiced the Ford Model T Lizzie in Disney/Pixar’s three “Cars” films.

Her “Who’s the Boss?” co-star Judith Light described Helmond as a “gift to our business and to the world” in a statement.

“Katherine Helmond was a remarkable human being and an extraordinary artist; generous, gracious, charming, and profoundly funny,” Light said. “She taught me so much about life and inspired me indelibly by watching her work. Katherine was a gift to our business and to the world, and will be deeply missed.”

Another “Who’s the Boss?” co-star, Alyssa Milano, is among those who have taken to Twitter to pay their respects.

“Katherine Helmond has passed away. My beautiful, kind, funny, gracious, compassionate, rock. You were an instrumental part of my life. You taught me to hold my head above the marsh! You taught me to do anything for a laugh! What an example you were! Rest In Peace, Katherine,” Milano tweeted.

Helmond is survived by her husband, David Christian, who said the following after her death was announced:

“She was the love of my life,” Christian said. “We spent 57 beautiful, wonderful, loving years together, which I will treasure forever. I’ve been with Katherine since I was 19 years old. The night she died, I saw that the moon was exactly half-full, just as I am now … half of what I’ve been my entire adult life.”

More TV

  • Prince Albert II of Monaco (C),

    Jessica Alba, Gabrielle Union's 'L.A.’s Finest' Opens Monte Carlo TV Festival

    Prince Albert II of Monaco opened the 59th Monte Carlo Television Festival on Friday at a glittering ceremony at the principality’s Grimaldi Forum attended by Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba. The Hollywood actresses presented the French premiere of their action cop series “L.A.’s Finest,” which has just been renewed for a second season. “You typically [...]

  • Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba'L.A.'s Finest'

    Jessica Alba, Gabrielle Union Speak About Horrific 'L.A.’s Finest' On-Set Accident

    Actresses Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba spoke about how the horrific accident on the set of their action cop series “L.A.’s Finest” affected them and the crew at the 59th Monte Carlo Television Festival Saturday. They also paid tribute to the main victim of the incident, executive producer/co-showrunner Brandon Sonnier, whose leg was amputated below [...]

  • Emmys: How a Social Media Campaign

    How a Social Media Campaign to Game the Emmys Led to This Week's 'Block Voting' Scandal

    The Television Academy’s “block voting” controversy has quickly become the talk of Emmy season — and that appears to have been the org’s point. According to multiple insiders, the number of people disqualified from voting in this year’s competition is believed to be small, only around three members (out of nearly 25,000 members overall). But [...]

  • No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No

    TV News Roundup: Hulu Drops Trailer for 'Veronica Mars' Revival (Watch)

    In today’s roundup, Hulu dropped the official trailer for the “Veronica Mars” revival and HBO revealed more cast members for “Lovecraft Country.” FIRST LOOKS Hulu has dropped the official trailer for its revival of “Veronica Mars,” set to premiere on July 26. The series will bring back most of the original cast, including Kristen Bell, Jason [...]

  • Dan Stevens

    'Legion' Star Dan Stevens Says His Character Would Fight Thanos, 'Wreak Havoc' in MCU

    Dan Stevens said his powerful, telepathic mutant Legion would do some serious damage if he ever crossed over from the eponymous FX series into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Legion would wreak havoc. He’d probably take on Thanos, let’s see that,” he told Variety on the red carpet at the premiere of the trippy, mind-bending superhero series [...]

  • Viacom CEO Bob Bakish

    Bob Bakish Talks Pluto TV, Netflix and CBS-Viacom Merger Rumors

    Viacom CEO Bob Bakish knows that a lot of his peers are in the original content space in streaming, but he believes the company’s ad-supported free service Pluto TV is better off relying on Viacom’s library of content. “We can debate a lot of things about the future, but in the near term, the opportunity [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content