Monday, July 8, 2019

Whatever happened to Maude's Walter (Billy Macy)?

Bill Macy is best known for his role on Maude, a popular sitcom that aired on CBS from 1972 to 1978.  The show was a spin-off of All in the Family with Beatrice Arthur starring as Edith Bunker's outspoken liberal cousin, Maude Findlay.  For six seasons, Bill portrayed Maude's long-suffering fourth husband, Walter Findlay.

After Maude ended, Bea Arthur starred in another hit comedy series, The Golden Girls, along with Betty White and Rue McClanahan. The Golden Girls ran on NBC from 1985 to 1992.  Bea died of lung cancer.on April 25, 2009 at the age of 86.  Bill, however, is still with us at 97.

Bill was born Wolf Martin Garber in Revere, Massachusetts on May 18, 1922, the son of Mollie (née Friedopfer) and Michael Garber, a manufacturer.  Bill was raised in Brooklyn, New York and attended Samuel J. Tilden High School in Brooklyn's East Flashbush district.  He worked as a taxi driver before pursuing an acting career.  That's probably why he portrayed a cab driver in a 1966 episode of the daytime soap, The Edge of Night.

In 1969, Bill appeared in an episode of the crime drama N.Y.P.D. entitled "The Attacker" (Season 2, Episode 16, Air Date: February 4, 1969).  Then came his big break.  He was cast in two 1972 episodes of All in the Family.  In the first episode, "Archie Sees a Mugging" (Season 2, Episode 18, Air Date: January 29, 1972), he played a uniformed police officer.  In the second episode, entitled "Maude" (Season 2, Episode 24, Air Date: March 11, 1972), he played Walter Findlay for the first time.  In the episode, Archie and Edith Bunker travel to upstate New York to attend the wedding of cousin Maude's daughter, Carol.

Maude was the perfect foil for Archie Bunker and his conservative views.  She espoused liberal causes.  She was a staunch Democrat and a feminist.  When Bea Arthur's Maude was spun off into a CBS series of her own, Bill found himself on a hit show.  The series was created by All in the Family producers Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin.  In an interview for the Archive of American Television (now called An Oral History of Television), Lear recalled how he first discovered Bill Macy in an off-Broadway play.  He couldn't remember the name of the play, but he has never forgotten how Bill was choking on a chicken bone.

Maude and Walter Findlay lived in suburban Tuckahoe, Westchester County, New York, where Walter owned Findlay's Friendly Appliances, a household appliance store.  Also living with the couple were Carol Trainor (Adrienne Barbeau), Maude's divorced daughter from her second marriage, and Carol's son, Philip.  Philip Traynor was played by Brian Morrison for the first five seasons and by Kraig Metzinger for the show's final season.  Conrad Bain, who later starred as Phillip Drummond on Diff'rent Strokes, played Dr. Arthur Harmon, the Findlay's sarcastic Republican neighbour.  Arthur was another foil for Maude.

Below is a 1973 photo of Bill Macy and Beatrice Arthur in a scene from Maude.

According to a May 1979 article by Marilyn Beck, Bill complained that he was cut off from Bea Arthur and the rest of the cast when Maude ended.  In the article, he is quoted as saying, "For six years - for six solid years - we saw each other more than we saw our real families.  Then the show closed and it was like a guillotine - snap, sever.  That was it!  Now go figure that out.  I haven't spoken to Bea since - and I certainly wouldn't be presumptuous enough to call her because I respect her privacy and she is a private person.  And it's not only Bea.  I haven't seen or spoken to Conrad Bain, Adrienne Barbeau - none of the cast - since the end of Maude.

After Maude was cancelled, Bill did some stage work in Seattle, Washington and Long Beach, California and he completed a role in the Steve Martin film, The Jerk, a comedy directed by Carl Reiner.  He also appeared on numerous TV series.  In 1979,  he had a recurring role as Louis Harper in four episodes of Hanging In.  He guest-starred in episodes of Hotel (1983), St. Elsewhere (1994), The Love Boat (1984, 1986),  L.A. Law (two 1986 episodes), The Facts of Life (1988), Highway to Heaven (1985, 1988), Murder, She Wrote (1986, 1989), Matlock (1991), Columbo (1993), Diagnosis Murder (1994), NYPD Blue (1995), Chicago Hope (1996)  Bill had a role in two 1996 episodes of Seinfeld as Herb, one of the residents of Del Boca Vista, the Florida retirement home where Jerry Seinfeld's parents resided.

In the 2000s, Bill appeared in episodes of such shows as Touched by an Angel (2000), LAX (2004),
and ER (2004).  He played an aging gambler in a 2006 episode of Las Vegas and Whiskey Pete in a 2007 episode of My Name Is Earl.  According to IMDb, his last television credit is a 2010 episode of Hawthorne entitled "No Exit" (Season 2, Episode 10, Air Date: August 24,2010), in which he played Mr. Rickles.  He retired from acting in 2011.

Bill Macy has been married twice.  His first wife was Judith Janus, but he has been married to actress Samantha Harper since 1975.  Samantha portrayed Sandy in the 1985 film Torchlight and an occupational therapist in the 1977 drama/fantasy film I Never Promised You a Rose Garden..  She appeared as Mrs. L.W. in a 1980 episode of the sitcom Mork and Mindy entitled "Invasion of the  Snatchers" (Season 2, Episode 25, Air Date: March 20, 1980) and as Lois in a 1986 episode of Hill Street Blues entitled "I Come on My Knees) (Season 7, Episode 5, Air Date: November 6, 1986).

Samantha Harper (undated)

Bill and Samantha co-starred in the 1972 film version of the controversial off-Broadway nude comedy revue, Oh! Calcutta!.  Bill was an original cast member of the long-running revue.

More recent photo of Bill Macy


* Bill's wife, Samantha, appeared in three episodes of Maude, two in 1973 ("Maude and the Medical Profession," and "The Office Party," and one in 1975 ("The Christmas Party.").

* Conrad Bain passed away on January 14, 2013, following a stroke.  He died three weeks before his 90th birthday.

Conrad Bain

* Adrienne Barbeau (born June 11, 1945) is now 74 years old.  In 2013, Adrienne Barbeau made a guest appearance as Alice Noone on Sons of Anarchy, an FX series.  She appeared in the sixth season of the series in an episode called "Sweet and Vaded."  Adrienne has been divorced twice and is a mother of three.

2011 photo of Adrienne Barbeau

EDITOR'S UPDATE:  Bill Macy died on October 17, 2019 at the age of 97.

SOURCES: IMDb; Wikipedia; St. Petersburg Times, "Bill Macy: silence from 'Maude' clan," by Marilyn Beck; information, "Bill Macy Biography, Age, Wife, Movies and TV Shows"

- Joanne

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