Van Williams, star of the 1960’s campy crime show “The Green Hornet” died last week at age 82. Longtime friend, actress Pat Priest confirmed the News to Variety after receiving an email from Williams’ widow Vicki Flaxman. Williams died on November 28th in Scottsdale, Arizona of kidney failure. The actor obtained the role of playboy editor/publisher Britt Reid in “The Green Hornet” in 1966 after securing a deal with 20th Century Fox. In the show, his character inherits The Daily Sentinel newspaper from his father, who was falsely imprisoned and died in jail. The injustice prompted Reid to fight bad guys, but unlike other cape crusaders of the day, he chose a mask, fedora and a long coat for his disguise.

During that time, there was another crime fighting series competing for viewers’ attention. “Batman” and his sidekick Robin were very popular with its groovy theme music and their list of villains with cool monikers. The two series even crossed-over with the men making guest appearances on each other’s shows on occasion. However, it was “The Green Hornet” who introduced the world to the the late, great martial artist Bruce Lee, who played Reid’s manservant Kato and partner in crime fighting. Kids and adults alike were mesmerized by Lee’s high kicks and karate chops.

Good looks and connections

Screen siren Elizabeth Taylor’s husband, producer Mike Todd discovered Williams, who was a diving instructor in Hawaii in 1957.

He persuaded Williams to visit Hollywood to try out acting. The advice led to Williams landing a role on the ABC private detective show “Bourbon Street Beat.” The actor later made appearances on shows such as “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “The Beverly Hillbillies.” After retiring from acting, Williams became a fire fighter and a reserve deputy sheriff in Los Angeles.

Another star of yesteryear remembered fondly

Pat Priest told Variety that Williams had been in ill health and suffered from bronchial problems and back injuries for a quite some time, but through it all he stayed strong and rarely spoke of it. She added that they have had fun dinners and he was her mentor.

Van Williams is survived by his wife, five children, and five grandchildren.

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