By MICHAEL OLDHAM | Contributing Writer
American television actor Ted Knight was born in Terryville, Connecticut, on December 7, 1923. His last home was in The Highlands—an area that is well suited for celebrities, with its many gated streets.
Knight lived in a house fit for the hugely recognizable small-screen star he had become. The multiple-room home was located high up in the hills above Sunset Boulevard on Camino De Yatasto.
Knight, born Tadeusz Wladyslaw Knopka, studied acting at the Randall School of Dramatic Arts in Hartford while in his 20s. He was most famous for playing the role of a vain and melodramatic newscaster named Ted Baxter on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” The television comedy show, starring the namesake actress, was about a fictional TV news broadcast.
Knight’s character on the “Moore Show” was always immaculately dressed, with his silver, always perfectly combed hair and bright white toothy smile.
The fictional character was a close approximation to Knight: “Ted Baxter is an extension of Ted Knight,” Knight once told TV Guide in an interview. “I’ll never completely divorce myself from that guy.”
Knight, whose full-sounding voice allowed him to earn money as a voice artist, appeared on the very first “Moore Show” episode, “Love is All Around,” as well as the last episode, “The Last Show.” The popular half-hour comedy show ran from 1970 through 1977.
By then, the show had made Knight so famous he once joked about how he would purposely go out of his way to be seen in public.
“Sometimes when I got a little lonely or depressed I would go down to the supermarket in hopes of being recognized,” Knight said. “I would squeeze a few melons and look around surreptitiously. Raise my voice if I had to.”
And while Ted Baxter may have been his most well known role, Knight had been doing many years of TV acting parts prior to the ““The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” In fact, his acting career began in the first grade, as he once told.
“I fell off the couch playing Santa Claus in the first grade because I had forgotten my lines,” he had said. “I got such a big laugh, so I fell off the couch three more times and got bigger laughs, and that’s when I realized my future—the disease hit me. I’ll probably wind up my career falling off couches as Santa Claus.”
During the last several seasons of the “Moore Show,” Knight was living in Pacific Palisades. He had moved here in 1974 from Burbank with his wife, Dorothy, who he married in 1948.
Knight told People magazine in 1982 that Dorothy his “best friend” and “best business partner.” The Knights’ marriage had produced a daughter and two sons.
But by the earlier 1980s, the Knight family was no longer living in their original Palisadian digs, but on Camino De Yatasto. The People article had told of Knight having recently moved into “a new Tudor-style, four-bedroom house in Pacific Palisades.” The 5,000-plus-square-foot house, built in 1981, sits on a 1.37-acre lot.
The Knights could do a lot of relaxation at their home. They could play tennis on their own court, swim in their backyard pool or relax in their own hot tub—all under the Palisadian skies.
By this time, Knight needed plenty of relaxation when home. For he was busy and on top again, starring in another TV hit sitcom called “Too Close for Comfort.” The series began running in 1980, and Knight played the lead role as a kindly and curmudgeonly cartoonist named Henry Rush.
In 1980, Knight had also co-starred in the comedy feature film “Caddyshack” where he played the part of a conservative and rigid judge named Elihu Smails. The movie further propelled Knight’s fame as a top-notch actor who could steal laughs in any scene, no matter who else was in the scene.
But it would all come to an end in 1986: Knight was 62 years old when he passed away on August 26 of that year. He had been battling cancer off and on for years.
In 2002, actress Mary Tyler Moore spoke of Ted Knight with TV talk show host Larry King. “We lost him several years ago,” Moore said. “And I loved that man. I really truly did. He wore his heart on his sleeve.”