'I Dream of Jeannie' actor Bill Daily dies at 91

Obit Bill Daily Bill Daily | PTI

Bill Daily, the actor known for his role as Major Healy in the famous TV show, I Dream of Jeannie and for his role in the The Bob Newhart Show, died, a family spokesman said on September 8.

Daily died of natural causes in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on September 4, at his home where he had been living with his son, J. Patrick Daily.

Daily was a familiar face to many millions of baby-boomer viewers in the 1960s and ’70s from two of the era’s biggest shows.

He played Major Roger Healy in all five seasons of I Dream of Jeannie. He played the role of the astronaut partner to Larry Hagman’s Major Anthony Nelson as both men tried to contain the antics of Jeannie, the childlike bombshell who lived in a bottle.

Eden said on Twitter the night of September 7 that Daily was “Our favorite zany astronaut.”

“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,” she wrote.

Just two years later he landed a very similar role on The Bob Newhart Show, playing aviator Howard Borden behind Newhart’s psychologist Dr. Bob Hartley between 1972 and 1978.

Newhart, now 89, said that he and Daily had been friends since both were trying to break into comedy in Chicago in the 1950s, and Daily was a clutch comedian that could make anything work on the sitcom.

Daily saved scenes instead of stealing them like other sidekicks of the era. He specialized in support, upping the comic moments of his co-stars — his Newhart character was, fittingly, a co-pilot—with a goofy warmth.

But like all co-stars on long-running shows, he got occasional episodes of his own, including one where he stole the role of Jeannie’s master from Hagman.

Daily was born in Des Moines, Iowa, but raised in Chicago.

Before acting, he tried to make it as a jazz bass player, playing in a combo called 'Jack and the Beanstalks.' He also appeared in variety shows drew him into standup comedy and then acting.

He landed one-off roles on the oddball shows of the early 1960s like My Mother the Car and Bewitched, which brought him to the attention of the creators of I Dream of Jeannie.

He said his work at first was derivative, and not very good.

On The Bob Newhart Show, Daily’s Howard Borden was the neighbor across the hall who always popped in looking to borrow or mooch something, like Kramer on Seinfeld two decades later.

He said the writers and his co-stars made the part a breeze.

“I just think the scripts were just written so beautifully,” Daily said in an earlier interview. Daily later appeared on game shows and in reunion specials for his two shows, and in later years hung out with his co-stars on the nostalgia convention circuit.

In his last well-known role, he played a psychiatrist on the cult hit alien-puppet sitcom Alf from 1987 to 1989.

Daily was married three times. His third wife, Becky Daily, died in 2010 after 17 years of marriage.

He adopted two children, daughter Kimberly and son J. Patrick Daily. He had been living for several years in New Mexico with his son and son’s wife Sharon.

At Bill Daily’s request no funeral is planned. He just wanted his loved ones to have a party, which is tentatively planned for next year, the family said.