Family Ties Actors You May Not Know Passed Away – Looper

Family Ties” originally aired on NBC for seven seasons between 1982 and 1989. Set in suburban Ohio, the sitcom drew laughs from the tensions between baby boomer parents Steven (Michael Gross) and Elyse Keaton (Meredith Baxter), and their three children: conservative young entrepreneur Alex (Michael J. Fox), gossipy Mallory (Justine Bateman), and athletic tomboy Jennifer (Tina Yothers). Steven and Elyse were former hippies and are still liberals, but the Keaton children have little interest in their ideals, especially the Reagan-era Republican Alex.
The series proved to be a hit, with the preppy, suit-wearing Alex Keaton especially becoming a breakout character thanks to Fox’s likable presence. Ultimately “Family Ties” is well-remembered by fans despite ending more than three decades ago. Both Fox and Bateman continue to perform in film and television, and creator Gary Goldberg was behind the sitcom “Spin City” (also starring Fox) and the romantic comedy “Must Love Dogs” before dying in 2013.
Since the show aired its series finale in 1989, several actors who appeared on the popular sitcom have themselves passed on. Here is a list of “Family Ties” actors you may not have known passed away.

Actor James Karen guest-starred in the “Family Ties” Season 2 episode “‘M’ Is For The Many Things” as Philip, a boyfriend of Elyse’s mother. But Karen also appeared in an incredible amount of film and television over the course of his life to the extent that his face could be instantly recognizable to any media fan.
Arguably he is best known as Mr. Teague, the greedy real estate developer who builds a suburban paradise on an indigenous burial ground in “Poltergeist,” but his roles in “The Return of the Living Dead” and “The China Syndrome” would also be familiar to audiences.
Karen originally began as a stage actor but eventually began a prolific screen career, racking up an astounding 204 acting credits (via The Hollywood Reporter). He may have been too good of an actor, however: the performer was so dastardly on “Little House of The Prairie” as villain Nathan Lassiter that truck drivers yelled at him when he was on the street. Karen died on October 23, 2018, at the age of 94.

The “Family Ties” Season 3 episode “Keaton and Son” saw Frances Bay appear as Mrs. Florence Menlo. Bay first got started in show business as a radio actress in the 1930’s, (via HuffPost) but she didn’t land film and television roles until the Seventies when she was well into middle age. Bay had a knack for comedy that allowed her to become a beloved character actress in her senior years. David Lynch also saw something darker in her deceptively sweet performances, casting her in “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” and “Wild At Heart.”
She was a featured performer in films like “Big Top Pee-Wee” and “Happy Gilmore” as well as sitcoms such as “Seinfeld,” where she was famously robbed by Jerry over a loaf of rare marble rye bread. Still acting into her ninth decade, one of Bay’s final roles was as a recurring character Aunt Ginny in the 2009 sitcom “The Middle.” The actress died of pneumonia complications at the age of 92 in 2011, ending a career that had spanned seventy years (via The AV Club).

Actor Willie Garson only had a minor guest-starring role on “Family Ties” in the late Season 4 episode “Paper Chase,” joining his other appearances on sitcoms like “Cheers” and “Mad About You.” Eventually, he found household fame when he began a recurring role on “Sex & The City” as Carrie’s best friend Stanford Blatch, a witty gay man whose love life is almost as complicated as the main four characters. Garson appeared in 30 episodes of the series as well as the movie “Sex & The City 2.”
He also had a regular role in 77 episodes of the USA series “White Collar” as Mozzie, a loveable con man who regularly aids Neal with his investigations. Garson continued to act up until his death at age 57 from illness, including appearances in “Big Mouth,” “Supergirl,” and CBS series “Hawaii Five-0.” But fans like Allyson Shiffman of Vogue will always associate him with the beloved Stanford: “At once brashly confident and deeply insecure. Stanford’s magic came from the nuance, comedic timing and unstoppable charisma of actor Willie Garson.”

Though the two-part episode in Season 1, entitled “The Fugitive,” featured an eventually massive guest star in Tom Hanks as Elyse’s suspicious brother Ned Donnelly, the installment also had character actor Richard Venture come on the show as Agent Bert Carlyle.
Venture was an acting veteran who performed in more than eighty movies over several decades. Often cast as authoritarians such as Carlyle, the actor had standout roles in “Being There,” “All The President’s Men” and “Scent of a Woman,” where he famously clashed with Al Pacino at Thanksgiving. He also played Elaine’s terrifying father in an episode of “Seinfeld” and made many TV appearances on other series such as “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” and “Law & Order.”
Venture was never nominated for an award but this may have been because he was the kind of dependable, stalwart actor who didn’t draw attention and did what was best for the performance. He died at 94 in 2018 (via Hollywood Reporter), having filmed his last screen appearance several years before in the 2001 film “Series 7: The Contender” (via IMDB).

Doris Belack was featured on the Season 3 episode “Fabric Smarts” as Mrs. Willis but like Venture, her career went much further back than “Family Ties.”
The actress worked on the stage before she found a niche in the soap opera world. She had a recurring part on “One Life To Live” from 1968 to 1977 and appeared on several others, including “The Doctors” (via Variety). This later aided her performance in the Eighties comedy “Tootsie” as the take no prisoners soap opera producer Rita Marshall. Belack would make several other films in later years, including “*batteries not included” and “What About Bob?”
Her later recurring role on “Law and Order” as a tough judge then was perfect casting for such a formidable actress, though younger generations should also know her as the voice of Mrs. Dink on the animated series “Doug” (via IMDB). Her final television role was in a 2003 episode of “Sex and the City,” though she also performed voiceover roles for videogames. Belack died of natural causes on October 4, 2011, aged 85.

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