Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Alex Karras (1935-2012)

News has just come over the wires of the passing of former NFL standout turned actor Alex Karras at 77.

Karras played collegiately at Iowa and led the Hawkeyes to a Big 10 title and a victory in the Rose Bowl, and played his entire NFL career with Detroit, retiring in 1971. During this time, Karras began a successful second career as an actor, appearing as himself in the 1968 film adaptation of George Plimpton's "Paper Lion". Karras more famously had a small role in Mel Brooks' seminal "Blazing Saddles", punching out a horse. ABC hired him as a commentator for Monday Night Football, and Karras was credited with stating that Oakland Raiders defensive lineman Otis Sistrunk, who never went to college, had gone to "the University of Mars".

One thing that Sistrunk & Karras also had in common was professional wrestling. Karras wrestled in, I believe, the AWA in the 60's, moonlighting during the offseason from the Lions, and it served him well while suspended from the NFL in 1963 for gambling. Sistrunk would later swap his shoulder pads for tights and wrestle for Georgia Championship Wrestling, a branch of the NWA, in the early 80's. Karras' mat experience would also serve well during a stint on Match Game in 1975. A lady wrestler, Lola Kiss, was a contestant on the show, and offered to demonstrate some techniques. Panelist Teresa Graves (Get Christie Love!, ex-Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In) tried first, then backed off. Karras was then called on. Movienotes presents this choice clip.......

And, here's Karras as Mongo in "Blazing Saddles", courtesy of TooneyReed:

In the 80's, Karras returned to the spotlight as the adoptive father of Emmanuel Lewis' title character in Webster. Phillipmg78 uploaded the intro:

Earlier this morning, Karras succumbed after complications resulting from kidney failure. Perhaps as early as tomorrow's Steelers-Titans game, the NFL will honor Karras with a moment of silent prayer.

Rest in peace, Alex.


magicdog said...

Indeed. RIP Alex!

I'd heard he was very ill and that he had a few days at most. I remember him fondly from Webster, and MNF.

He was like Bubba Smith & Dick Butkus who managed to successfully move from [football] athlete to acting and he did alright IMO.

It was nice to know he and Susan Clark were still happily married all these years.

magicdog said...

Edited to add:

"Mungo only pawn in game of life!"

I love Blazing Saddles to this day! No one else could have punched a horse with such gusto!

Tom said...

RIP all the Match Game panelists: Charles Nelson, Theresa, Richard, and now Alex.

hobbyfan said...

Tom: Don't forget, we also lost Brett Somers & Gene Rayburn a ways back.

Magicdog: Like Butkus & Smith, Karras did his fair share of commercials, and diversified as he did toy ads as well as beer commercials. I wanted to find a toy ad for Schaper's Super Jock that he made back in '75, but it's not on YouTube. Hey, you can't have everything on hand----yet.

Scott Lahti said...

"Panelist Teresa Graves (Get Christie Love!, ex-Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In) tried first, then backed off."

Barbara McNair, rather.