Herve Villechaize, 50, short sidekick on "Fantasy Island'

Published Sept. 5, 1993|Updated Oct. 10, 2005

Herve Villechaize, 50, the diminutive actor whose shout, "The plane, the plane" greeted arriving guests on TV's Fantasy Island in the 1970s and '80s, committed suicide Saturday, his publicist said.

Mr. Villechaize, who left behind a note and tape recording saying he was despondent over health problems, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, said publicist David Brokaw.

The 3-foot-11-inch Villechaize played Tattoo, the comical sidekick to Ricardo Montalban's Mr. Rourke on ABC's Fantasy Island.

"I considered his contribution to Fantasy Island as one of the keys to the tremendous success that the show enjoyed," Montalban said in a statement.

Brokaw said Mr. Villechaize's common-law wife, Kathy Self, found the actor's body in the back yard of their North Hollywood home early Saturday.

Mr. Villechaize had a history of medical problems stemming from his undersized lungs. He nearly died during a bout with pneumonia a year ago, said Brokaw's brother, Sandy, who also worked with the actor.

"It was really touch and go," Sandy Brokaw said. "He really surprised me he made it, but he did."

Mr. Villechaize also suffered from ulcers and a spastic colon.

The French-born actor appeared on Fantasy Island from 1978 to 1983, leaving the series after a salary dispute.

Mr. Villechaize, who was born in Paris, studied to be a painter, but turned to acting after moving to New York. He was a supporting player onstage and in films during the 1960s and 1970s.

He was troubled by legal problems in recent years and found little work after leaving Fantasy Island.

Mr. Villechaize was sentenced to a year's probation and fined $425 in 1985 for illegally carrying a loaded weapon.

He had appeared recently in commercials for Dunkin' Donuts and Coors beer, as well as in an episode of the "Larry Sanders Show.