For the uninitiated, the Game Show Network offers everyday proof of why Reilly was as much a part of the 1970s as the pet rock. The Internet Broadway Database offers evidence of a career that was much broader than his banter with Brett Somers suggested.
Reilly directed five Broadway plays, appeared in the original productions of Bye Bye Birdie, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Hello, Dolly!, earned three Tony nominations, including one for directing the 1997 production of The Gin Game, and won one, for his supporting work in How to Succeed.
In 2002, Reilly won a Drama Desk Award for his one-man show of an autobiography, Save It for the Stage: The Life of Reilly.
"I was told that I would never be allowed on television," Reilly said in the show's 2006 film version, The Life of Reilly, "and now I gotta try to figure out who do you have to f--- to get off."
The quip offered a good summary of Reilly's career, if not his career dilemma: Once told by a network executive that TV was off-limits to "queers," the Bronx-born actor, who was gay, became known as a TV personality to the exclusion of everything else.
Friday, June 01, 2007
Charles Nelson Reilly, whose award-winning theater career was overshadowed by his knack for filling in the blanks with punchlines on Match Game and other TV game shows, died last Friday from pneumonia. Reilly's partner Patrick Hughes released the news to The New York Times.
It was always fun seeing Reilly on television, because he was so obviously gay at a time when society insisted that lesbians and gay men be invisible. Thank goodness for us all that Reilly refused to be in the closet.