Bill Dana, the entertainer who was known best for his dialect comedy embodied in the character José Jiménez, died Thursday, June 15, 2017, according to multiple news sources. He was 92.
Dana created and, with a thick accent, played the Bolivian character José Jiménez, frequently as an astronaut, on television programs. He created the character in 1959.
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Dana was born William Szathmary Oct. 5, 1924, in Quincy, Massachusetts. He later created the Dana stage name, altering the first name of his mother, Dena.
Dana served in the U.S. Army during World War II, earning a Bronze Star as a combat infantryman. After the war, he began his career as an NBC page. At night, he performed in New York City nightclubs along with partner Gene Wood.
In the 1950s, he performed on “The Imogene Coca Show,” “The Danny Thomas Show,” and “The Martha Raye Show.” Dana also wrote for and produced “The Spike Jones Show.”
Dana’s career began to be noticed after he wrote comedy routines for the stand-up comedian Don Adams. Among them was the “Would you believe?” routine that Adams later used on his sitcom “Get Smart.” With that success, Dana was hired to write for “The Steve Allen Show,” the program for which he originated the Jiménez character for Allen’s “Man in the Street” interviews. Dana also played Jiménez on “The Ed Sullivan Show” as well as Dana’s eponymous sitcom, which aired from 1963 to 1965; he played the character as a clumsy bellhop.
Dana also wrote for several television shows, and he penned lines including those for the episode of “All in the Family” that featured the actor and singer Sammy Davis Jr.
In the 1990s, he played Uncle Angelo on “The Golden Girls.”
In 1997, Dana received an image award from the National Hispanic Media Coalition.
Dana is survived by his wife, the former Evelyn Shular.
Published by San Antonio Express-News on Jun. 19, 2017.