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Tony-winner Charles Nelson Reilly dies; was best known for his campy persona on 'Match Game'

Reilly died Sunday in Los Angeles of complications from pneumonia, his partner, Patrick Hughes, told The New York Times.

Reilly began his career in New York City, taking acting classes at a studio with Steve McQueen, Geraldine Page and Hal Holbrook. In 1962, he appeared as Bud Frump in the original Broadway production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. The role won Reilly a Tony Award.

He was nominated for a Tony again for playing Cornelius in Hello, Dolly! In 1997, he received another nomination for directing Julie Harris and Charles Durning in a revival of The Gin Game.

He gained fame by becoming what he described as a ''game-show fixture'' in the 1970s and '80s. He was a regular on programs like Match Game and Hollywood Squares, often wearing giant glasses and colorful suits with ascots.

His larger-than-life persona and affinity for double-entendres also landed him on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson more than 95 times.

Reilly's openly gay television persona was ahead of its time and sometimes stood in his way.

He recalled a network executive telling him ``they don't let queers on television.''


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Such a loss we'll miss you! Charles Nelson Reilly was a Gay Icon long before there were any. An amazing artist and talent who will be missed. He had a disarming quality and such a wit that rendered critics powerless. A great gay pioneer with a lot of tenacity and huzpah!

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