He was one of those stars -- think of Paul Lynde -- who threw a wink-and-a-nod lifeline to gay men in the 1970s, when there were no out-of-the-closet men on TV or in movies. He wasn't officially out, of course, but we knew all the same. Charles Nelson Reilly died Friday in Los Angeles; he was 76 and lived in Beverly Hills. The cause was complications of pneumonia, said his partner, Patrick Hughes, his only immediate survivor. He'd been ill for more than a year.
I remember Reilly most from his appearances on the Match Game, where he often sat next to Brett Somers, a primo fag hag if ever there was. (That's the two of them, above.) He was a regular on the Tonight Show, too, showing up more than 95 times, the New York Times says today. But those game show appearances had a downside. "You can't do anything else once you do game shows. You have no career,'' he told The Advocate in 2001. But, in fact, he did, the NYT says: "His final work was an autobiographical one-man show, Save It for the Stage: The Life of Reilly, where he recounted his difficult childhood. Born in the Bronx, the only child of a Swedish mother and an Irish father, he told of his pain in being considered the oddest member of a decidedly odd family." Here's Reilly playing Match Game host with, among others, Eva Gabor: