He Started Off on the Banjo. Then Hollywood Beckoned

George Segal, star of 'The Goldbergs' and 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,' dies at 87
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 24, 2021 8:07 AM CDT
He Started Off on the Banjo. Then Hollywood Beckoned
Cast members of the ABC sitcom "The Goldbergs," including George Segal, third from left, are seen on April 28, 2014, in Beverly Hills, Calif.   (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

George Segal, the banjo player turned actor who was nominated for an Oscar for 1966's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and worked into his late 80s on the ABC sitcom The Goldbergs, died Tuesday in Santa Rosa, Calif., his wife said. "The family is devastated to announce that this morning George Segal passed away due to complications from bypass surgery," Sonia Segal said in a statement, per the AP. He was 87. George Segal was always best known as a comic actor, becoming one of the screen's biggest stars in the 1970s when lighthearted adult comedies thrived. But his most famous role was in the harrowing drama, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, based on Edward Albee's acclaimed play. He was the last surviving credited member of the tiny cast, all four of whom were nominated for Academy Awards: Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton for starring roles, Sandy Dennis and Segal for supporting performances. The women won Oscars, the men didn't.

To younger audiences, he was best known for playing Jack Gallo on the long-running NBC series Just Shoot Me from 1997 to 2003, and as grandfather Albert "Pops" Solomon on ABC's The Goldbergs since 2013. As an undergraduate at Columbia University, Segal organized the musical group Bruno Linch and His Imperial Band, for which he played banjo, and throughout his long acting career, he continued to play the banjo for fun, becoming quite accomplished on the instrument he'd first picked up as a boy. He performed with his own Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band. "Today we lost a legend. It was a true honor being a small part of George Segal's amazing legacy," said Goldbergs creator Adam Goldberg, who based the show on his 1980s childhood. "George was a kid at heart with a magical spark." Segal is survived by his wife and two daughters from a previous marriage.

(More George Segal stories.)

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