Actor George Gaynes always did “beleaguered” well. In the 1980s, he embodied the world-weariness of foster parent Henry Warnimont in Punky Brewster. He also played Commandant Eric Lassard in several Police Academy movies, which was another spin on the same characteristic. Those were his two most prominent roles, although Gaynes will also be remembered as the soap-opera star who fell in love with Dustin Hoffman’s titular Tootsie character. Gaynes’ IMDb profile reveals nearly a hundred other television (and movie) appearances, which included a handful of singing roles where he showed off his rip-roaring baritone.
According to Variety, Gaynes died at his daughter’s Washington home on Monday. He was a character actor with the bold voice of a leading man, and although he gathered up Bonanza, Hawaii Five-O, and The Six Million Dollar Man on his resumé, the nostalgia rides high for Punky Power. At age 98, Gaynes no doubt still evoked the young child trapped in a faux-grumpy visage that we knew so well from Sunday nights on NBC.
While Gaynes never achieved household-name recognition, he was content to disappear into his characters. So, he will forever be remembered as the father figure and friend of a young, orphaned girl. Though Punky Brewster went off the rails in season three, we still received two wonderful seasons of Gaynes and Soleil Moon Frye as a newfound father and daughter. The show was as honest as it was bittersweet. Let’s relive some Punky Power in this clip.