In this May 26, 2006, file photo, Katherine Helmond arrives for the premiere of the Disney/Pixar animated film “Cars” at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. Helmond, best known as the grandmother who was hot for housekeeper Tony Danza on Who’s The Boss died last Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, of complications from Alzheimer disease at her home in Los Angeles, her talent agency APA announced Friday, March 1, 2019. She was 89. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

In this May 26, 2006, file photo, Katherine Helmond arrives for the premiere of the Disney/Pixar animated film “Cars” at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. Helmond, best known as the grandmother who was hot for housekeeper Tony Danza on Who’s The Boss died last Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, of complications from Alzheimer disease at her home in Los Angeles, her talent agency APA announced Friday, March 1, 2019. She was 89. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

‘Who’s the Boss?’ and ‘Soap’ actress Katherine Helmond dies

Helmond died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease

Actress Katherine Helmond, an Emmy-nominated and Golden Globe-winning actress who played two very different matriarchs on the ABC sitcoms “Who’s the Boss?” and “Soap,” has died, her talent agency said Friday. She was 89.

Helmond died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease last Saturday at her home in Los Angeles, talent agency APA said in a statement.

READ MORE: Peter Tork, Monkees’ lovable bass-guitar player, dies at 77

A native of Galveston, Texas, Helmond’s credits date back to the 1950s and she worked steadily in small roles through the decades. But her real fame, and all seven of her Emmy nominations, didn’t start arriving until she was nearly 50.

She was probably best known for playing Mona Robinson, Judith Light’s mother on “Who’s the Boss?,” which also starred Tony Danza and a young Alyssa Milano.

She won a best supporting Golden Globe for her work in 1989.

“My beautiful, kind, funny, gracious, compassionate, rock,” Milano mourned on Twitter. “You were an instrumental part of my life. You taught me to hold my head above the marsh! You taught me to do anything for a laugh! What an example you were!”

On the show, Light was an uptight single mother who hired the 1980s heartthrob Danza to be her live-in housekeeper, and Helmond was her foil, a lover of nightlife, pursuer of men and flaunter of sexuality who would have been at home on “The Golden Girls,” which ran during the same years.

“Katherine Helmond was a remarkable human being and an extraordinary artist; generous, gracious, charming and profoundly funny,” Light said in a statement. “She taught me so much about life and inspired me indelibly by watching her work. Katherine was a gift to our business and to the world.”

Danza tweeted, “We all lost a national treasure today. No words can measure my love.”

An only child, raised by her mother and grandmother, who began acting while a girl in Catholic school, Helmond began her professional career in theatre and returned to it often, earning a Tony Award nomination in 1973 for her Broadway role in Eugene O’Neill’s “The Great God Brown.”

She was a favourite of director Terry Gilliam, who put her in his films “Brazil,” ”Time Bandits,” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

In “Brazil,” a dystopian comedy from 1985, she played a surgery-addicted woman whose elastic face became one of the most memorable images from the cult film.

Her major break came with “Soap,” a parody of soap operas that aired from 1977 to 1981. She played wealthy matriarch Jessica Tate, one of two main characters on the show, which co-starred Robert Guillaume and was also a breakthrough for Billy Crystal, who played her nephew.

She was nominated for Emmys for all four seasons of the show and won a best actress in a comedy Golden Globe in 1981.

Helmond kept working into her 80s doing mostly voice work, most notably as the Model T Lizzie in the Pixar “Cars” films.

She had a recurring role on “Everybody Loves Raymond” from 1996 to 2004 as the title character’s mother-in-law.

“Katherine Helmond was such a class act and incredibly down to earth,” tweeted actress Patricia Heaton, who co-starred with Ray Romano on the show. “She was terrific as my mother on ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ and I looked up to her as a role model.”

She is survived by her husband of 57 years, David Christian, her half-sister, Alice Parry, and many nieces and nephews, her agency’s statement said.

A memorial is being planned.

Andrew Dalton, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Orca 1
Orcas: Our Shared Future

Royal BC Museum dives into the world of orcas with upcoming feature exhibition

Joan Miller with the Vancouver Island North Regional Film Commission says there’s much room for optimism in the region rebounding from COVID-19 and is excited about what the future holds for the region. Black Press File Photo
North Island film industry optimistic about post-COVID rebound

Interest in filming here is still high, according to film commission, once things open back up

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, has been filming in Langford and Colwood over the past two weeks. On April 7, filming will take place on the east side of the Esquimalt Lagoon. (Black Press Media file)
Netflix series ‘Maid’ filming in Colwood

10-episode Warner Bros. production filmed exclusively in Greater Victoria

Victoria mural artists Joshua Lundrigan (from left) and Paul Archer join Rob Chyzowski, co-owner of Belleville’s Watering Hole and Diner in front of an Archer-designed mural that went up on Thursday at the Inner Harbour restaurant. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Positivity rules with new outdoor mural from Victoria artist

Paul Archer teams with Belleville’s Watering Hole and Diner for patio project

Donna Jones, who was born and raised in the Cowichan Valley, is the executive director of the documentary ‘Bobbi Jo: Under the Influence’. (Submitted)
Islander produces documentary offering hope to those with addictions

Donna Jones and husband Brent just released Bobbi Jo: Under the Influence

‘Frank Ney’ by Patrick Flavin, ‘Millstone River Upper Falls’ by John Collison Baker, ‘Labyrinth of Dreams’ by MA Molcan, ‘On the Other Side’ by Liana Ravensbergen, ‘December Snow’ by Laurel Karjala and ‘Jacks Point’ by Dana Smiley (cropped, clockwise from top-left) are among the works in the Nanaimo Arts Council’s latest exhibition. (Photos courtesy Nanaimo Arts Council)
Nanaimo Arts Council presents its first online gallery show

Submissions now open for upcoming ‘Ekphrastic Celebration’ show

Dorothy Sevcov’s exhibition ‘Having Fun With Acrylics’ is on display at Art 10 Gallery until the end of the month. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Experimental paintings now on exhibit at Nanaimo’s Art 10 Gallery

Dorothy Sevcov’s ‘Having Fun With Acrylics’ on display through April

Courtenay artist Christine Boyer presents Alongside My Path: Native Wildflowers of Canada at Gallery Merrick from April 9 to 23. (Photo courtesy Christine Boyer)
Island painter shows off the wildflowers of Western Canada in first solo show

Courtenay’s Christine Boyer presents floral exhibit at Nanaimo’s Gallery Merrick

Nanaimo Harbourfront Library librarian April Ripley led the effort to create a Vancouver Island poetry booklet in recognition of National Poetry Month. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Harbourfront Library publishes booklet for National Poetry Month

Collection features winners of ‘Poem in your Pocket’ contest

SENCOTEN language revitalizationist and filmmaker Renee Sampson’s short film, Bringing Our Language Back to LIfe, shows online during the Reel 2 Real International Youth Film Festival, April 14-23. (Photo courtesy Wapikoni)
SENCOTEN language featured in short film created on Saanich Peninsula

Renee Sampson film highlights importance of passing on traditional languages to youth

The area surrounding the Chemainus Rotary Club’s bunker door is one of the new surfaces that will feature a mural. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Up to three new murals coming to Chemainus

Project will be coordinated between the Rotary Club and Festival of Murals Society

Jules Sherred, photographer and owner of Polaris Creative, is putting together an exhibit that combines two of his greatest passions: food and advocacy for those with disabilities. (Polaris Creative photo)
Kickstarter launches for fully accessible exhibit focused on food

Raising awareness has been Sherred’s life’s work.

Sooke artist Jessica Ruth Freedman is one of nine virtual in-residence artists who share the creative process, conduct webinars, write and offer sage advice with artsUNITE, a free online wayfinding platform for artists. (Contributed - Jessica Ruth Freedman)
Sooke artist joins artsUNITE, getting creative through pandemic

National program brings much-needed support to arts community

Most Read