The curtain has closed on Red Buttons' long and illustrious career.
The show-biz veteran, whose prolific 60-year career included stints as a Broadway hoofer, stand-up comic and Oscar-winning thespian, died Thursday after a long battle with vascular disease. He was 87.
His publicist, Warren Cowan, said Buttons passed away at his home in the Century City area of Los Angeles, with his family at his side.
A consummate entertainer, Buttons was born Aaron Chwatt Feb. 5, 1919, on Manhattan's Lower East Side. He got his start as a prepubescent, standing on streetcorners and serenading passers-by with his rendition of pop hits.
At 16, Buttons landed a gig as a singing bellhop in a gin mill on New York's City Island, where he earned his lifelong stage name thanks to his fiery hair and button-laden uniform.
He honed his singing and comedy chops in Gotham nightclubs and burlesque theaters and on the Borscht Belt--the group of Jewish-friendly resorts in New York's Catskills Mountains--becoming the youngest comic on the circuit.
Buttons' burgeoning local fame yielded a string of bit parts on Broadway, and despite being drafted in 1943, he appeared in Moss Hart's Winged Victory, a role he reprised in the 1944 film adaptation.
After his discharge, Buttons was offered a contract from CBS in 1952 to star in his own weekly television program. The Red Buttons Show, meant to compete with rival network NBC's Milton Berle Show, was a quick success, making him a superstar within a month of its debut.
The show brought Buttons' songwriting talents to the fore; his comical ditties became the highlight of the show, notably the tunes "Ho-Ho Song" and "Strange Things Are Happening."
Despite declining ratings and rumors of Buttons being a temperamental, if ingenious, boss, the show lasted three years, earned him an Emmy for Best Comedian and launched him into the next phase of his career: movie star.
He played against type in the 1957 Marlon Brando war drama Sayonara, costarring as an American soldier stationed in Japan who battled cultural and racial discrimination in the name of his love for a Japanese woman.
The role made Buttons' career and won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
His film résumé also included hits like They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, The Poseidon Adventure, Hatari! and The Longest Day.
He eventually made his way back to series television with the short-lived The Double Life of Henry Phyfe before becoming a go-to guest star, with stints on Little House on the Prairie, Wonder Woman, Vega$, Roseanne, Knot's Landing, Cosby, Fantasy Island and the inevitable Love Boat, where he made three separate voyages.
He was nominated for an Emmy last year for his recurring guest role as Jules "Ruby" Rubadoux on ER--it was his final screen credit.
A requisite guest at comic roasts, Buttons got his own Friar's Club fete in 1982, where he received a lifetime achievement award. In 1995, he headlined an autobiographical one-man Broadway show, Buttons on Broadway.
Buttons was married three times--to actress Roxanne Arlen in 1947, Helayne McNorton from 1949 to 1963 and Alicia Prats from 1964 to 2001--but was single at the time of his death. He is survived by his two children, Amy and Adam, and a sister.
A private funeral is expected in the coming days; meanwhile, his family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Buttons' name to the West Side German Shepherd Rescue of Los Angeles.