Character actor Irwin Keyes, known for his roles as George Jefferson’s occasional bodyguard on The Jeffersons, Wheezy Joe in Intolerable Cruelty, and a host of roles in horror films including House of 1000 Corpses, died Wednesday at his home in Playa Del Rey, Calif. He was 63.
Keyes died of acromegaly, a rare pituitary gland disorder, his manager Phil Brock confirmed to EW. He had been in a rehabilitation center for the past few months.
A New York City native, Keyes first began acting in college, in his school’s production of The Lower Depths, according to IMDb. He went on to have a career spanning nearly four decades, with appearances in a range of television series including Laverne & Shirley, Married with Children, Growing Pains, and CSI, and films such as Friday the 13th, The Flintstones, and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas. A stocky 6’1”, he was often cast as a villain, which Brock tells EW couldn’t be further from what he was really like.
“People would look at him and be instantly afraid of him and then they would meet him talk to him and instantly love him,” said Brock, who worked with Keyes for 20 years and described him as a “dear and close friend.” “He would play villains, but he had the kindest heart of all.”
Keyes is survived by his wife, Tracy Fontaine.