Don Wilson, 81, the rotund announcer who was Jack Benny's foil on radio and television for more than 40 years, died Sunday in a hospital here after a stroke.
Mr. Wilson was found unconscious Sunday afternoon by his wife, the retired actress Lois Corbet, at their home in Cathedral City, Calif. He was pronounced dead at the Eisenhower Medical Center.
Mr. Wilson moved to the Palm Springs resort area after Benny's television show went out of production in 1965. During the past several years, Mr. Wilson had done commercials and hosted a local afternoon television talk show produced by his wife, often interviewing old friends from Benny's radio and television shows.
Mr. Wilson became Benny's announcer on radio in 1934. He stayed with the show when it successfully moved to television in 1950.
"I'm not really an announcer for Benny in the sense that fellows are on other shows," Mr. Wilson once said in an interview. "The reason for that is because Jack worked me into the cast over the years."
Benny, who died in 1974, often joked on the show about Mr. Wilson's weight. The 6-foot-2 announcer weighed about 240 pounds. The comedian made him sound a lot bigger.
Mr. Wilson's show-business career also included appearances in several Broadway plays, movies and other television shows.
"Jack has been very nice to me," he said. "He doesn't mind me doing other things. Some comedians wouldn't think of letting a character from their show work with other comics, but Jack doesn't even object to that."
Mr. Wilson was born in Lincoln, Neb. He began his career as a singer with a trio that made its radio debut in 1924 on Denver's radio station KFEL. The group toured the mountain states until 1927 and then signed up to sing for one year in San Francisco over KFRC.
Mr. Wilson later moved to Los Angeles where he was an NBC staff announcer. He took his first straight announcing job in 1929. He was a sports announcer for the next four years before joining the Benny show.
He married Miss Corbet in 1950, one year after receiving a divorce from his third wife, dress designer and former Polish countess Marusia Rudunska.