GLENDALE, CALIF. -- Vic Tayback, 60, the actor who played Mel, the crusty diner owner on the old "Alice" television series, died of a heart attack May 25 at Glendale Adventist Hospital. He was stricken at his home here.
Mr. Tayback, who underwent triple bypass heart surgery in 1983, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. He attended Glendale Community College and the Frederick A. Speare School of Radio and TV Broadcasting. Before turning to acting full time, he was a bank teller and a cabdriver.
Although he was best known to TV viewers as the loudmouth Mel Sharples for nine years, Mr. Tayback played supporting roles in numerous motion pictures, including "Papillon," "Bullitt" and "The Choirboys."
His TV movie credits included "They Call it Murder" in 1971, "The Night the City Screamed" in 1980, "The Jesse Owens Story" in 1984 and "The Three Kings" in 1987.
On "Alice," Mr. Tayback took a lot of kidding about his cooking and it became a running gag on the CBS comedy series. "If I walked into a restaurant, the other diners would look around and say, 'I hope you're not cooking,' " Mr. Tayback said in a 1985 interview.
It was just the sort of thing Heinz U.S.A. was looking for in a new spokesman for its Heinz 57 Sauce. The theme was, "I used to be a lousy cook."
Mr. Tayback said his many commercials over the years were responsible for sustaining him in the business.
"I tell young actors to do anything that will sustain them. Too many actors get on an ego trip and won't do commercials, so they sit around for 20 years between jobs," he said.
After the end of the "Alice" series in 1985, Mr. Tayback returned to the stage, starring in such plays as "12 Angry Men" and "Death of a Salesman."
He is survived by his wife, Sheila, and a son, Christopher.