RANCHO MIRAGE, CALIF. -- Kiel Martin, 46, the actor who played shady detective Johnny "J.D." LaRue on the former NBC television series "Hill Street Blues," died Dec. 28 at his desert home here. He had lung cancer.
He was a regular on the daytime soap opera "The Edge of Night" before joining the Emmy-winning series "Hill Street Blues" as a sleazy vice cop always in some kind of trouble, usually involving money. The LaRue character routinely tried to snare his fellow officers at the Hill Street station in get-rich-quick schemes that usually went sour.
"He's a total opportunist and quite unrealistic toward advancement and success," Mr. Martin once said of the character. "But he's a very good cop, which is something that not many people mention."
Mr. Martin said he worked "with a lot of cops" on getting the character right.
In its seven seasons, "Hill Street Blues" won more than 25 Emmys and was considered a ground-breaking series that introduced a new level of realism laced with dark humor to television's police drama format.
Mr. Martin was born in Pittsburgh and raised in Miami. He said he was "trouble as a kid." According to his studio biography, his father urged a high school drama coach to allow him to try out for a bit role in "Finian's Rainbow." He got the lead instead.
Mr. Martin began his professional acting career in Florida repertory theater. After moving to New York in the mid-1960s, he became a stand-up comedian, a dockworker and a musician.
Mr. Martin was signed to a Universal Studios contract in 1967, but his fledgling career suffered a setback when he crashed his motorcycle into a tree. He broke 15 bones in the accident and spent two years recuperating.
After the popular "Hill Street" series was canceled in 1987, Mr. Martin played a dead man given a new shot at life in "Second Chance," a short-lived Fox television series. Also that year, he co-starred in the NBC-TV movie "Convicted: A Mother's Story" with Ann Jillian.
His film credits include "The Panic in Needle Park" in 1971 and "The Lolly Madonna War" in 1973. His other television credits include "Murder She Wrote," "L.A. Law" and "The Blue Knight."
Survivors include his mother and a daughter.