Walker Edmiston, an early Los Angeles television kiddie-show host and puppeteer who had a long career as a versatile voice-over artist whose credits include several of Sid and Marty Krofft's live-action children's TV series in the '60s and '70s, has died. He was 81.
Mr. Edmiston, who voiced Ernie the Keebler elf in recent years, died of complications from cancer Feb. 15 at his home in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles, said his daughter, Erin Edmiston.
Early on during his nearly six-decade acting career, Mr. Edmiston became the replacement voice for Walter Lantz's animated character Wally Walrus, and for a time he did incidental voices and puppetry on the award-winning "Time for Beany" children's show in the early '50s.
Mr. Edmiston also hosted a local children's program in the '50s and early '60s, "The Walker Edmiston Show." The afternoon show featured puppets that Mr. Edmiston designed and made.
For the Kroffts in the late 1960s and 1970s, Mr. Edmiston did numerous voices, including Dr. Blinkey and Orson the Vulture on "H.R. Pufnstuf," Sparky the Firefly on "The Bugaloos," Enik on "Land of the Lost" and Sigmund Ooze -- and Sigmund's brothers Blurp and Slurp -- on "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters."
"Walker was one of the most talented voice people in town," said producer Marty Krofft. "He had such a tremendous voice range and, especially for the Krofft shows, he could do everything."
During the 1950s, Mr. Edmiston played Fester on a record spoof of the hit TV western "Gunsmoke" called "Mr. Grillon." He reprised his spoof of Dennis Weaver's Chester character on a "Gunsmoke"-spoofing episode of TV's "Maverick" called "Gun-Shy."
In the wake of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's 1959 visit to the United States, Mr. Edmiston also recorded the novelty tune "I Dreamt I Saw Khrushchev (in a Pink Cadillac)." (He did half the record in the voice of Barky the Dog and half as Khrushchev.)
Mr. Edmiston, who began imitating Lionel Barrymore and other movie celebrities as a child to entertain his family while growing up in the 1930s, could do impressions of everyone from Red Skelton to Lawrence Welk.
Actor Will Ryan said Mr. Edmiston's versatility was exemplified on "Adventures in Odyssey," a radio series set in a small town produced by the nonprofit Focus on the Family. He had been with the show, in its 19th year, since the first episode.
"He played the nicest guy in town named Tom Riley," said Ryan, a fellow cast member, adding that when "a really sleazy character" was added to the show several years after the start, Walker did that character as well.
"It was fun because sometimes there'd be a page or two of dialogue between the two of them," Ryan said.
As an actor, Mr. Edmiston also appeared frequently in episodes of shows such as "Gunsmoke," "The Big Valley," "Mission: Impossible," "Batman," "The Dukes of Hazzard" and "Knots Landing."
Mr. Edmiston's daughter, his sole survivor, said he continued working until "he got really sick this past January."
His wife of 48 years, Evelyn Edmiston, died in 1998. His other daughter, Andria, died in 1987.