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George Riddle, ‘The Onion News Network’ and ‘The Fantasticks’ Actor, Dies at 86


George Riddle, who played the crusty gold digger turned presidential candidate Joad Cressbeckler in the 2011 IFC comedy The onion news network and enjoyed a long run on stage throughout The Fantasticks, has passed away. He turned 86.

Riddle died of colon cancer in North Plainfield, New Jersey, on Friday, his longtime friend Christie Wagner said The Hollywood Reporter.

During his 65-year career, the colorful Riddle appeared in films like Arthur (1981), The innkeepers (2011) and The kitchen (2019) and on episodes of shows including The sopranos And Inside Amy Schumer.

The former circus performer also played Civil War General George Crook in the 1988 television movie The Standing Bear Trialnarrated by William Shatner.

On The onion news networkRiddle gained a legion of fans with his turn as the short-tempered, wildly stubborn Cressbecklerwhose predictions and political analysis were laced with malapropisms and nonsequiturs.

Riddle recorded over 5,000 appearances as The Old Actor The Fantasticksthe longest-running off-Broadway play, beginning with the musical’s debut at The Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village in 1960.

He portrayed the Major General in the Broadway revival of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzancewho debuted at the Uris Theater in 1981, and he joined The follies of Will Rogers as Clem Rogers in 1992 for a three-year tour of the country, earning a Barrymore Award nomination when the musical shut down in Philadelphia.

He also appeared on Broadway in Everything goes in 1988-89 and Stage door Charley in 1995.

Born May 21, 1937, in Auburn, Indiana, Riddle — who said he was a descendant of the Mayflower settlers — started out in the circus, but after falling off the high wire, he turned to a safer pursuit: acting.

He made his acting debut at the Fred Miller Theater in Milwaukee in 1956 and his screen debut in the Marshall Brickman movie. Simon (1980), starring Alan Arkin. His final career credit came for a turn on the Apple TV+ series Small voice in 2020.

A member of The Magic Castle in Hollywood, Riddle amassed a collection of theater and movie memorabilia in his East Village penthouse apartment and loved cars and motorcycles. His main means of transportation in New York for many years was his 1941 Harley-Davidson.

He and Joan Crawford’s daughter Christina (the author of Mom dear) lived together for several years, Wagner noted.

Survivors include his son, René; brother Robert; sister Mary Ellen; and six grandchildren.

Carly Thomas contributed to this report.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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