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Character actor Baer dies at 88

Character actor Baer dies at 88

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LOS ANGELES — Parley Baer, a character actor who was the mayor on "The "Andy Griffith Show," the voice of the Keebler cookie elf in TV commercials and the voice of Chester on radio's "Gunsmoke," has died. He was 88.

Baer died Friday night at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital in Woodland Hills, said his daughter, Kim Baer.

Baer, who lived in Tarzana in the San Fernando Valley, entered the hospital Nov. 11 after a massive stroke. He had only partially recovered from a 1997 stroke that affected his speech, she said.

The jowly, balding actor appeared in more than 50 movies, including 1950s Westerns and 1963's "Gypsy." He was the Senate majority leader in the 1993 movie "Dave."

Baer also made scores of TV appearances in shows ranging from "Bonanza" and "Hogan's Heroes" to "L.A. Law" and "Star Trek: Voyager."

He was the voice of Chester Proudfoot, Dodge City deputy, on radio's "Gunsmoke" in the 1950s and early 1960s. During the same period he was Darby, Ozzie Nelson's next-door neighbor, on TV's "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet."

On Nov. 1, he was guest of honor at a convention for lovers of old-time radio shows.

"Everybody rose and gave him a five-minute standing ovation," longtime family friend Roger Smith said. "It was his last ovation."

"He had a wonderful career. He was in the business since he was 15 one way or another," his daughter said.

Baer was born Aug. 5, 1914 in Salt Lake City, Utah, and got into radio there in the 1930s as an announcer and news director at a local station.

He also was a circus publicist and ringmaster before joining the Army Air Corps in World War II, where as a captain his Pacific service won him seven battles stars, Smith said.

In 1946 he married Ernestine Clarke, a former circus aerialist and bareback rider. She died two years ago.

In addition to his acting career, during the 1950s Baer trained and worked with lions and tigers at the now-defunct Jungleland compound in Thousand Oaks.He had a talent for taming Hollywood disputes as well, Smith recalled.

"On every set and every location, Parley was a target," he said. "They went to Parley with all their problems. He would give them his wisdom."

"When Parley was around, he was never a lead. … But everybody around knew that they could seek him out and talk to him. He was a gifted friend."

In later years Baer was a docent at the Los Angeles Zoo and was on the board of the L.A. Circus, a one-ring community circus.

In addition to Kim Baer, he is survived by a daughter, Dale Sloan, and three grandchildren.

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