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Farewell Martin Crane: John Mahoney – 1940-2018

I never need an excuse to binge-watch “Frasier,” my all-time favorite show. But it seemed like a fitting way to honor its patriarch, John Mahoney, who recently passed away at 77.

It almost seems unfathomable that he’s gone: he’s never really been young to us and it seemed as though he’d be around forever.

John Mahoney Headshot

Although he’d spent years as an ensemble member at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, film viewers were first introduced to Mahoney in Barry Levinson’s “Tin Men” in 1987. Other roles soon followed, including a somewhat tragic turn as Ione Skye’s dad in Cameron Crowe’s “Say Anything…” (I can never hear “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” without thinking of him) and a memorable appearance in “Moonstruck” opposite Olympia Dukakis.

But with “Frasier,” he found both critical and commercial success. What Mahoney brought to the role wasn’t just your stereotypical sitcom “crotchety old man,” he also had a warmth that radiated and enveloped you in every episode. You wanted a Martin Crane in your life. He was the TV dad for a generation of kids who were maybe a little weird; who didn’t quite fit into the mold of what society expected.

I was one of those kids. I grew up with Martin Crane. He was my TV dad.

Much like Martin’s beloved chair was the centerpiece of Frasier’s apartment, Mahoney was the heart of the show. Even though Martin didn’t always relate to or understand Frasier and Niles, he loved them unconditionally.

The show would ultimately earn him two Emmy nominations and a place in TV history.

Set of the NBC Sitcom Frasier

Of course, it’s not fair to only mention “Frasier” when talking about his career. Mahoney has an impressive and plentiful résumé, popping up in films like “Primal Fear,” John Sayles’ “Eight Men Out” and the Coen brothers’ underrated “Barton Fink” and the not so underrated “The Hudsucker Proxy.”

But if you really want to dive into Mahoney’s filmography, you owe it to yourself to watch Greg Berlanti’s “The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy.” Once again the beloved patriarch, Mahoney’s Jack mentors a group of young, gay friends in West Hollywood as they navigate the ups and downs of their lives. It’s a charming, but not-so clichéd, film about finding yourself and being true to that.

Since his death, numerous tributes have been written and expressed on social media, which has made this “Frasier” fan smile a little bit, knowing that so many loved and adored a man who was a childhood staple of mine.

I think if we really want to honor John, we should live by his example: be kind to one another and never be afraid to take risks. He was 37 and working as an editor of a medical journal when he decided to become an actor. 37. Think about that. Hold onto that if you’re not where you want to be in life. It’s never too late to make a change.

As Jack said in “Broken Hearts Club,” “there’s a difference between being happy and being happy.”

I think John would probably echo that sentiment. So, grab a can of Ballantine and raise a toast to Marty Crane – and one of the all-time greats, John Mahoney.

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