Katherine Helmond, ‘Who’s the Boss?’ and ‘Soap’ star, dies at 89

Emmy-nominated actress Katherine Helmond, best known for her role on “Who’s the Boss?,” died on Feb. 23 at her Los Angeles home due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. She was 89.

The star, whose career spanned more than five decades, played matriarch Jessica Tate on Billy Crystal’s primetime soap sitcom, aptly titled “Soap,” which ran from 1977 to 1981. She nabbed four actress Emmy nominations for the role. Helmond played another famous mom, Mona Robinson, in another ABC hit series, “Who’s the Boss?” (1984–1992). The role landed her two supporting actress Emmy noms.

PHOTOS: Katherine Helmond through her career

29 PHOTOS
Katherine Helmond through her career
See Gallery
Katherine Helmond through her career
SOAP - Show Coverage - Shoot Date: February 13, 1981. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) KATHERINE HELMOND
SOAP - Show Coverage - Shoot Date: November 21, 1980. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) KATHERINE HELMOND;GREGORY SIERRA
WHO'S THE BOSS? - 'There Goes the Bride' - Airdate: October 6, 1987. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)JUDITH LIGHT;KATHERINE HELMOND;TONY DANZA
WHO'S THE BOSS? - 'A Trip to the Principal' - Airdate: October 13, 1987. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)KATHERINE HELMOND
WHO'S THE BOSS? - 'Just Mona and Me' - Airdate: December 8, 1987. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)LESLIE NIELSEN;KATHERINE HELMOND
WHO'S THE BOSS? - 'Steady As She Goes' - Airdate: January 19, 1988. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)ALYSSA MILANO;TONY DANZA;JUDITH LIGHT;KATHERINE HELMOND;DANNY PINTAURO
UNITED STATES - MARCH 01: WHO'S THE BOSS? - 'Three Teens and a Tony' - Season Four - 3/1/88, Tony (Tony Danza) was upset that Samantha had a male friend stay at the house. Katherine Helmond (Mona) also starred., (Photo by Craig Sjodin/ABC via Getty Images)
WHO'S THE BOSS? - 'Marry Me, Mona' - Airdate: March 29, 1988. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)JUDITH LIGHT;KATHERINE HELMOND
WHO'S THE BOSS? - 'Marry Me, Mona' - Airdate: March 29, 1988. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)LESLIE NIELSEN;KATHERINE HELMOND
WHO'S THE BOSS? - 'Sleep Walk Sweet Talk' - Airdate: May 10, 1988. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)KATHERINE HELMOND;ALYSSA MILANO
PASADENA, CA - JUNE 11: Actress Katherine Helmond and husband David Christian attend the opening of 'Sarah In America' on June 11, 1989 at the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, Californi. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 24: Actress Katherine Helmond attends the premiere party for 'Immediate Family' on October 24, 1989 at the Hollywood Palladium in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
UNITED STATES - American actress Katherine Helmond, circa 1990. (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - American actress Katherine Helmond, circa 1990. (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 01: Katherine Helmond (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Actress Katherine Helmond attends the premiere of 'The Fisher King' on September 16, 1991 at the Academy Theater in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
EAST HAMPTON, NY - SEPTEMBER 5: Actress Katherine Helmond attends Hampton Classic Horse Show on September 5, 1993 in East Hampton, New York. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
COACH - Ad / PR Gallery - Shoot Date: July 31, 1995. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) KATHERINE HELMOND
COACH - Ad / PR Gallery - Shoot Date: July 31, 1995. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) CRAIG T. NELSON;KATHERINE HELMOND
COACH - Ad / PR Gallery - Shoot Date: July 31, 1995. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) KATHERINE HELMOND
NEW YORK CITY - FEBRUARY 24: Actress Katherine Helmond attends Arista Records Grammy Party on February 24, 1998 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Actress Katherine Helmond attending 'Scenery Greenery Benefit Party' on July 28, 1984 at Montauk Downs in Monauk, New York. (Photo by Betty Galella/WireImage)
Katherine Helmond during 'Georgia Rule' New York City Premiere - Inside Arrivals at Zigfeld Theatre in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic)
Katherine Helmond at the The Directors Guild Of America in Hollywood, California (Photo by Justin Kahn/WireImage)
Sally Struthers (Samantha), Charlotte Rae (Charlotte), Bea Arthur (Carrie) and Katherine Helmond (Miranda) parody Sex and the City for the TV Land Awards, which will air on TV Land on Wednesday, March 17 at 9 p.m. ET/PT *Exclusive* ***Exclusive*** (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)
Katherine Helmond during HBO Video Hosts Everybody Loves Raymond :The Complete First Season DVD Release Party at Carmine's in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
Katherine Helmond during 11th Annual Art Directors Guild Awards at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage)
MELISSA & JOEY - 'In Lennox We Trust' - Lennox dates the Mayor's son who may not be the good influence Mel thinks he is, on 'Melissa & Joey' airing on 'ABC Family' on Tuesday, October 12 (8:00-8:30 p.m.). (Photo by Randy Holmes/ABC Family via Getty Images) KATHERINE HELMOND
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 13: Actress Katherine Helmond attends the Grand Opening Of 'Cars Land' At Disneyland Resort on June 13, 2012 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Helmond also had a recurring roles as Doris Sherman on ABC’s “Coach” (1995-1997), opposite Craig T. Nelson and Jerry Van Dyke, and as Debra Barone’s mother Lois Whelan, alongside Ray Romano and Patricia Heaton on CBS’ massive hit “Everybody Loves Raymond” (1996-2004).

Born on Galveston Island in Texas on July 5, 1929, Katherine Marie Helmond was the only child of Joseph and Thelma Helmond. Her father was a fireman and her mother a housewife. Her parents divorced a few years after she was born, and the young Katherine was raised in a strict Roman Catholic tradition by her mother and grandmother.

In addition to her TV work, the veteran actress also took Broadway by storm. She won a Tony in 1973 for her performance in Eugene O’Neill’s “The Great God Brown.” She also appeared in the plays “Private Lives,” “Don Juan,” and “Mixed Emotions.”

On the film front, Helmond was a regular collaborator of Monty Python director Terry Gilliam, starring in three of his films, namely “Time Bandits” (1981), “Brazil” (1985), and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (1998). Helmond’s casting in “Time Bandits” wasn’t exactly conventional, as she got the part only after Gilliam’s original choice for the role, Ruth Gordon, broke her leg while shooting a Clint Eastwood movie.

In “Brazil,” Helmond played the cosmetic surgery-addicted mother to Jonathan Pryce’s central character. Gilliam is said to have called her up to offer her the part saying, “”I have a part for you, and I want you to come over and do it, but you’re not going to look very nice in it.” Sure enough, she spent several hours a day with her face covered in a mask, which caused her to develop blisters.

Despite many difficult times on set, Helmond “never fell out of love” with acting.

“I felt I blossomed as a person when I got a chance to act,” she said. “It’s been like an incredible marriage that really worked. I enjoyed every minute of it.”

RELATED: Celebrities who passed away in 2019

12 PHOTOS
Celebrity deaths of 2019
See Gallery
Celebrity deaths of 2019
Luke Perry, 52: Read more here
Carol Channing, 97: Read more here
Bob Einstein, 76: Read more here
Georgia Engel, 70: Read more here
Actor Luke Perry, 52. Read more here.
Fatima Ali, 29: Read more here
Nipsey Hussle, 33: Read more here

Peter Tork of The Monkees, 77: Read more here

Karl Lagerfeld, 85: Read more here

Comedian Kevin Barnett, 32: Read more here
The Prodigy frontman Keith Flint, 49: Read more here
Katherine Helmond, 89: Read more here
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Her other major films include a gravestone-kicking character in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Family Plot” (1976), and the haughty Edith Mintz, who at ones point threatens to castrate the main character played by Edward Herrmann, in Garry Marshall’s “Overboard” (1987). More recently, Helmond voiced the Ford Model T Lizzie in Disney/Pixar’s three “Cars” films.

Her “Who’s the Boss?” co-star Judith Light described Helmond as a “gift to our business and to the world” in a statement.

“Katherine Helmond was a remarkable human being and an extraordinary artist; generous, gracious, charming and profoundly funny,” Light said. “She taught me so much about life and inspired me indelibly by watching her work.  Katherine was a gift to our business and to the world, and will be deeply missed.”

Another of her “Who’s the Boss?” co-stars, Alyssa Milano, is among those who have taken to Twitter to pay their respects.

“Katherine Helmond has passed away. My beautiful, kind, funny, gracious, compassionate, rock. You were an instrumental part of my life. You taught me to hold my head above the marsh! You taught me to do anything for a laugh! What an example you were! Rest In Peace, Katherine,” Milano wrote on Twitter.

Helmond is survived by her husband, David Christian, who said the following after her death was announced:

“She was the love of my life,” Christian said. “We spent 57 beautiful, wonderful, loving years together, which I will treasure forever. I’ve been with Katherine since I was 19 years old. The night she died, I saw that the moon was exactly half-full, just as I am now … half of what I’ve been my entire adult life.”

Read Full Story

Sign up for Entertainment Insider by AOL to get the hottest pop culture news delivered straight to your inbox!

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.