2021-06-07 19:41:25 UTC
Roger C. Carmel was a utilitarian television character actor, appearing first
on Broadway and then as a supporting guest player on a wide range of TV
dramas (Naked City, Route 66) as well as sitcoms (Patty Duke Show, Dick Van
Dyke Show) beginning around 1960.
Mothers-in-LawAfter dozens of guest appearances, Carmel was cast as a regular
in 1967 on The Mothers-in-Law, Desi Arnaz' first post-Lucy production effort.
The Mothers-in-Law starred Kaye Ballard as Kay Buell and Eve Arden as Eve
Hubbard, two longtime next-door neighbors who become reluctant in-laws when
their kids marry. Roger Carmel costarred as Kay's husband Roger and Herbert
Rudley played Eve's husband Herb.
For the series, Arnaz pulled together the best talent available on the Desilu
lot. Madelyn Pugh Davis and Bob Carroll, Jr., who wrote so many of the
classic I Love Lucy episodes, penned the pilot and continued on as writers
for the run of series. The Lucy Show's original producer Elliot Lewis was
tapped to produce as Lucy's show was number two in the ratings in 1967.
Success seemed assured.
NBC had high hopes for The Mothers-in-Law but ratings weren't spectacular -
the network only renewed the sitcom for a second year when ABC announced they
were interested in picking it up. NBC ordered 22 new episodes with one caveat
- they weren't willing to pay any increases in budget or salaries - this was
customary as a show entered each new year.
Even though everyone's contract specifically called for raises for the second
season, the producers, crew and all of the actors agreed to forego salary
increases in order to keep the show on the air. All but Roger Carmel, who
announced he would quit unless he received a second season raise. Period.
"Desi called me and put it on a personal basis," Carmel stated at the time.
"I didn't feel it should be done that way - it was very unfair of him. Then
Desi and the Morris Agency threatened I would be replaced. Kaye Ballard and
Eve Arden also called me and asked me to go along, but I wouldn't."
"Where else is he going to make two thousand dollars a week?" was Desi
Arnaz's answer. He knew that if Desilu gave one cast member a raise, they
would all have to be compensated so he had no choice but to recast the role
of Roger Buell. The Mothers-in-Law was canceled after limping through the
Today, Roger C. Carmel is probably best known for guest-starring roles he did
on another Desilu series at this same time. On Star Trek Carmel played the
incorrigible space-trader Harry Mudd in two episodes of the original (1966-
69) series. Harry Mudd, you may remember, was the guy who had the planet of
beautiful female robots. He also played Colonel Gumm on TV's Batman in 1967.
After The Mothers-in-Law, Carmel as a semi-regular on a syndicated quiz show
called Stump The Stars from 1968-1970 and reprised the role of Harry Mudd on
an episode of the animated version of Star Trek (1973-75).
Despite the popularity of the Harry Mudd character, another regular role in
an ongoing television series was elusive. That's where the money is in
Carmel remained a popular sitcom guest-star, with character parts (mostly
ethnic) all throughout the seventies on shows like Owen Marshall, All In The
Family, LaVerne and Shirley, Chico and The Man, and Three's Company. He also
appeared in unsuccessful B-movies like Thunder and Lightning in 1977 and
Hardly Working in 1981.
In 1981, Roger C. Carmel caught a break, cast as a regular on a network
program Fitz and Bones on NBC. An hour-long drama, this show starred the
Smothers Brothers as investigative reporters.
The series bombed, lasting only one month, the lowest-rated series for the
Roles became harder to get after 1981 as Carmel began doing cartoon voices
for kid favorites like The Transformers (he was Bruticus, Motormaster and one
of the Quintessons, if you must know).
It was in commercials that Roger C. Carmel made his way back - his final
ongoing role was as Senor Naugles, the "Mexican" spokesperson for the West
Coast based Naugles fast-food chain. He was a kindly, old Mexican General,
kind of like Colonel Sanders was for KFC.Off-screen, Senor Naugles had a
voracious appetite all right - for drugs and male prostitutes.
The commercials were very successful and the campaign seemed destined to run
for a long time - the fast food chain was expanding rapidly.
But Carmel's excesses caught up to him. It was widely reported that the actor
(at age 54) committed suicide on November 11, 1986 - from an overdose of
I was told that, in fact, Roger C. Carmel died of a crack cocaine overdose
while romping with a young male prostitute to celebrate his new good fortune.
It was related to me by one of the prostitutes that frequented Carmel's home
in 1986. An 'aspirin overdose' story was released to protect the client's
image as much as possible.
Either way, this was bad news for Naugles restaurants. After several
floundering attempts to come up with another winning ad campaign, Naugles hit
hard times and was bought out a few years later (at fire sale prices) by
rival Del Taco.
Which was a shame, because Naugles was the best Mexican fast food chain in
the eighties and Del Taco the worst - and Roger C. Carmel was a much loved
Joel Eisner tells us:
I have a story about The Mothers in Law I thought you might like. As you know
having read my Batbook, Roger C. Carmel played Colonel Gumm in the Green
Hornet crossover episode. I had the opportunity to meet with Roger over lunch
at Musso and Franks in L.A. back in the summer of 1985.
We discussed parts of his career including The Mothers in Law. Roger had a
career in NY TV prior to moving to LA in the early 1960's. When the first
season ended, Desi Arnaz told the entire cast that the show had a five year
guarantee but there was no money to give the promised raises. Now the part
that most people were not aware of was that Desi Arnaz was taking four
salaries from the series - producer, creator, writer and director (he wrote
and directed several episodes). So, Roger knowing Arnaz was in fact legally
stealing from the show, pushed back and in fact quit the show.
Unable or unwilling to give the cast their raises Arnaz hired Richard Deacon
(whom Roger refered to as that poor schmuck who always sold himself short).
When the show was cancelled, Roger said Kaye Ballard called him and told him
that he was right and they all should have held Arnaz to their contract
Here is the clincher. When I told Roger that during the second season, Arnaz
joined the cast as an out of work bullfighter, Roger smiled and said that
Cuban SOB, no wonder their wasn't any money for raises, he planned on taking
a fifth salary as an actor!
Not long after the show was cancelled, Roger signed a long term contract to
provide the voice of Smokey the Bear in PSA's for the forestry service, a job
he kept until the day he died. So he was never in need of money, as many
He also dubbed the voice of Gert Frobe as Baron Bomburst in the film Chitty
Chitty Bang Bang. If you listen to Frobe in Goldfinger where he used his real
voice and his voice in Chitty, you can tell it was over dubbed, and it sounds
just like Roger when he did the part of Boris Serveroff, one of Colonel
Gumm's aliases on Batman.
By the way, the C. in Roger's name is for Charles, which was his
grandfather's name. Charles Carmel, was a famous artesian who carved the
horses at Rye Playland (Rye, NY), Coney Island and the NY Central park
carousels. Roger was still in posession of an unfinished rocking horse, that
his grandfather was carving for his younger brother, but the boy died, (of
what causes he didn't say) before he could finish it. It was the only thing
that Roger had left of both his brother and his grandfather.
Roger's father was a doctor who had his office in the family home, a small
mansion size house on the corner of Manchester and Winchester streets in the
Flatbush section of Brooklyn. When his father died, he sold the house and
moved his mother to PA to live with his sister.
I learned of Roger's death while I was attending a sci-fi convention in
Atlanta. I was still running the Irwin Allen/ Lost in Space fan club and
Jonathan Harris was one of the guests. During the convention the news of
Roger's death spread throughout the convention, but Jonathan, whom I had
known for years, told me in private that he had spoken with Henry Gibson (who
was a mutual friend of both Roger and Jonathan) who told him that Roger was
having chest pains and called down to his doorman to call him a cab to go to
Minutes later the cab arrived but no Roger. The doorman waved the cab away
and never thought to check on Roger. They found him later dead on this apt
floor. It was also implied that he had been using cocaine.
- Joel Eisner