Charmin's Mr Whipple actor Dick Wilson dead at 91

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LOS ANGELES, Nov 20 (Reuters) Actor Dick Wilson, who earned an enduring place in US pop culture for his TV commercial role as Mr Whipple, the nervous grocer who warned customers ''Please, don't squeeze the Charmin'' in toilet-paper ads, has died at age 91.

The English-born actor, who often snuck a squeeze himself in more than 500 commercials he made over 20 years for the Procter&Gamble Co.'s bathroom tissue brand, died on Sunday of natural causes at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital in Los Angeles, the company said.

Wilson had been a resident at the facility for the past five years, according to a spokeswoman for the hospital.

Wilson began his career as an announcer and disc jockey in Canada at age 15 and later graduated from the Ontario College of Art in Toronto with a major in sculpture.

He performed as an acrobatic dancer in vaudeville, and went on to appear in more than 300 US television shows, mostly during the 1960s and '70s, including recurring roles as a drunk on ''Bewitched'' and Captain Gruber on ''Hogan's Heroes.'' He also had small parts in a handful of films, such as ''The World's Greatest Athlete'' and ''The Ghost and Mr Chicken.'' But he was best-known as the bespectacled, agitated Mr Whipple, whose recurring line in the 30-second toilet paper ads, ''Please, don't squeeze the Charmin,'' became a popular household phrase.

He played the role in more than 500 Charmin spots, running from 1964 through 1985, turning the Mr. Whipple character into an advertising icon among the likes of the Maytag repairman and Rosie the waitress of Procter&Gamble's Bounty paper towels.

So closely associated with Charmin was Mr Whipple that P&G brought Wilson back at age 82, in 1999, to launch a new line of Charmin, touted as more absorbent than the original but still ''squeezably soft.'' In those ads, he comes out of retirement against the advice of his golf buddies, poker pals and his wife to spread the word about the new Charmin.

''It is not an exaggeration to say that the Mr Whipple character, which Dick Wilson portrayed for so many years, is one of the most recognizable faces in the history of American advertising,'' Charmin brand manager Dennis Legault said in a statement from P&G.

Wilson is survived by his wife, Meg, three children, including actress Melanie Wilson of the ABC sitcom ''Perfect Strangers,'' and five grandchildren.

REUTERS DKS RN0524

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