Wendell Burton, who made his screen debut opposite Liza Minnelli in 1969’s The Sterile Cuckoo and appeared in touchstone 1970s fare like Go Ask Alice, You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown and Fortune and Men’s Eyes, died Tuesday at 69 of brain cancer at home in Houston.
Burton largely gave up his Hollywood career in the 1980s, becoming a Christian minister and, in 1997, moving to Houston to work with Joel Osteen and the Lakewood Church, first doing business work and later pastoral services.
His death was announced via Twitter on Tuesday by Dodie Osteen, Joel Osteen’s mother.
According to a biography on Burton’s website, the Texas native and California transplant was in his teens when cast in the San Francisco production of the then-new musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Soon thereafter, he won the role of Jerry Payne, boyfriend to Minnelli’s Pookie in the young-love story The Sterile Cuckoo, directed by Alan J. Pakula.
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“So,” says Burton’s self-penned website bio, “figuring that he was evidently destined to become rich and famous, he made the move to Hollywood where he managed to achieve neither –at least to the degree he had imagined. Although, along the way, he did get to star and guest-star n a number of other films, television movies and series episodes, including MGM’s Fortune and Men’s Eyes, the television versions of The Red Badge of Courage, Go Ask Alice, East of Eden, and the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
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“His last feature role was in Heat, with Burt Reynolds. As he tells his friends in LA, ‘If you took everything I did over twenty years and crammed into four or five… I’d have been really hot!’”
Burton also wrote, performed and recorded Christian music, and chronicled his spiritual journey in his 2016 book Godsmacked, A Souljourner’s Guide to the Heart of God.
Burton’s daughter is voice and Broadway actress Haven Burton (Rent, Shrek the Musical, Legally Blonde and Kinky Boots). She survives him, as does his wife Linda, son Adam, a grandson and a son-in-law.
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