Sad news. Tony Hendra, the veteran actor and comedian well known for his role in the iconic comedy movie This Is Spinal Tap as the band’s manager, has passed away. According to his wife, Carla Hendra, Tony died on Thursday in Yonkers, New York, due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Hendra was first diagnosed in 2019. He was 79 years old.
Born in Hertfordshire, England in 1941, Hendra moved to America in 1964. He was given free passage to sail into the New York Harbor on the SS United States in exchange for performing stand-up comedy. After making a name for himself in the local comedy scene, Hendra began to appear on television shows like The Merv Griffin Show and The Ed Sullivan Show to perform. He also served as a writer for National Lampoon magazine, co-creating the group’s first album Radio Dinner and co-writing the stage show Lemmings.
One of Hendra’s most well-known roles is playing Ian Faith, the titular band’s manager, in the 1984 mockumentary This is Spinal Tap. His character memorably delivers an undersized Stonehenge stage prop during a show after he mistakenly believes the group asked for a miniature version, making Spinal Tap a laughing stock. Ian Faith later tells Michael McKean’s David St. Hubbins he’s Making much too big a thing out of it” when the angered musician complains.
“RIP Tony Hendra,” McKean posted on Twitter after learning the news of Hendra’s death.
The director of This Is Spinal Tap, Rob Reiner, also tweeted: “Tony Hendra who played Spinal Tap’s manager, Ian, has sadly passed away. A brilliant satirist who, when learning that the band’s Boston gig had been canceled, told them not to worry that Boston wasn’t a big college town. R.I.P.”
Others are also mourning the death of Hendra, such as fellow comedic actor Cary Elwes, who writes: “RIP Tony Hendra. He was a great talent and best manager Spinal Tap could’ve hoped for!”
In 1984, Hendra also co-created the British TV series Spitting Image, earning British Academy Award nominations for the series alongside fellow cast members Jon Blair and John Lloyd. He has also had roles on other American shows like Miami Vice, The Cosby Mysteries, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Additionally, Hendra co-wrote the satirical 1997 comedy The Great White Hype which starred Samuel L. Jackson, Damon Wayans, Jamie Foxx, and Jeff Goldblum.
Hendra published a confessional memoir in 2004 called Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul. In response, his estranged daughter Jessica Hendra publicly alleged that Tony had abused her as a child. She later detailed the allegations in her 2005 memoir, How to Cook Your Daughter. Tony categorically denied the allegations and no criminal charges were ever filed.
Along with Jessica and wife Carla, Hendra’s survivors include four other children, four grandchildren, and the actor’s extended family. Carla says that leading into his final days, Hendra had remained engaged in politics, with one of his last smiles coming when he learned the results of the presidential election in November. This news comes to us from The New York Times.