Tony Hendra, the British actor and comedian who played band manager Ian Faith in the film This Is Spinal Tap, has died at the age of 79.
Hendra’s window, Carla Meisner, confirmed his death to the New York Times. The actor had been battling ALS – also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease – since being diagnosed in 2019.
Hendra began his venture into comedy writing and performing while attending Cambridge University. It was there he joined the Footlights theater group, working alongside future Monty Python members John Cleese and Graham Chapman.
Hendra brought his talents to America in the mid-’60s, performing stand-up comedy, while writing and editing for various publications. In 1969, he forayed into television, writing for Playboy After Dark and ABC’s Music Scene.
In 1970 took a job at National Lampoon magazine, ascending to the position of managing editor a year later and remaining with the publication for most of the decade. Hendra wrote, directed and produced one of the company’s early high-profile projects, an Off Broadway satirical revue called National Lampoon’s Lemmings. His time at Lampoon placed him alongside rising comedians John Belushi, Chevy Chase and Christopher Guest – the latter of whom he’d reconnect with on 1984’s This Is Spinal Tap.
As Faith, Spinal Tap’s bumbling and inept manager, Hedra stole many scenes in the iconic mockumentary. Classic lines included, “Certainly, in the topsy-turvy world of heavy rock, having a good solid piece of wood in your hand is often useful,” and, following the cancellation of a concert in Boston, “I wouldn’t worry about it though, it’s not a big college town.” The manager was also responsible for mistakenly ordering a tiny Stonehenge prop, one of the film’s most famous gags.
Watch ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ Stonehenge scene
Hendra’s further credits included guest spots on Miami Vice and Law and Order: Criminal Intent. He also co-wrote the 1996 boxing comedy The Great White Hype.
In 2004 he published his memoir, Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul. Following its release, Jessica Hendra, the actor’s estranged daughter from his first marriage, publicly accused the actor of sexually abusing her when she was a girl. Hendra vehemently denied the accusations, recoiling from the spotlight in the years that followed.
As news of the actor’s death became public, This Is Spinal Tap‘s director, Rob Reiner, star Michael McKean and several celebrity fans paid their condolences.