William Szathmary (October 5, 1924 – June 15, 2017), known professionally by his stage name Bill Dana, was an American comedian, actor, and screenwriter. He often appeared on television shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show, frequently in the guise of a heavily accented Bolivian character named José Jiménez. Dana often portrayed the Jiménez character as an astronaut.
He started his show business career as a page at NBC while performing Stand-Up Comedy in nightclubs in New York City. In the 1950s he made appearances on a number of Variety Shows while acting as a writer and producer for The Spike Jones Show. He began writing jokes and routines for Don Adams, most notably the "Would you believe...?" bits which became one of Adams' trademarks and featured in Get Smart. This led to a gig writing for The Steve Allen Show during which he created the José Jiménez character for that program's "Man in the Street" feature.
The José Jiménez sketches were his gateway to larger fame. He recorded a Top 40 comedy album around the character, and then made several appearances on The Danny Thomas Show as José. This led to a Spin-Off, The Bill Dana Show, in which he played Jiménez as a bellhop in an expensive New York Hotel. The show's cast included Lost in Space's Jonathan Harris as Jiménez's boss, and Don Adams as the inept house detective Byron Glick. In 1967 he hosted his own late-night Talk Show, The Las Vegas Show on the new United Network, but it was cancelled in less than a month when the nascent network collapsed. He continued to perform in both film and TV, although his film roles were few and far between. On TV, he had a recurring role on The Golden Girls as Sophia Petrillo's brother Angelo. He also played her father in a flashback. In addition, he played Wendell Balaban on Too Close for Comfort, as well as Howie Mandel's father on the series St. Elsewhere.
A prolific comedy writer long before he ever appeared on screen, Dana continued writing well into the 1980s. He scripted or co-scripted numerous films and television productions, including the first Get Smart feature film, The Nude Bomb, and episodes of many now-classic TV shows, including the famous All in The Family episode in which Sammy Davis Jr. visited the Bunker home.
In 1970 he officially retired the José Jiménez character in response to complaints from Hispanic groups. Despite declaring the character "dead", though, for nearly twenty years afterward Jiménez would occasionally re-appear as a cameo or Shout-Out, and made regular appearances on the 1988 revival of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
- Fauxreigner: As José Jiménez.
- Obvious Second Choice/Temporary Substitute: Don Adams was unavailable for an episode of Get Smart, "Ice Station Sigfried", so Maxwell Smart's place was taken by a CIA agent named Quigly, played by Dana, a friend of Adams'.
- Stand-Up Comedy: Began his career both performing and writing comedy material — the latter for both himself and other performers.
- Stage Name: Born "William Szathmary"; he used a variation on his mother's first name as his stage name because he felt "Szathmary" was too hard to pronounce.
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