By Mike Barnes
11:10 AM PDT 7/16/2013
Dennis Burkley, a burly character actor who played truckers, bartenders,
bikers and rednecks during a busy four-decade career that included a
stint as the voice of Principal Moss on Fox’s King of the Hill, has
died. He was 67.
Burkley died early Sunday in his sleep at his home in Sherman Oaks,
agent David Ankrum told The Hollywood Reporter. He had been battling
health problems for some time, said his son, Shawn.
The fun-loving Burkley, who was born in Van Nuys, Calif., but grew up
outside Dallas, stood 6-foot-3 and for a time weighed more than 300
pounds (he lost a considerable amount of weight in recent years). He
often sported a dark, scruffy beard and a Texas accent in a prolific
career that began in the early 1970s and included more than 130 film and
Two of his more memorable roles were as a giant, mute biker who
befriends Eric Stoltz’s character in Peter Bogdanovich’s Mask (1985) and
as another biker, a racist named Sonny Crockett, on four 1983 episodes
of Hill Street Blues. (Anthony Yerkovich, a writer and producer on that
show, gave the character played by Don Johnson that same name a year
later when he created the stylish cop show Miami Vice.)
Burkley also starred as Redd Foxx’s junkyard partner Cal Pettie on
Sanford, a reboot of Sanford and Son that ran two seasons on NBC from
1980-81. (Demond Wilson, who played Foxx’s son and partner on the
original series, did not want to partake.)
Burkley, whose pals called him "Big D," voiced Carl Moss, the principal
of Tom Landry Middle School in Arlen, Texas, on 35 episodes of King of
the Hill, which aired for 13 seasons from 1997 to 2008.
Burkley also had parts in such films as Heroes (1977), The Slugger’s
Wife (1985), Murphy’s Romance (1985), Wanted: Dead or Alive (1986), No
Way Out (1987), Who’s That Girl (1987), Fletch Lives (1989), The End of
Innocence (1990), The Doors (1991), Rush (1991), Stop! Or My Mom Will
Shoot (1992), Tin Cup (1996), Touch (1997) and Hollywood Homicide
Burkley’s TV resume also includes guest-star stints on such shows as
Emergency!, Kojak, Starsky and Hutch, McCloud, One Day at a Time, Mary
Hartman, Mary Hartman, Baretta, Maude, The Rockford Files, B.J. and the
Bear, The Fall Guy, The Dukes of Hazzard, Who’s the Boss?, Designing
Women, Ellen, NYPD Blue, JAG, The Drew Carey Show and My Name Is Earl.
After attending Grand Prairie High School and getting his masters in
theater at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Burkley headed back
to the Los Angeles area, where he cleaned swimming pools while pursing
an acting career. One pool he cleaned belonged to Five Easy Pieces
director Bob Rafelson, who gave Burkley a bit part in Stay Hungry
(1976), starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in his first credited feature
Burkley co-wrote, directed and appeared in the 2005 independent comedy
Repetition, about students in a Los Angeles acting class, featuring F.
Murray Abraham, Mark Hamill and Robert Englund.
In addition to his son, survivors also include Burkley's wife of 46
years, Laura, and their daughter Shannan. Services will be private.
Born: 9/10/1945, Van Nuys, California, U.S.A.
Died: 7/14/2013, Sherman Oaks, California, U.S.A.
Dennis Burkley’s westerns – actor:
The Texas Wheelers (TV) – 1975 (Bud)
The Call of the Wild (TV) - 1976 (Stoney)
The Oregon Trail (TV) – 1977
Young Maverick (TV) – 1980 (Julius Higgins)
Outlaws (TV) – 1987 (farmer)
Four Eyes and Six Guns (TV) – 1992 (Luke Doom)
Legend (TV) – 1995 (Quelle Heure)
Cheyenne – 1996 (Knopfler)
The Magnificent Seven (TV) – 2000 (Horace)