Charles Nelson Reilly Dies at 76

Veteran Broadway actor and TV show personality Charles Nelson Reilly, who was known to most as the face of long-running game show Match Game, died of complications from pneumonia over the weekend at the UCLA Medical Center.

He was 76 and is survived by his partner of more than 25 years, Patrick Hughes.

From the L.A. Times obit: “Reilly never tried to hide his homosexuality, and frequently cracked double-entendres on television about being gay. He got a job as a night mail boy at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and tried to get hired by NBC, but a producer told him ‘that they don’t allow queers on television,’ [the director of his one-man show Paul] Linke said. ‘Charles’ response was, ‘It didn’t bother me. I knew in my heart his words weren’t true,’ ‘ Linke said. Later, Reilly would count how many game show appearances he would make in a week — once it was 27 — and consider it his revenge.”

Here are a few clips in Reilly’s honor — one features Reilly on an episode of Match Game where he temporarily took over as host from Gene Rayburn. The other is a Match Game reunion. And the third is a trailer for The Life of Reilly, a film version of his one-man show, now playing around the country.


  1. sam says

    He was out when nobody was out. He was never demeaning, but always razor sharp. He was a big talent.

  2. Greg says

    I LOVE Charles Nelson Reilly. He was always so fun on tevlevision and didn’t apologize for who he was.

    Thanks for all of the laughs, Charles. Hope you’re off to somewhere great..

  3. virgoboy says

    Aw, bad news! I remember him from Match Game and wasn’t he on Hollywood Squares, too? He also had a fantastic role on an early episode of The X-files. The role was written with him in mind, i believe, and he played it brilliantly. What a great talent…

  4. Norm says

    RIP Mr, Charles Nelson Reilly, I just loved how he used his whole name! He was a hoot on match game, I would get home from school and it would come on, and I would howl at his jokes, even though at the time, I didn’t fully get some of the double entendres he used. Just a funny, humble man, and great role model for young gay men, that you can be out and gay and you and still make it.

  5. brian says

    I had the unique honor of meeting Mr. Reilly in Chicago when our production needed restaging for ‘theater in the round’. He was funny,generous and knew a great deal about the theater. Whenever I think of the Pump Room, I’ll think fondly of him.

  6. Stephen says

    Charles Nelson-Reilly was always a favorite on The Match Game. Always funny and animated, never demeaning, never apologetic for who he was and years ahead of his time.

    May the angels carry you to a wonderful afterlife.

  7. Thomasina says

    He was just fantastic as José Chung on one episode each of “The X-Files” and “Millennium.” If there are clips of those performances floating around, they would also be fun to see again.

  8. CHUX says

    I was a boy in the 70’s and triple loved Match Game and his saturday morning show, Lidsville. In fact, for 2 years running I was his character from Lidsville for Halloween and my sister was the geenie. I moved to West Hollywood in my early 20’s and would see CNR every once in awhile at the local video store, Video West, renting arm loads of porn – again triple love him!!! I drummed up the nerve once to tell him about my childhood halloween costumes… he loved it.

  9. soulbrotha says

    I LOVED CHARLES! Everything he did was hilarious! And like someone else said, he was out before there was even a word for it. My best friend and I STILL talk about Match Game and act out the “feuds” between Charles and Brett!
    RIP Charles. We love you!

  10. Ted B. (Charging Rhino) says

    I remember how on Hollywood Squares he would regale the audience about his weekend boat-trips with his acting students at the time; all the while shamelessly name-dropping the “International Male” brand. If you understood the code, it was remarkable how frank he’d be about his weekend exploits on National TV…with no apologies nor Paul Lynne-style bitter-edges.

  11. Leland says

    He could even be naughty/out without the typical viewer realizing it such as the time, decades ago, he wore a shirt on “Match Game” that read “Bonjour Matelot” which, naturellement, means, “Hi Sailor!”

  12. Dean says

    I loved watching CNR on “The Match Game”. Especially his by-play with Brett Somers. Hmmm… maybe they were the original “Will & Grace”?? LOL Reilly had all the wit of Paul Lynde… who could occasional be a bit… well… you know.

    OH! And glad I’m not the only one who watched “Lidsville”. :)

    He will be missed.