Wilford Brimley, Star of Cocoon, Dies 85

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Wilford Brimley, Star of Cocoon, Dies 85

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Wilford Brimley, master of the walrus mustache and potbellied star of “Cocoon,” died on Saturday from a kidney ailment in a hospital in St. George, Utah. He was 85 years old. According to CNN, he’d been on dialysis and in the ICU.

Brimley was born on September 27, 1934, in Salt Lake City and spent his early years first as a Marine in the Korean War and then as a ranch hand and blacksmith across the United States. He entered Hollywood through a side door, working as a horseshoer on the sets of westerns, before eventually becoming a stuntman in films like “Bandolero!.” From there, he continued to bank bigger opportunities starring in supporting but memorable roles in “The China Snydrome,” “The Thing,” “Tender Mercies” with his pal Robert Duvall, and “The Natural.” When it came to casting a cranky-but-lovable coot, Brimley was Hollywood’s go-to guy.

Brimley’s biggest role came in 1985 when he starred in Ron Howard’s sci-fi comedy “Cocoon,” but many people remember him best as the spokesperson for Quaker Oats. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s he implored the people of America to eat Quaker Oats because, “it’s the right thing to do.”

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In addition to eating Quaker Oats, Brimley also urged Americans with diabeetus to exercise, consume heart-healthy foods, and check their blood sugar often in his commericals for Liberty Medical.

In the past decade, Brimley became somewhat of an internet sensation as mustache memes and Family Guy parodies made their way onto the screens of a younger, digitally-native generation, but Brimley reportedly took it all in stride. “You can either accept that or let it bother you. I accept it,” Brimley said during a chummy interview in 2014 with the Powell Tribune.

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Brimley is survived by his wife, Beverly, and three sons James, John and William. He was remembered on Twitter by Stephen Colbert who reminded folks that in addition to being an actor, Brimley was a natural musician with a sweet singing voice too.

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Abigail Covington is a journalist and cultural critic based in Brooklyn, New York but originally from the mountains of North Carolina, whose work has appeared in Slate, The Nation, Oxford American, and Pitchfork

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