Red Buttons, the redheaded comic star of television and film, has died in Los Angeles at age 87. Mike O'Sullivan reports, the comedian got his start on the vaudeville stage, became a television sensation, and won an Oscar for his work in Hollywood.
He was born Aaron Chwat in New York's Lower East Side. A short man with a quick wit, he got the nickname Red from his carrot-colored hair. Buttons was from his button-studded jacket in an early job as a singing waiter.
Red Buttons was a longtime hit in the Borscht Belt, a summer resort region of upper New York State that was popular with European Jewish immigrants.
In 1952, he starred in the short-lived Red Buttons Show on television, but the high point of his career came in the 1957 film Sayonara. He costarred with Marlon Brando, playing an American airman who marries a Japanese woman, in a tragic tale of racial prejudice.
Buttons won an Oscar for his supporting role in the film, and appeared in more than 30 other movies, including the war drama The Longest Day and the disaster epic The Poseidon Adventure. In recent decades, he has appeared in various television series as a regular or guest star.
At a recent public appearance, he looked back on his career.
"I dream my dreams about Hollywood. Maybe some day .... Well, my dreams came true," he said.
His publicist said Red Buttons died at his home after a long battle with vascular disease.