Richard Kiel, an actor and author with local ties, passed away Wednesday in Fresno at the age of 74. While the name might not be immediately recognizable to many today, his on screen presence was unmistakeable and made him a perfect fit to play "Jaws" in two James Bond flicks "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "Moonraker." His 54 year career earned him credits dating back to 1960 including appearances on TV shows like "The Rifleman, The Twilight Zone, Lassie, and many other TV shows and movies through the years including the yet to be released romantic comedy titled "The Engagement Ring."
While Kiel may be best known for his role as the ultimate steel toothed Bond villain, you might be surprised to learn that he spent time early in his career here in Chico. In 1963 Kiel worked at KHSL TV as writer, producer, and star of a Saturday morning children's program called "The Paul Bunyan Show." During the course of the Paul Bunyan Show, kids from across the North Valley got to enter the fantasy world of Paul Bunyan and listen to enthralling stories from a man who was as tall as the trees he chopped down.
Photo Credit: Dino Corbin/KHSL TV
Since "The Paul Bunyan Show" was a live production at the KHSL studios, no known video exists of the broadcasts and only a few photos are known to still be in existence. In this rare photo from the set of the show, you can tell these children are in awe of the gentle giant with a toothy grin that would go on to become one of the, if not the, most iconic Hollywood villains.
Kiel had been reportedly hospitalized in Fresno earlier this week after suffering a broken leg, but officials at St Agnes Hospital refused to give a cause of death or release any other details surrounding his passing. Richard Kiel was 74 when he passed away . A page has been set up at Legacy.com for fans who would like to send their condolences. To do so, just click here.