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WWII vet Bill Dana, comedian behind Jose Jimenez character, dies at 92

June 19, 2017 (Photo Credit: Newsmakers via Getty Images)
Comedy writer and performer Bill Dana, who won stardom in the 1950s and '60s with his character Jose Jimenez and earned a Bronze Star for his service in the Army in World War II, has died at age 92.

Dana died Thursday at his home in Nashville, Tennessee, according to Emerson College, his alma mater. He attended the school using GI Bill benefits, according to a Monday news release from Emerson.

After graduation, Dana began writing for the original NBC "Tonight" show, starring Steve Allen, and for Don Adams, a Marine veteran who'd become famous for his role as Maxwell Smart in "Get Smart." 

It was for a sketch on "The Steve Allen Show" that Dana created Jose Jimenez, which eventually led to his own NBC sitcom, "The Bill Dana Show," which aired from 1963 to 1965.

The character's shy, Spanish-accented introduction, "My name ... Jose ... Jimenez," became a national catchphrase. Dana appeared with Ed Sullivan as the iconic host played straight man to Jimenez; in one visit, the character gave his thoughts on becoming the first man to visit Mars.

Jimenez — an Air Force officer, in at least one version of the character — became a mascot for the Mercury astronauts, the first group of Americans to reach space. Dana told The New York Times that ''[T]he very first words after Al Shepard's liftoff from Deke Slayton on the ground were, 'O.K. Jose, you're on your way.' ''

Dana would be named an honorary astronaut by the International Aerospace Society.

He recorded eight best-selling comedy albums, and made many TV appearances while continuing behind the scenes as a comedy writer.

He is survived by his wife, Evelyn, according to the Emerson release.
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