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Paul Lynde, the sardonic and irreverent comedian who starred...

By VERNON SCOTT, UPI Hollywood Reporter

HOLLYWOOD -- Paul Lynde, the sardonic and irreverent comedian who starred in 'The Hollywood Squares' television game show, died of a massive heart attack, the county coroner said Monday.

Lynde, 55, who never married and lived alone, was found dead by friends who broke into his house in Beverly Hills late Sunday night after he failed to appear at a dinner party several hours earlier.

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Dr. Thomas Noguchi reported after an autopsy Monday that Lynde also suffered from a form of hardening of the arteries. The coroner also scheduled routine toxicological and microscopic examination of tissues.

Mayor Mary Ann Winand of Lynde's hometown said, 'It is with sadness that we have heard of the death of Paul Lynde and his unique sense of humor will be long remembered. He brought joy and laughter to many people throughout these United States, and his loyalty to his native city of Mount Vernon, Ohio, will always be treasured. We extend to his family our deepest sympathy.'

Alan David, Lynde's long-time friend and agent, reported earlier in the day that the actor appeared to have died of natural causes in his sleep.

'When he didn't show up for dinner, his friends became concerned,' David said. 'He didn't answer the telephone or the door. So they broke in a bathroom window. They found him dead in bed.'

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Beverly Hills Police Lt. Bill Hunt said Lynde might have been dead for up to 24 hours when his nude body was discovered.

'Nothing in the house was disturbed and there was no evidence of foul play,' he said. 'Everything was intact and looked as it normally would look.'

The comedian is survived by two sisters, Helen Lynde, of Los Angeles, and Grace Rice, of Mount Vernon, N.Y. Funeral arrangements were pending.

Beverly Hills Police Lt. Bill Hunt said Lynde mighthave been dead for up to 24 hours when his nude body was discovered.

'Nothing in the house was disturbed and there was no evidence of foul play,' he said. 'Everything was intact and looked as it normally would look.'

The comedian is survived by two sisters, Helen Lynde, of Los Angeles, and Grace Rice, of Mount Vernon, N.Y. Funeral arrangements were pending.

As the wise-cracking star of 'Hollywood Squares,' Lynde's raucous, often sexually suggestive ad libs were sometimes blue-penciled by the censors.

A show business veteran of 30 years, Lynde averaged more than 200 hours on television a year during the past decade. He also starred in stock company plays and occasional feature films.

His movies included 'Bye Bye Birdie,' 'The Glass Bottom Boat,' 'Under The Yum-Yum Tree,' 'Send Me No Flowers' and most recently 'The Villain' with Kirk Douglas.

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He starred briefly in 'The Paul Lynde' TV comedy series and was a regular on such other shows as 'Bewitched,' 'F Troop,' 'Dean Martin Presents,' 'The Jonathan Winters Show,' 'The Pruitts of Southhampton' and 'The Perry Como Show.'

Lynde was known to have a drinking problem and was arrested several times for public drunkenness. Friends said he had battled his liquor problem for years.

Peter Marshall, host of 'Hollywood Squares' said, 'I just saw him a few weeks ago and he looked great. He hadn't had a drink in 10 months. Paul will be missed.

'Now every time I think of the 'Squares,' I'll think of the middle square (where Lynde was positioned) just as I think of Wally Cox who used to occupy the top left square and Charlie Weaver who was in the lower left square.'

Winters, who appeared with Lynde often on 'Hollywood Squares,' said, 'Anytime you lose a funnyman, it's a big loss to everyone under the tent. I think his contributions as a funnyman were as important as anybody's.

'We had as good times off camera as we did on stage. His ad libbing was terrific. Everything came off the wall.'

George Gobel, another regular on the show, said, 'He was one of the funniest men on TV, to me. He will be missed by everybody who likes to laugh.'

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Lynde was born in Mount Vernon, Ohio, one of six children of a butcher. In high school he weighed 260 pounds and played the bass drum in the school band.

He attended Northwestern University where he majored in speech and drama and was active in the schools' theatrical productions. After graduation Lynde moved to New York to work at odd jobs, selling his blood for food while seeking a break in show business.

His first stand-up appearance in New York's famed Number One Fifth Avenue supper club provoked Lynde to say, 'There is no such thing as a smart nightclub audience.' He avoided club work therafter.

Lynde was cast in 'New Faces of 1952' on Broadway and later in the movie version. But it wasn't until 1961 when Gower Champion cast him in 'Bye Bye Birdie,' followed by the movie version, that Lynde gained stardom.

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