‘ALF’ Star’s Sad Death After DUIs, Porn and Drug Scandals

The classic ’80s TV showALF, featured a furry anteater meets the Muppets type of character. Alf was a beloved wise-cracking “Alien Life Form” from the planet Melmac. Max Wright rose to fame for his role as Willie Tanner on the popular television program. Portraying the quirky father of a middle-class family, Wright was a wonderful sidekick for Alf. Despite his character’s immense popularity, Wright was never happy playing second fiddle to an inanimate object. When the show ended, Wright spiraled into a world of vices that eventually ended in his life-ending destruction.

Alf stuffed animal in front of a blurred background
Alf | Daniel Knighton/Getty Images

Is ALF ever coming back to TV?

ALF ran for 99 episodes, airing on NBC from 1986 to 1990. The fun-loving character was known for his sarcastic wit and crazy antics. Using an intercepted radio signal, Alf crash-landed on Earth after his home was destroyed during a nuclear war. The Tanner family takes the cat-eating creature into their San Fernando Valley home in California and proceeds to hide him from the military’s Alien Task Force. Their life is turned upside down, as they learn to live with a zany creature from another planet. While the series was a hit and nearly had a reboot in 2018, it appears ALF won’t be returning to screens anytime soon, according to Slash Film.

Who played Willie Tanner?

RELATED: ‘ALF’ Star Hated the Show, Wanted to Get It ‘Over With,’ and Left Without Saying Goodbye

Born in 1943, Wright had a promising career in the entertainment industry. He appeared on numerous television sitcoms, including WKRP in Cincinnati and Buffalo Bill. He also played the role of the Central Perk coffee house manager in Seasons 1 and 2 of the immensely popular sitcom Friends. According to IMDb, it wasn’t until 1986 when he took on the role of Willie Tanner that Wright gained mainstream notoriety.

The middle-class father that hid an alien in his garage became known for his quick wit and sense of humor. The long-time actor was not a fan of his place in pop culture history. He once told People magazine that the role was “hard work and very grim.” Wright said that by the end of the show, “I was hugely eager to have it over with.” Show creator Paul Fusco told People that “Max had a difficult thing to do, playing straight man against ALF.”

What happened to Max Wright?

After leaving the furry party-animal behind, Wright returned to his love of theater. In 1998, he was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Actor for his role in Ivanov. As a classically trained theater actor, Wright was happy to be back on the stage. Despite his newfound success, America’s favorite ’80s dad started to spiral. He stopped working and reportedly started using illegal substances. The Daily Mail reported that Wright was arrested twice for drunk driving in 2000 and again in 2003.

His troubles seemed to grow when in April 2001, photos surfaced of Wright in compromising positions with two other men. The National Enquirer, known for their expose articles, published the images that allegedly came from a “drug-fuelled sex video.” Wright can be seen in the photos using drugs.

When did Max Wright die?

In 1995, America’s favorite shortwave radio operator was diagnosed with lymphoma, according to USA Today. Although in remission for many years, Wright lost his battle. He died on June 26, 2019, at the age of 75.

A year before his death, photos emerged of the father of two, looking gaunt and disheveled, with thinning gray hair pulled into a small ponytail. Almost unrecognizable, his clothes were loose-fitting and sloppy, a sharp contrast to his days of the upstanding character on ALF. The complicated actor will always be remembered for bringing Alf to life. According to Mental Floss, show creator Tom Patchett commented in a 2016 oral history of the show that “Max absolutely made you forget ALF was a puppet.”