As media criticism grows over aging actor Fred Willard, 78, being caught yet again for “lewd conduct,” this former host of the new PBS “Market Warriors” TV show still seemed dazed and confused during a July 26 appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. In turn, Willard told Fallon that he did nothing to warrant his July 18 arrest after being seen “engaging in a lewd act” at the Tiki Theater in Hollywood that features X-rated “adult” films. The day after Willard’s arrest, PBS announced that Antiques Roadshow host Mark Walberg would take over the role of Willard on this new TV show – about a nationwide treasure hunt - that airs Monday evenings at 9 p.m. ET on PBS. At the same time, the New York Daily News revealed how Los Angeles prosecutors said “the aging funnyman's embarrassing arrest wasn't his first, since he was nabbed for lewd conduct back in 1990, and they didn’t offer specifics on the earlier arrest.”
Also, The New York Times reported the day after Willard’s arrest that “Jeanne Hopkins of WGBH, the PBS station that produces the show, said in a statement, "Given the unfortunate news reported today, effective immediately Fred Willard will no longer be involved with the Market Warriors series."
More recently the L.A. Times reported how the Los Angeles City Attorney's office determined that Willard's case “was eligible for a diversion program that will keep him from being formally charged with lewd conduct if he completes the required courses. Willard will pay $380 for the program.”
Willard tells Fallon he did nothing wrong
Back in Boston, where the PBS station WGBH produces “Market Warriors,” the news about Fred Willard’s July 26 appearance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” was big news with both the Boston Herald and the Associated Press covering Willard’s first public statement about what “really happened at the adult film house, the Tiki Theater in a rough area of Hollywood, California.
In turn, the Boston newspaper pointed to Willard telling Fallon that his recent lewd conduct arrest at the Tiki was “very embarrassing.” Willard then proceeded with a five-minute tirade – that’s now gone viral on YouTube – telling the Late Night host that he did nothing wrong.
"It's the last time I'm going to listen to my wife when she says, 'Why don't you go and see a movie?'" Willard said during an appearance Thursday night on Fallon’s NBC’s TV talk show “Late Night.”
Also, Willard’s attorney Paul Takakjian told TMZ.com that Willard “did nothing in any violation of any law.”
Willard and Fallon crack jokes about his “lewd conduct” arrest
During his July 26 “Late Night” interview, Fallon “cracked racy jokes about possible titles for the movie that might have been playing when Willard was arrested July 18 during a routine check by police at the Hollywood-area theater,” reported the Boston Herald; while also noting how the conversation turned serious for Willard, whose credits include the movie "Best in Show" and guest roles on "Modern Family" and other TV shows.”
"Fred, I know this must be a tough time," host Fallon asked.
"It's very embarrassing. It's as embarrassing as hell," the 78-year-old Willard replied. "But let me say this: Nothing happened. I did nothing wrong. Everything is being sorted out as we speak."
"I have great respect for the police," Willard added, "but if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, everything seems suspicious."
Although he's tried to laugh it off - the incident is "very painful," said Willard on the Late Night talk show - while the July 27 Boston Herald newspaper story also explained that there were grounds to fire Willard as narrator of the new PBS series Market Warriors, "that took place immediately after his arrest."
TV talk shows often used to “clear the air” for arrested stars
At the same time that Willard is trying to explain what went wrong when he visited a Hollywood porn theater, the Boston Herald explained how “talk shows can be useful for celebrity efforts at damage control. In 1995, Hugh Grant visited Jay Leno on NBC's ‘Tonight’ after being arrested with a prostitute on Hollywood's Sunset Strip.”
Thus, Fallon too was sympathetic to Willard.
"You're a good man. ... You're one of my favorites," Fallon said, then needled him with, "You can come to our show and do whatever the heck you want, except for certain things.” Willard was nominated four times for Emmys for guest roles on "Modern Family" and "Everybody Loves Raymond." In Pixar's 2008 hit "WALL-E," he voiced the character of Shelby Forthright, the CEO of a ubiquitous big-box chain called Buy N Large, added the Boston Herald report.
Fred Willard lands roles in new ABC show and film “The Yank”
At the same time, TV Guide reports that Fred Willard is hosting "Trust Us With Your Life," an improv series airing this summer on ABC.
And, Willard is set to appear in the new film with the cheeky title “The Yank.”
Also, fans of the new PBS “Antiques Roadshow” spinoff TV show “Market Warriors” say Willard’s replacement, Mark Walberg, “does a good job,” says Oregon antique dealer Jeff Collis, “but we’re sure going to miss old Fred Willard with his wise-cracking and his timing as a long-time comedian. I will tell you this, given this weak economy for antiques; we sure need someone to make us laugh.”
Collis also noted how “PBS moved fast to expunge Fred from the first Market Warriors. I watched it when it was first on, and just went back to check it out again… Walberg redid all the same jokes from Fred, but somehow Walberg’s jokes and antiquing advice wasn’t nearly as funny or interesting to me as Mr. Willard.”
Image source of Fred Willard, the 78-year-old actor and comedian who was fired as host of the PBS TV show “Market Warriors” after being arrested in Hollywood for “lewd conduct.” Photo courtesy Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Willard