Beth Howland: The Tragic Death of the "Alice" TV Sitcom Star

Herbie J Pilato

As a cross between Kate Jackson and Shelley Duvall, Beth Howland, who died on December 31, 2015, made her mark in the world of entertainment by way of the classic TV sitcom, Alice.

Howland had a comedic/dramatic mystique all her own right up until the end. Her husband Broadway, and TV actor Charles Kimbrough, of TV's 1980s sitcom Murphy Brown, died of lung cancer on January 11, 2023. As Kimbrough told The Associated Press at the time of his wife's passing, it was her request that the news of her demise would not be made publically known until May 24, 2016, four days before what would have been her 75th birthday.

A Closer Look

Beth Howland was best known for her role as a ditzy waitress on the 1970s and '80s CBS sitcom Alice, which was based on the 1974 Martin Scorsese feature film, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore.

Howland was born May 28, 1941, in Boston. At 16, she was cast as a dancer on Broadway, alongside Dick Van Dyke, in the stage musical, Bye Bye Birdie.

CBS TV executives later noticed her in a Stephen Sondheim stage production, titled, Company. From there, Holland won a mall role on The Mary Tyler More Show.

Additional TV spots followed including those on TV shows like The Love Boat and Little House on the Prairie, all of which led to her role as Vera Louise Gorman on Alice.

As Holland told The Los Angeles Times in 1987. "I would walk into a restaurant and people would stare," she said. She hung on to her television role in Alice, saying, "'s crazy to leave a popular rated television series."

Howland earned four Golden Globe nominations during the show's original 1976-1985 run for her performance as the naive Vera. And both she and her famous on-screen persona will be forever cherished by countless TV fans around the world.

[Note: Unless otherwise indicated, certain facts and information in this article were resourced from various entertainment news and media outlets including,,,,, and]

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including RETRO ACTIVE TELEVISION, THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

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