New Central High School, Minneapolis, Minnesota - 1913

Central High School

New Central High School, Minneapolis, Minnesota - 1913


Dale Dunham

Trudi Hahn, Star Tribune
December 6, 2004

Dale Dunham, an actor whose face was familiar in Twin Cities theaters and TV and print ads for more than 30 years, died Nov. 29 of a stroke. He was 73.

He graduated from Minneapolis Central High in 1949 and received a degree in theater arts and English from the University of Minnesota before being drafted to serve in Japan during the Korean War.

After service he attended the Brown Institute in Minneapolis for training in broadcasting. After a year as a deejay - "$25 a week and all the records I could eat," he used to say - in Antigo, Wis., he moved his family to Mason City, Iowa, to be a talk-show host on KGLO-TV.

The Surf Ballroom in nearby Clear Lake drew a lot of music acts that appeared on the show. Early in February 1959, Dunham conducted one of the last TV interviews with rock 'n' roll star Buddy Holly, who died Feb. 3, 1959, with two other rockers after a concert at the Surf.

Dunham moved his growing family to Minneapolis in the early 1960s, but much of the TV programming at the time was "punch-up network," with national-network shows put on the air and just a few local station breaks in between, said his wife, Ann (Mickey). He left TV and went into insurance sales, which left him plenty of free time to pursue his acting.

"He enjoyed musical comedy," his wife said. "He enjoyed that 150 percent."

In 1968, he helped the Chanhassen Dinner Theater open with a production of "How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying." Critics called him "a lot of fun" as J. B. Biggley and said his reprise of the role in the 1970 revival was "a really superb, intelligent, professional performance." Among his other Chanhassen credits were "Fiddler on the Roof," "My Fair Lady" and "Charlie's Aunt."

In addition to roles at the Cricket Theatre, Bloomington Civic Theater and summer stock at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse in Bemidji, Minn., he appeared in numerous radio and TV commercials and industrial films.

In the late 1980s he started making movies for TV, and in the 1990s appeared in the Minnesota-filmed comedies "Feeling Minnesota" and "The Naked Man."

"Dale had great laughter. He could see the humor in just about anything," Mickey Dunham said.

He got nice screen time in "Drop Dead Gorgeous" as the mayor who wants desperately to bring people to his town for a beauty pageant that turns deadly, but you can't blink at the beginning of "Mighty Ducks" or you'll miss him in the upper right corner as the jury foreman at the trial of the character played by Emilio Estevez. He filmed about six lines, but they were all cut, his wife said.

"I never became a star," Dale Dunham would tell his family, "but it is still fun playing second banana."

In addition to his wife, survivors include sons Michael and Danny of Minneapolis and Patrick of St. Cloud, and three grandchildren.

Copyright 2005 Star Tribune. Republished with permission of Star Tribune, Minneapolis-St. Paul. No further republication or redistribution is permitted without the written consent of the Star Tribune.