Comedian and horse-racing fan Tim Conway died Tuesday at 85 after a long illness. Although widely known for his long career in Hollywood, San Gabriel Valley locals may also remember Conway as an icon at Santa Anita Racetrack, in Arcadia.
“He was as classy a gentleman as he was funny,” Hall of Fame jockey and Santa Anita legend Chris McCarron said Tuesday. “He was generous with heart, spirit, generous with his time and he was just a class act through and through. He could not have been more generous, especially with his time.”
His long comedic career notwithstanding, Conway’s original life goal was to become a jockey. However, weight prohibited him from following that dream. Still, he maintained lifelong relationships with jockeys across the country, even performing a comedic sketch during the 1987 Breeders’ Cup telecast on NBC from Hollywood Park.
Conway was more than an ordinary funnyman, though. He and his wife Charlene were tireless in their efforts to raise money for disabled riders through the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund, which was co-founded with McCarron. The fund has assisted more than 2,000 jockeys over a 25-year run.
During his entertainment career, Conway won six Emmy Awards and one Golden Globe trophy, along with wide acclaim for playing the character of a hapless jockey named Lyle Dorf in appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
“He was a wonderful human being and I feel a terrible sense of loss for Charlene and all the kids,” McCarron said.