Joe E. Tata, who played the endearing Peach Pit restaurant owner Nat Bussichio in all 10 seasons of the original Beverly Hills, 90210, has passed away. He was 85.
Tata died Wednesday night, his daughter, Kelly Katharine Tata, announced on a GoFundMe page. She previously wrote that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2018 and that he was transferred to the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills in April.
In what must be some sort of record, Tata played henchmen for three super villains — Frank Gorshin’s The Riddler, Burgess Meredith’s The Penguin, and Victor Buono’s King Tut — on the 1966-68 ABC series. Batman.
He also appeared in a trio of Irwin Allen-produced sci-fi shows in the ’60s – ABC’s The time tunnel (once as Napoleon) and Journey to the bottom of the sea and CBS’ Lost in space — and as bail bondsman Solly Marshall (and a few other characters) on NBC’s The Rockford Files In the 70’s.
He portrayed Brooklyn Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese in the 1974 CBS telefilm It’s good to be alive (a biopic about teammate and catcher Roy Campanella) and New York Yankees Lefty Gomez left-handed in the 1978 NBC TV movie A Love Affair: The Story of Eleanor and Lou Gehrig.
During its 238-episode run on 90210 from 1990-2000, Tata’s Nat served a tasty Mega burger and provided a great hangout for the high school students. He also suffered a near-fatal heart attack; partnered over dinner with Dylan (Luke Perry); turned the space next to the Pit into an afterhours club; and exchanged wedding vows with former flame Joan Diamond (Julie Parrish) while she was in the hospital about to give birth to their son, Frankie.
Tata returned as a restaurant owner for the reboot of the series in 2008, but worked little after that.
On Instagram, his 90210 co-star Ian Ziering called Tata “one of the happiest people I’ve ever worked with, he was as generous with his wisdom as he was with his kindness. Although the Peach Pit was a 90210 set, it often felt like the setting for the Joe E. Tata show.
Tata, the son of a vaudevillian, was born on September 13, 1936. He served in the military and made his film debut in a 1960 episode of Peter Gunn.
He then appeared in other shows like: The outer limits, Gomer Pyle: USMC, No time for sergeants, Ben Casey, The Heroes of Hogan, Mannix, the FBI, The Streets of San Francisco, Police story, The A-Team and Hill Street Blues before landing on 90210.
In an interview in 2011, he said he loved working on Batman and would sometimes go to the Fox lot where the show was filmed ‘and just hang out. It was like being part of the company,” he recalls.
“One day I ran into Stanley Ralph Ross, one of the authors of… Batman. I was just cast in another episode [‘Hizzonner the Penguin’/’Dizzoner the Penguin’] with Burgess Meredith. I said, ‘Stanley, do me a favour. If you ever write something that I’m going to work on, would you mind making me a goon? I mean, I always play a goon, but I want the public to see that I’m a goon.” Stanley laughed and said, “Get out of here!”
“When I got the script for the Penguin story, I saw that I was – surprise, surprise – playing GOON #1. I wore a black derby, a black turtleneck, black pants, black shoes and carried a black umbrella. But on my chest was written GOON in huge white letters, [short for] the Grand Order of the Occidental Nighthawks. That was the club that would destroy Batman.”