Apologies for missing this on Friday, but classic TV clown Alan Sues has passed away, presumably of a heart attack at age 85. Sues was best remembered for his wildly flamboyant roles on the late '60s comedy sketch show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, playing such characters as "Uncle Al, the Kiddies Pal" and uber-gay sportscaster "Big Al." Michael Michaud, a friend of Sues, tells the NYT about the performer's fear of coming out of the closet.

Mr. Sues tended to perform with over-the-top flamboyance on the show, displaying stereotypically gay mannerisms. What he did not disclose was that he was gay, Mr. Michaud said, fearing that to tell the truth about his sexual orientation would have ended his career.

“It wasn’t because he was ashamed of being gay; it was because he was surviving as a performer,” Mr. Michaud said in a telephone interview, adding that Mr. Sues was actually an inspiration to many gay viewers. “Many gay men came up to him and said how important he was when they were young because he was the only gay man they could see on television,” Mr. Michaud said.

Here's a clip of Al Sues as "Big Al, the Sportscaster." (See if you can spot his catchphrase!) He will be remembered fondly.