'Jeffersons,' 'Diff'rent Strokes' producer Al Burton dies

SAN MATEO, Calif. — Al Burton, a TV producer whose six-decade career included an eclectic mix of beauty pageants, variety and game shows and groundbreaking comedies including "The Jeffersons" and "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," died Tuesday. He was 91.

Burton died at his home in San Mateo, California, where he had been in hospice care, according to family friend and spokesman Damon Schwartz. The cause was not disclosed.

During his 1972-83 tenure with Tandem Productions, founded by Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin, Burton helped produce series including "One Day at a Time," ''Fernwood 2 Night" and "Diff'rent Strokes," as well as the "All in the Family" spinoff "The Jeffersons" and the satirical soap opera "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman."

Burton started his own production company with a focus on TV programs aimed at younger viewers, including "Charles in Charge" and "The New Lassie." He also joined with Ben Stein, the actor-writer who was a longtime friend, to produce "Win Ben Stein's Money," which won four Daytime Emmy Awards and launched the career of Jimmy Kimmel.

Born in 1928 in Columbus, Ohio, Burton graduated from Northwestern University in 1948 and headed for Los Angeles. He launched his first show, "Tele-Teen Reporter," for a local LA station, following it up with more shows aimed at teens. Other early credits included the Miss Teen-Age America Pageant (later Miss Teen USA), a weekly talk show with musician and actor Oscar Levant, and "Wink Martindale's Dance Party."

Burton also produced music concerts under the Teen-Age Fair Inc. banner starting in 1962, with emerging acts that included the Rolling Stones, The Doors and Cream. The company staged live and televised concerts and pageants through 1969, when he sold it. Burton went on to produce TV music-variety specials and series in the same vein, including "Hollywood A Go Go" and "Romp!!!"

Burton, who retired to the San Francisco Bay area in 2006, is survived by his wife, Sally Burton, and their daughter, Jennifer Burton Werbe.

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This story has been corrected to say Burton was born in Columbus, Ohio, not San Mateo, California.

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