Walter Olkewicz, the actor best known as sleazy bartender Jacques Renault in “Twin Peaks,” oil refinery worker Dougie Boudreau in TV’s “Grace Under Fire” and the cable guy who infuriated Kramer in “Seinfeld,” has died. He was 72.
Olkewicz died Tuesday in his Los Angeles-area home following a prolonged illness, according to his screenwriter son, Zak Olkewicz.
“He was a good man who pushed his love for creativity and the arts into everything he did,” Zak Olkewicz told USA TODAY of his father. “He handed that passion down to me, and I look forward to passing it on to the grandchildren he loved so much.”
Olkewicz was a distinctive and familiar figure on TV and in movies for decades, appearing alongside Tony Danza throughout five seasons of “Who’s the Boss?” as Tiny McGee from 1987 and, during the same timespan, as characters including Walter Plimp in “Night Court.”
In fan-favorite 1996 “Seinfeld” episode “Cadillac,” Olkewicz played Nick, the Plaza Cable worker who antagonizes Kramer. The intense feud ended in a cable guy/Kramer embrace.
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Born on May 14, 1948, in Bayonne, New Jersey, Olkewicz graduated from Bayonne High School in 1966 and Colorado State University, before making his onscreen debut in 1976’s “Futureworld.”
On the big screen, Olkewicz portrayed Private Hinshaw in an all-star cast including John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Mickey Rourke and John Candy in Steven Spielberg’s 1979 World War II comedy “1941.”
He made a brief but memorable appearance as mob lawyer Jerome “Romey” Clifford, whose death by suicide sets the plot in motion in the 1994 legal thriller based on the John Grisham novel, “The Client.”
Olkewicz’s most famous role was as croupier and bartender Jacques Renault in the 1990 season of “Twin Peaks.” Even following his character’s season finale death, creator David Lynch was insistent on bringing Jacques and Olkewicz back.
“After the series shut down, David said, ‘We love what you did, we want you for the movie,'” Olkewicz, told The Jersey Journal in 2017. “I said, ‘David, I was killed in the last episode.’ He said, ‘Bull, we got flashbacks, we got dream sequences. We’ll bring you back.'”
Olkewicz appeared as Jacques in the 1992 prequel film “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.” In the 2017 Showtime “Twin Peaks” series, he starred as cousin Jean-Michel Renault for his final performance.
Bedridden after complications from multiple knee surgeries, Olkewicz had to be positioned behind a bar for the “Twin Peak” appearances “so you couldn’t see he wasn’t able to stand,” says Zak Olkewicz. “But he wouldn’t have turned down returning to that role for anything.”
Survivors include son Zak, daughter-in-law, Katrina Rennells, an actress and screenwriter, and his beloved grandchildren, Sadie, 3, and Declan, 1.