Joe E. Tata, Peach Pit Owner in ‘Beverly Hills, 90210,’ Dies at 85
Joe E. Tata, a character actor whose roles in a long television career included henchmen in the original “Batman” series and bit parts on “The Rockford Files,” but who was best known as the good-natured owner of the Peach Pit diner in the 1990s teen drama “Beverly Hills, 90210,” died on Thursday in Woodland Hills, Calif. He was 85.
His death, at a care facility, was confirmed by his lawyer Richard W. Sharpe, who did not specify a cause.
Mr. Tata’s daughter Kelly Tata also shared the news of his death in a statement on a GoFundMe page that she started to help cover the cost of his care. She said he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2018.
From 1990 to 2000, Mr. Tata played Nat Bussichio, the friendly owner of the fictional Peach Pit, in 238 episodes of “Beverly Hills, 90210.” As Nat, Mr. Tata served as a father figure and role model to the characters on the show, which followed a group of high school friends in the affluent ZIP code.
Although the show had a sluggish start in its first season on Fox in 1990, it became a hit and a pop-culture phenomenon that intercut romantic themes with serious issues, including teenage pregnancy and racism. The show’s popularity also made celebrities of its telegenic young cast, which included Jason Priestley, Shannen Doherty, Luke Perry, Jennie Garth, Ian Ziering, Brian Austin Green and Tori Spelling (whose father, Aaron Spelling, produced the show).
Joseph Evan Tata was born on Sept. 13, 1936, in the Bronx. His father, John Lucas, was a vaudevillian who made a name for himself as Rosey the Singing Barber. Complete information abut Mr. Tata’s survivors was not immediately available.
Mr. Tata landed his first television role in 1960, in an episode of “Peter Gunn.” He went on to have a prolific career as a character actor, with bit parts in dozens of television dramas and science fiction shows.
He provided the voice of several robots in the sci-fi series “Lost in Space” and played several henchmen in the original “Batman” series, starring Adam West. He also played an alien on “The Outer Limits.”
Mr. Tata also became a familiar face in police and detective shows in the 1960s and ’70s, with appearances in “Mission: Impossible,” “Police Story” and “The Rockford Files,” which starred James Garner.
But Mr. Tata’s most enduring role was on “Beverly Hills, 90120.” The students of West Beverly High were often shown hanging out after school at the Peach Pit, where Mr. Tata, as Nat, would listen to their problems and dole out advice.
In an Instagram post on Thursday, Mr. Ziering said that while Mr. Tata “may have been in the back of many scenes,” he was “a leading force, especially to us guys, on how to appreciate the gift that 90210 was.”
The series ended in 2000 after almost 300 episodes and gave rise to several spinoffs, including “Melrose Place” and the 2008 reboot “90210,” in which Mr. Tata reprised his role.
His most recent acting credit, from 2014, was as a high school principal in the ABC Family comedy series “Mystery Girls,” which starred Ms. Garth and Ms. Spelling.