William G. Huttel, 48, actor known for Henry VIII role

November 17, 2001|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,SUN STAFF

William G. Huttel, a professional actor with a booming voice and immense stature known for his portrayal of King Henry VIII at the Maryland Renaissance Festival in Crownsville, died Monday in Washington.

Mr. Huttel suffered a heart attack, collapsing while shopping in Washington. He died at Greater Southeast Community Hospital in Washington. He was 48.

A native of Forestville, Mr. Huttel graduated from Suitland High School and hoped to follow his father and serve in the Navy as a deep-sea diver. But his size - he was 6 feet 8 inches tall and well over 300 pounds - precluded a career as a Navy diver.

He turned to football, playing at Catholic University, from which he graduated in 1978.

While at Catholic, he studied voice - he sang with a powerful baritone - leading him to joke that he was the only music major to attend the school on a football scholarship.

Affectionately known as "The King" to friends, fans and strangers on the street, Mr. Huttel reached stardom in a roundabout way at the Renaissance Festival, which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

He began working at the festival in 1988 in the role of master of the list, a glorified announcer on a jousting field. The job, which came without a microphone, made good use of his vocal capabilities.

The next year, he was passed over for the role of the king, but the man who was selected quit four days before the festival opened.

When he dyed his hair and beard red to match the color of the king's, Mr. Huttel's likeness to the monarch was eerie, friends say.

"The first weekend, we literally had a more experienced actor walking directly behind him, whispering, `Look to the left. Smile. Wave. Now look to the right,'" recalled Carolyn Spedden, who was in her first year as the festival's artistic director in 1989. "But in a remarkably short time, Bill was doing the role as if he'd been born to play king."

Though the real king is remembered as a tyrant who had two of his six wives beheaded, none of the nastiness wore off on Mr. Huttel.

"People asked me, `Does Bill have many friends?'" said Washington actress Theresa Flynn, who played wife No. 3, "and I'd answer, `Only every person he ever met.'"

In addition to the Maryland festivals, he played four seasons as Henry VIII at the Ontario Renaissance Festival in Canada and at festivals in Florida and throughout the East Coast. Recently, he appeared in murder mystery plays at the Chesapeake Center for Creative Arts in Brooklyn Park.

Services will be held at 3 p.m. today at Bethany Lutheran Church, 5501 Silver Hill Road in Forestville.

Mr. Huttel is survived by an uncle, Paul C. Staubus of Lusby. His marriage to Kim Kirk ended in divorce.

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