Tony Hendra, 'This is Spinal Tap' Star and National Lampoon Alum, Dead at 79

Tony Hendra, the British humorist best known as Spinal Tap's manager in the cult mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, died at his home in Yonkers, New York, his wife told The New York Times. Hendra died on Thursday at 79. His wife, Carla Hendra, said the cause was amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gherig's disease. Hendra was diagnosed with the disease in 2019.

Hendra was born on July 10, 1941, in Hertfordshire, England. He started writing and performing comedy while studying at Cambridge University. He moved to the U.S. in 1964 with his performing partner, Nick Ullett. During his career, he performed and wrote comedy in all forms of media, from stand-up and acting to publishing and editing books. One of Hendra's first performances in the U.S. with Ullett was opening for Lenny Bruce in Greenwich Village. Hendra and Ullett did not do very well outside New York City, but they did wind up on The Ed Sullivan Show.

In 1969, Hedra moved to the West Coast to start writing in television, but that was short-lived. He moved back to the East Coast to work on National Lampoon. He wrote for the magazine when it began and was made managing editor in 1971. Hendra continued writing for the magazine during its most successful period. In 1972, he produced, directed, and co-wrote National Lampoon's Lemmings, an Off-Broadway hit that featured Chevy Chase, John Belushi, and Christopher Guest, long before they found fame.

Hendra and Guest would cross paths again with This Is Spinal Tap, Rob Reiner's mockumentary about a fading British metal band trying (and failing) to tour the U.S. Hendra played the band's manager, Ian Faith, and had several unforgettable moments. Hendra appeared in only a few films after that, but he did co-write the 1996 comedy The Great White Hype.


Hendra became a controversial figure after he published his book, Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul, in 2004. The book earned rave reviews and was about Hedra's relationship with the monk Joseph Warrilow. However, Hendra's daughter, Jessica Hendra, accused Hendra of sexually abusing her. This was not mentioned in the book. Hendra also published her own memoir, How to Cook Your Daughter, in 2005. Hendra denied the allegations.

Hendra was married to Judith Hilary Christmas from 1964 until their divorce in the early 1980s. He is survived by his second wife Carla, whom he married in 1986. He is also survived by children Jessica, Katherine, Lucy, Sebastian, and Nicholas; his brother and two sisters; and four grandchildren.