RIP Joe E. Tata
Joe E. Tata, beloved for playing Nat Bussichio on “Beverly Hills, 90210,” died on Wednesday at age 85.
The cause was complications from Alzheimer’s.
Tata, whose career began in the 1960s, made his first appearance on “Beverly Hills, 90210” in the series’ third episode, “Every Dream Has Its Price (Tag),” as Dylan introduces Brandon to The Peach Pit and its proprietor. The diner became one of the show’s central locations, with Nat appearing in more than 200 episodes across all 10 seasons, some of which featured Tata in prominent storylines. He had a significant role in the series finale, with Nat walking Donna down the aisle at her wedding to David.
Tata was even in the “Beverly Hills, 90210” opening credits as a series regular for seasons 6-10. A season 6 episode, “Fade In, Fade Out,” included actual footage of the actor in Roger Corman’s The Unholy Rollers, which was worked into the plot. Tata also portrayed Nat’s ancestor, Sal Bussichio, in a season 4 installment, and reprised his role as Nat in three episodes of “90210” in 2008. He later worked with Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling in an episode of their series “Mystery Girls” in 2014, which was his final role.
Other notable credits include “Batman,” “Lost in Space,” “The Rockford Files,” and an episode of “Charmed” that saw him reunite with Shannen Doherty. Tata also played himself in “Grosse Pointe,” the Darren Star series that spoofed “Beverly Hills, 90210” behind the scenes, and participated in 2003’s “Beverly Hills, 90210: 10-Year High School Reunion.”
In recent years, Tata’s health declined as he battled Alzheimer’s. His daughter Kelly launched a GoFundMe in the fall of 2021 to finance trips to be with him and support legal issues over his care (full disclosure: I was a contributor to the fund). In June 2022, Tata moved into the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s memory care facility.
Last year, I had the opportunity to speak with Kelly and witness her devotion to her father during a Zoom call with her and other “Beverly Hills, 90210” fans. Around the same time, Tata and his co-stars reunited on a separate Zoom call to reminisce as his memory faded. I now extend my deepest condolences to Kelly and the Tata family’s loved ones.
May our memories of Tata never fade.
Tata’s passing comes just weeks after the loss of “Beverly Hills, 90210” executive producer Jessica Klein in July and recurring actress Denise Dowse earlier this month.
Should any cast or crew share public tributes, I will add them below.
Lindsay Price commented on Garth’s post, “Oh.. so so sad. He was the best. 💔”
Kathleen Robertson commented on Spelling’s post, “Yes. So many incredible memories with Joe E. From day one he always made me feel like he had my back. And so many laughs.”
**See tribute from “Beverly Hills, 90210” executive producer Larry Mollin in the comments below.**
I am so sad to hear this. My love to all who knew and loved him.
This is a blow though we knew he was ailing for awhile. It's a tear in the fabric of our community and it hurts. He was such a joy to be around and such a pro to work so seamless with a young cast. They all adored him and. Je E was always where the fun was. His work as Nat was stellar., He could bridge both worlds and was another father on the show when one was needed. I always kid him about the worst advice he gave. in the Christmas show of Season 4. He tells Dylan to open his heart and trust Suzanne who of course is part of the big con to steal his money. Sprit Soar, Joe E! Fun in heaven!