His "Angie" co-star Donna Pescow wrote of him on Facebook, "Peter Scolari. A truly warm and wonderful man, and a fantastic actor. We worked together on 'Angie,' but I knew Peter for decades. We were always so happy to see each other. He was genuine, funny, caring and authentic in every way. It’s so sad to lose him. Rest In Peace Peter. You will be greatly missed."
His first high-profile success was as Henry Desmond — aka Hildegarde — on "Bosom Buddies" (1980-1982), a sitcom that matched him with Tom Hanks as struggling ad men who don drag in order to live in the affordable Susan B. Anthony hotel for women. The homage to "Some Like It Hot" also featured Holland Taylor as their boss.
Affection for the series — like Scolari's friendship with Hanks — has grown over the years, but it was canceled after two seasons.
Scolari described a long battle with drugs and alcohol following his initial burst of success. "I became successful in television in my mid-20s and went on to celebrate in that throughout the early years of having my oldest children," he said on a 2014 "Where Are They Now?" episode. "There were many, many, many years where the demon ruled me."
He got sober in his late 40s, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
In spite of his obstacles, Scolari had over 100 credits, chief among them as Michael Harris on over 140 episodes of "Newhart" (1984-1990), for which he was Emmy-nominated three times.
Living legend Bob Newhart, 92, told "THR," “I knew that Peter was sick, but his death still comes as a great shock. We were friends and colleagues for over 40 years. Julia [Duffy] and Peter, as a vacuous couple (Michael and Stephanie), were an essential part of the success of 'Newhart.' In life, he was a fantastic person, and it was a joy to work together. He will be sorely missed and his passing at 66 is much too early.”
Duffy posted a still from "Newhart" of herself and Scolari dancing, captioning it, "No better partner." She added a broken-heart emoji to the sentiment.
Scolari received his greatest acclaim as Tad Horvath, the father of Lena Dunham's character on "Girls" (2012-2017). Scolari won his first and only Emmy for the part.
Dunham remembered him on Instagram with a series of photos from their show — and from "Bosom Buddies." She wrote, "The shyest extrovert, the most dramatic comedian, the most humble icon. You had lived enough life to know that a TV show was just a TV show, but also to appreciate just what it meant to be allowed to play pretend for a living- and you never let us forget that this job was a privilege."
"I remember when you came back from doing a production of the Music Man somewhere- the theater had basically been a barn, there had been no WiFi and you had no understudy- and you were as grateful and delighted as you were when you were nominated for an Emmy," she went on. "You bragged nonstop about your kids, you had the best stories- like when you did Circus of the Stars and 'that’s when I learned to walk a tightrope, there’s not much to it'- and when we told you that you would be coming out of the closet on the show you said 'thank you, you can trust me with this.' Becky Ann and I loved every second of playing your family and I couldn’t have been raised up by a better TV 'papa.' Thank you, Scolari, for every chat between set ups, every hug onscreen and off and every 'Oh, Jeez.' We will miss you so much."
Other TV and movie roles include the miniseries "Fresno" (1986), a cameo in "That Thing You Do!" (1996), 66 episodes of the TV version of "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" (1997-2000), the voice of Billy in "The Polar Express" (2004), the superhero series "Gotham" (2015), and the miniseries "Fosse/Verdon" (2019).
Later in his career, Scolari racked up Broadway appearances, including "Hairspray" (2003), "Sly Fox" (2004), "Magic/Bird" (2012), "Lucky Guy" with Tom Hanks (2013), "Bronx Bombers" (2014), and "Wicked" (2016). His last NYC stage performance was off-Broadway, in 2018's "The True" with Edie Falco and Michael McKean.
Harvey Fierstein tweeted, "Sad to see the news that Peter Scolari lost his battle with cancer. There wasn't a sweeter man on the planet. We performed together in HAIRSPRAY for a time and he was always a total delight. Farewell, dear Peter."
McKean tweeted a production photo from "The True," and also a photo of himself with Scolario that he captioned, "We knew this was coming. Doesn't make it easier. RIP, Peter my friend."
Scolari is currently seen as Bishop Thomas Marx on the CBS drama "Evil" (2019-present).