Bill Saluga Dies: You Can Call Me Ray Comedian Was 85

Bill Saluga, whose trademark lines that began with “You can call me Ray” cracked up a generation of comedy fans, died in Los Angeles on March 28, according to his friend, Eric Brenner.

He was 85 and his death was attributed to complications of heart failure and arthritis, according to his friend, Bill Minkin, who joined with him, Fred Willard, Patti Deutsch, Michael Mislove, and George Memmoli in the improv group Ace Trucking Co.

“He was an icon,” said Minkin, who characterized his friend as quiet and polite when he wasn’t on stage, a stark contrast to the brash characters he portrayed.

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Saluga was best known for his cigar-smoking, zoot suited character Raymond J. Johnson Jr.

A frequent talk-show guest, Saluga would be triggered by someone calling him “Mr. Johnson.” Feigning outrage, he would then launch into a soliloquy for his catchphrase, “You can call me Ray, or you can call me Jay, or you can call me…” He would then ramble through every conceivable permutation of his name before finishing with “…but you doesn’t has to call me Johnson!”

The character became nationally known in the late 1970s after being used in a series of beer commercials for Miller Lite and Anheuser-Busch.

Saluga appeared with comedian Norm Crosby in one version of the commercials. “Well, y’doesn’t hasta call it Anheuser Busch Natural Light Beer, and y’doesn’t hasta call it ‘Busch Natural.’ Just say ‘Natural!’” Saluga then did the “You can call me Ray” routine after Crosby warns not to ask Johnson his name.

Saluga was also a regular guest on the Red Foxx Show, the Gong Show, and later teased his Johnson character on The Simpsons and King of the Hill.

His “You can call me Ray” schtick was also referenced by Bob Dylan in his 1979 hit, “Gotta Serve Somebody.”

Saluga is survived by a nephew in Youngstown, Ohio.

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