Friends, Family Gather to Remember John Ritter

Actor John Ritter (search) brought love and laughter not only to millions of television viewers around the world, but to his family, friends and colleagues, say those who knew him well.

About 1,000 people gathered Tuesday night at the El Capitan Theatre to remember Ritter, who died Sept. 11 of an undetected heart problem. He was 54.

Ritter gained fame in the 1970s as the bumbling but lovable Jack Tripper on the madcap comedy series "Three's Company" (search) and staged a comeback to TV last year as loving dad Paul Hennessy in the ABC series "8 Simple Rules ... For Dating My Teenage Daughter." He fell ill on the set of his new hit.

Ritter's widow, actress Amy Yasbeck, stood with photos of Ritter portraying Tripper and Hennessy.

"Sorry, John," Yasbeck said, "but tonight we are here to love you out loud."

Tom Ritter described his brother as "a pied piper of fun, filled with joy and love."

Others who spoke included actress Katey Sagal, who played Ritter's wife on "8 Simple Rules," and Michael Eisner, the head of Walt Disney Co., which owns ABC.

Actor-director Peter Bogdanovich was a guest star in the last "8 Simple Rules" (search) episode that Ritter taped. He described Ritter as "loving, funny, warmhearted, kind, generous, mischievous as a young kid, unpretentious."

"What John seemed to be," Bogdanovich said, "he was."