William "Billy" Costello

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Billy Costello
Born William Costello
(1898-02-02)February 2, 1898
Rhode Island
Died October 9, 1971(1971-10-09) (aged 73)
San Jose, California
Resting place Mariposa District Cemetery
Mariposa, California
Other names Red Pepper Sam, Billy
Occupation Stage actor, voice actor
Years active 1930–1935
Known for Popeye

William “Billy” Costello (February 2, 1898 – October 9, 1971), a.k.a. "Red Pepper Sam", was an American live and voice actor, and the original voice of Popeye the Sailor in animated cartoons.

Costello had worked with the Fleischer Studio as the voice of Gus the Gorilla on the Betty Boop radio show and they felt that the raspy voice he had used for that character would work for the new Popeye character they were planning.[1] He was cast to provide the voice for the first Popeye cartoon, 1933's Popeye the Sailor. Costello appeared in the next 24 Popeye shorts until he was fired by the Fleischers, allegedly over "bad behavior,"[2] and was replaced with Jack Mercer. Costello's final appearance was in You Gotta Be a Football Hero (1935).

Costello died in San Jose, California, on October 9, 1971. He was buried in Mariposa, California.[3]


  1. ^ Leslie Cabarga, The Fleischer Story, Da Capo Press 1988, ISBN 0-306-80313-5
  2. ^ Hurwitz, Matt (July 29, 2007), "Hey, Sailor! 'Popeye' Is Back in Port", Washington Post, pp. N02, retrieved 2009-02-06 
  3. ^ William Costello at Find a Grave

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