William "Billy" Costello

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William Arnold Costello
William Arnold Costello

(1898-02-02)February 2, 1898
DiedOctober 9, 1971(1971-10-09) (aged 73)
Resting placeMariposa District Cemetery
St Catherine's Catholic Church cemetery, Hornitos, California
Other namesRed Pepper Sam, Billy
OccupationStage actor, voice actor
Years active1921–1935
Known forPopeye

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

Costello was born on February 2, 1898, in Rhode Island, to William E. and Susan B. (née Steere) Costello. In addition to voice acting, he worked as a vaudeville performer under the name "Red Pepper Sam". Costello had worked with the Fleischer Studios 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. ^ The Union Democrat

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