SAN DIEGO — Russ T. Nailz, longtime San Diego radio personality and comedian, died Wednesday. He was 64 years old.
Nailz, real name Russ Stolnack, burst onto the local comedy scene in the late 1970s. He was a multiple regional Emmy winner, a Las Vegas performer, and a well-known comedian for his impressions – notably of Will Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy character in the “Anchorman” films – as well as for his musical styles on stage.
His “radio brother,” Chris Cantore, said Russ has been “everywhere” in the community since Cantore arrived in the city in the 1980s.
“I remember first seeing Russ do stand-up at a fraternity house when I was a freshman at San Diego State,” Cantore said. “Then years later he and I work together as morning guys at 91X. I’ve always admired Russ. He was a mentor in many ways. Just his comedic talent, the impressions he made, his comedic timing. He was hysterical.
Cantore continued, “He was engaged in San Diego. He was committed to the community, non-profits, charities, people. He liked to make people laugh. Just quick-witted. He had this quick, sharp mind and I could never even compete and wouldn’t even try.
A biography on Nailz’s website touts his ability to “(spit) fun bits as fast and furious as a wood chipper.” His YouTube-posted reel demonstrates a knack for song parodies and impressions of musicians such as Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan, among others.
He also performs regularly as a musician in his own right. The last video posted to his YouTube account in January was an animated rendition of Bobby Darin’s 1959 hit “Dream Lover.”
Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer called Nailz “a true San Diego legend who have shared laughter and joy with all of us for decades.
“He was a friend who had a heart of gold and always brought a smile to everyone he met. I will miss him very much,” Faulconer said in a tweet.
Nailz was regularly featured on San Diego’s 91X FM radio and KUSI-TV and acted as an auctioneer for many local charities.
“The 91X family is sad to share the news that comedian, friend, legendary San Diegan and former 91X morning show host Russ ‘T. Nailz’ Stolnack is dead,” the radio station said. tweeted Wednesday. “Russ, thank you for all the giggles!” May he rest in peace.”
Cantore said his friend’s ultimate mission was to make people laugh.
“He was committed to his craft and he was committed to this city,” he said. “In many ways he felt he graduated from radio and in many ways he became larger than life. He was so attached to radio, but Russ, to me, was larger than radio. Russ was a real artist. He was a real comedian.
“He can take command of a scene. If you put me on stage, I’m gonna get wet. There’s no way. It doesn’t happen.
No other information was immediately available on the circumstances of his death.
FOX 5’s Kathleen Bade and Phil Blauer contributed to this report.
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