For the first time since his days at WKRP in Cincinnati, Herb Tarlek was back in plaid yesterday.

Frank Bonner, who played the style-challenged ad man on the beloved TV sitcom, was in Toronto shooting a music video with Canadian indie band the Rheostatics for their new song, The Tarleks.

"The polyester king is back for one day," Bonner said. "Somewhere in Toronto there is a Volkswagen without seat covers."

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Until now, Bonner says he has been reluctant to reprise the WKRP role for fear of being pigeonholed.

"I just don't do it," he says.

Still, the show -- which chronicled life at a quirky top-40 radio station and ran from 1978 to 1982 -- has lived on in reruns, and Bonner's memorable alter ego has been tough to shake.

People still come up to him to say they have "Herb Tarlek Day" at work where everyone wears their worst clothes.

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When Bonner was asked to appear in the video, his children convinced him it was finally time for Herb to stage a comeback.

"I've never done a music video," Bonner says. "I thought, 'What a hoot.' "

He was also "blown away" that someone would come up with a song about Herb Tarlek.

Rheostatics' guitarist and lead singer Martin Tielli, who says The Tarleks is about "the infiltration of tacky salesmen into our everyday, private lives," is equally astonished that his initial idea turned into a real-life encounter with Bonner.

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"It's like you just sort of write something that's really just off the top of [your]head with as little thought as possible," he said during a break in the video shoot. "To see it manifest itself in real life is pretty hilarious."

The band will be staging a string of gigs at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern from Nov. 11 to 20.

But yesterday, the focus was all on The Tarleks as Bonner prepared to don his trademark suit one more time and make a rare appearance in front of the camera.

For the past 10 years, he's spent most of his time directing, his most recent project being an Internet soap opera.

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About twice a year, he hooks up with his former cast mates, including Loni Anderson, Howard Hesseman and Gary Sandy. Gordon Jump, who played befuddled WKRP station manager Arthur Carlson, died last year.

"Unfortunately, we lost 'the Big Guy,' " says Bonner, referring to Jump's nickname on the show. It was "a big, big loss for all of us."

When preparing for yesterday's shoot, Bonner was surprised to find he has not lost touch with the essence of Herb Tarlek.

"I just hadn't thought about Herb -- that whole attitude wasn't even in my system, I thought," he says.

"[Then]I put the clothes on. Man, it's like it seeped into the bloodstream."