An ambulance crew from Rye was called at 8.20pm and took him to the Conquest Hospital in Hastings, but Rod, known to millions for his troublesome puppet Emu, was dead on arrival.
His agent, Laurie Mansfield,Spartacus:Vengeance Season 2
said: "What they're not too sure about is the possibility that he might have had a heart attack, either while he was up there or after he fell."
Rod, 6ft 2in, was well known for the attacks his puppet launched against TV celebrities, including a notorious appearance on the Michael Parkinson show in the 1970s in which he set about the chat
Parkinson today paid tribute to Rod as "a gentle man", but joked that he had a sinister side - his puppet.
"I am very sad to hear of Rod's death. He was a very charming, intelligent and sensitive man, quite unlike the Emu.
"The Emu was the dark side of Rod's personality and very funny, provided it was not on top of you.
"He was a gentle man and a very endearing companion. He made me laugh an awful lot and we will sorely miss him."
Mr Mansfield had been with the entertainer only yesterday after the star had been in London to attend the first night of the West End comedy show Animal Crackers on Tuesday.
"He came back to the office with me yesterday morning and he seemed wonderful. He was in fine shape," said his agent.
Rod lived in Winchelsea for more than four years after being made bankrupt in 1994.
It was during his heyday that He ran into financial trouble. He was living in an Elizabethan mansion which he was restoring in Rochester when the cash ran out.
He told the Argus at the time: "You work all your life and then you are suddenly told the money you thought was there isn't.
"I've lost everything, including my home. I felt bitter at first, but what's the point?"
Rod agreed to allow the National Trust to take over his home in exchange for a bungalow they owned in Winchelsea.
He lived there with his 19-year-old son, Oliver, who is said to be devastated.
Villagers were shocked by the death. Dave Callaghan, 43-year-old landlord of the Queens Head, where Rod was a regular, Fringe spoilers
said: "He would come on pub trips to France with us and even took Emu on one
"He was a very nice man, and extremely intelligent. He could do The Times crossword in 20 minutes."
Mr Callaghan said locals would be holding a wake in the pub today as a tribute.
He doubted whether Emu would be buried with him: "He didn't like him much and tried to push him into the background. He wanted a separate identity."
He took a keen interest in local affairs and in 1996 backed an appeal to restore the 11th century All Saints with St Nicholas Church in the nearby village of Icklesham.