Saturday, February 11, 2012

Be Our Guest: Volume Three

Yes, folks, I’m back again with another round of TV series guest stars that for one reason or another have caught my attention as I’m wading through hours of classic episodic television. For more of the same, you can click on the “TV Guest Stars” link in the column on the right. (Most of these pictures look a LOT better if you right click on them and "Open a New Tab" or "Open a New Window," after which many of them can also be magnified!)

We’ll start with a “Guess Who,” one of several I’m bringing forth this time out. Some of you might not give a care regarding these mystery guests (or any of the rest of these people for that matter!), but for those who like to try their hand at identifying people before (or in some cases after) they were stars, I’m going to preface those paragraphs with this: “???” so that you can click on the photo first and look before reading on too far and spoiling the fun. Does the lady above and also shown here look at all familiar to you? The shots are from a 1956 episode of Screen Director’s Playhouse, one that was unusual in that it told the story of a couple (Fred MacMurray and Marilyn Erskine) in flashback as the songs of Jimmy McHugh were performed one after another by a series of vocalists. The lady in question appeared as one of the singers.

Thing is, though the girl could sing and even made a career out of it during this period, she really isn’t known for that. She is best known for being the veteran of over one hundred short films of the 1930s and early-’40s. If you examine her face closely, it may come to you. Here comes the answer…

This is Darla Hood, better known as “Little Darla” from all those Our Gang/The Little Rascals movies. After WWII, she had grown up too much to take part in the reinvigorated series of comedy shorts and changed directions, focusing on her singing (and marrying at only age seventeen!) She appeared briefly in 1957’s Calypso Heat Wave, singing a duet with the leading man, and then worked in 1959’s The Bat with Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead before retiring from the screen. She did a lot of voice work in TV commercials and the occasional movie before dying at only age forty-nine from hepatitis contracted during an operation in 1979.

Now we jump far into the future… all the way to the 25th century, in fact! The 1979 series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was a spandex and velvet updating of the old Buster Crabbe serials. The first season of the show featured a plethora of famous names as guest stars, giving many of them a chance to camp it up with gusto. The costuming was almost always a scream, too. Look here at Roddy McDowall in a beard and turban and Jack Palance revisiting his robed look from way back when he costarred as an evil sorcerer in 1954’s The Silver Chalice.

After Star Wars and all of its countless imitators came out, sci-fi TV shows and movies tripped over themselves in presenting as many ruthless, evil villains and villainesses as they could. They would often be found in cloaked costumes with dramatic accessories and/or makeup. Here we have Elizabeth Allen (blonde for a change) as a nasty piece of work whose hand is missing, replaced with a super-strong metal one that is dangerous when she gets irritated (which is fairly often!)

Or how about classic movie star Cesar Romero Dr. Zhivago-ing it up in a comely fur hat and dramatic cloak with silver chain detailing? Romero (also famous for playing The Joker on the 1960s rendition of Batman) was one of several Buck Rogers guest stars with a Batman connection. Julie “Catwoman” Newmar was also featured in a 1980 episode and Frank “The Riddler” Gorshin was on Buck Rogers, too. Burgess “The Penguin” Meredith was still making movies at this juncture, from Rocky II to When Time Ran Out… to Clash of the Titans, to be bothered with a guest role like this or we might have enjoyed seeing all four of the recurring Batman villains on Buck Rogers at one time or another.
Buck Rogers also gave quite a few fledgling actors and actresses a shot. This is Falcon Crest's Ana Alicia in the days before she joined that hit primetime soap. She had worked on daytime TV's Ryan's Hope before this and also had done guest spots on The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries and Battlestar Galactica. In between this and her role on Crest in 1982, she worked in the all-star TV miniseries Condominium and also had a role in Halloween II. She left Crest for the final time in 1989 (after 178 episodes!) and thereafter only worked sporadically before retiring in the mid-'90s to become a wife and mother when she was only about forty.

The pilot for Rogers was an hour and a half long and was released as a feature film in the U.S. and abroad in order to generate interest in the show. The opening credits consisted of a bevy of seductive space tarts rolling around on a lit up floor, beguilingly looking into the camera as they lollygagged in their silver lame get-ups. One of these, Leann Hunley, like most of the other ladies, didn't ever appear in the series itself. She was just trucked out to look sexy and glamorous. Recognize her? She had done a couple of small roles on Hawaii 5-O and Battlestar Galactica and proceeded to costar on The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo. Then she won an Emmy for her work on Days of Our Lives and landed on Dynasty for a couple of seasons. More recent work includes a stint on Dawson's Creek and a return to Days after all those years away.

??? Here's another gal who was right at the start of her TV career. Don't miss the faux-revealing get-up she's sporting! She'd won guest parts on CHiPs, Barnaby Jones and The Incredible Hulk before taking part in this two-part episode of Buck Rogers. More series appearances followed such as on Hart to Hart and Simon & Simon. She even had her own brief show in 1980 called Semi-Tough, based on the hit '77 movie. Things began to come around in 1982 when she worked on The Fall Guy with Lee Majors for a couple of years. Then, in 1984, she was cast in the hit sitcom Night Court where she remained until 1992. Afterwards, there was the show Hearts Afire, but her most prominent part since Court was probably in the smash hit film There's Something About Mary. She still works, mostly in TV movies or in voice-acting. This is Markie Post.

??? Sometimes a future star might appear ever so briefly, without lines and just careening around in the background. Such is the case with this fella. Recognize the tall actor in the back towards the left? Eventually, he would become quite a star in Hollywood, winning 3 Golden Globe Awards for his acting as well as an Oscar and one additional nomination. This is his very first appearance on screen as an actor (and it's highly unlikely that it is listed on his resume!) He was one of a gaggle of slaves on an oppressed planet. It would be three years before he'd land another TV part, this time on St. Elsewhere in a three episode story arc. He continued to plug along, with Top Gun a major hit and Howard the Duck a major flop, both in 1986. In 1990, things started to happen, from Cadillac Man to Jacob's Ladder, followed by The Player, Short Cuts and The Shawshank Redemption. Yes, this is Tim Robbins, Oscar winner as Best Supporting Actor for Mystic River (2003) and two-decade-long partner of Susan Sarandon.

For another actor just getting his start, though he was not one who would ever hit the same success as Mr. Robbins, we turn to the teen-oriented series The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. The 1977-1979 show alternated between Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson as The Hardy brothers and Pamela Sue Martin as Nancy (though she eventually departed, replaced by Janet Julian until that whole part of the show was done away with, making Cassidy and Stevenson the fulltime stars.) In an early episode featuring Martin, she has a male date at a local dance played by Joe Penny in one of his very first (maybe the first) onscreen acting roles.

In the course of the hour, he gets talked into taking her and her friends out on his boat in order to investigate the mystery of Pirate’s Cove. Penny, who was twenty-three at this point, would continue to act on various TV shows and TV-movies until working as a regular on Riptide from 1984-1986.) Greater success came in 1987 when he starred in Jake and the Fatman alongside the portly William Conrad. That series lasted until 1992. Since that, he’s continued to act, primarily in a series of Jane Doe mystery TV-movies with Lea Thompson and in an occasionally recurring part on Cold Case.

The show could also be great for spotting older stars who no longer found regular work in the movies. Here we find the always-glamorous Miss Dina Merrill playing a haughty stage star who seems to be involved in some sort of conspiracy. Little did anyone know in 1979 that within about a dozen years, Merrill (who has been the subject of a mini-tribute here) would someday be playing the secretary of lead actor Tim Robbins in The Player. He could barely get his foot in the producer's doors in ‘79.

On the subject of mystery shows, let’s look at a few guest stars from those glory days of the genre. We all know that Susan St. James played Rock Hudson’s danger-prone spouse on McMillan & Wife from 1971 to 1976. But the year before she played a policewoman out to help nab a killer of women on Dennis Weaver’s McCloud. By this time, she’d already made a name for herself in the TV arena with enduring recurring parts on both Robert Wagner’s It Takes a Thief and The Name of the Game, which featured three rotating stars (Gene Barry, Robert Stack and Anthony Franciosa.) Her biggest hit besides McMillan was Kate & Allie, with Jane Curtin, which ran from 1984-1989.

??? This young lady ought to look familiar to many of you. She played a small role in another episode of McCloud in 1970. She had amassed about a dozen TV appearances by this time, but was far from famous. She had been married since 1956 to a man who wielded considerable muscle in the show business world and who was responsible for jump-starting the career of a little-known director by the name of Steven Spielberg. While her husband was acting as head of production at Universal Studios, he green-lit a 1975 movie that would ultimately go on to be a gargantuan blockbuster for the ages and Spielberg was assigned to direct it. The lady shown here was given the sole female role of any note (though it must be said that the makers were deliberately looking for non-famous actors to populate most of the parts.) The movie was Jaws and this is Lorraine Gary. She played the wife of Roy Scheider and proceeded to appear in Jaws 2 and, later, starred in Jaws: The Revenge, which was considered a low point for practically everyone involved. Since that, she hasn’t resurfaced professionally.

??? The same year Lorraine Gary appeared on McCloud (1970), another fledgling actress had a sizeable role on another episode of the series. Does her face ring a bell? She’s a reasonably well-known personality even though she only acted on television eight times and never in a movie. Also, she is typically referred to by her nickname rather than the full length version of it she used during her limited TV career. Her last name is one of the most famous and instantly recognizable ever thanks to her superstar father. Her brother and sister both had successful singing careers and in the sister’s case, a slightly more successful acting career. This is Christina Sinatra, better known as Tina Sinatra. Her final performance as an actress was in the 1977 two-hour pilot for Fantasy Island, though she has written a book and has produced TV and feature films that concern her father, Frank.

Pilots come in a lot of varieties, be they TV-movies, back-door pilots (in which a hot show is hijacked for a half hour or and hour to feature people who are lined up for a potential new series) or spin-offs. The successful cop show Starsky and Hutch had a breakout character in Huggy Bear, played by Antonio Fargas, who popped up once or twice per installment to help out the erstwhile detectives. Plans were put into place to spin him off into his own series (to be called Huggy Bear and the Turkey), so a back-door pilot featured him and his own sidekick, a country guy played by Dale Robinette, in 1977. Another potential regular for the proposed series was LaWanda Page (shown here) as a sassy, blind, reverse-racist informant. Unfortunately, the episode was infamous as the all-time lowest rated one of Starsky and Hutch and plans were immediately scrapped. Page, who had gained fame as the furious Aunt Esther on childhood friend Redd Foxx’s Sanford and Son, was thus free to work on Foxx’s follow-up show The Sanford Arms (1977) and the eventual Sanford (1981), though both series were short-lived. She died of diabetes in 2002 at the age of eighty-one.

Let’s step back a tad farther in time to one of my very favorite shows, Mission: Impossible. The series eventually stuck to a pretty strict formula of using the same team of special agents (whoever was starring in the show at that time), but in the first season, it was not unusual to see other people joining the IMF (Impossible Missions Force.) Wally Cox, Eartha Kitt and Mary Ann Mobley were guest agents along the way. Here, we see George Takei (Mr. Sulu of Star Trek fame) as a member of the latest mission. (In the foreground are series regulars Greg Morris, Barbara Bain and Peter Lupus.)
Another instance had Martine Bartlett as part of the IMF in a 1966 episode that had to do with psychic phenomena. (She’s shown here with Martin Landau and Stephen Hill. Hill was the first leader of the team whose real-life newfound belief in Judaism prevented him from working some of the hours required for shooting the program. He was slowly whittled out of the scripts and was replaced in the second season by the more familiar Peter Graves, who remained until the end.)

If Bartlett looks familiar, it may be because she essayed one of the small screen’s most terrifying mothers ever. Shown in flashbacks, she was the abusive, stoic, physically and emotionally dangerous mom of Sally Field in the landmark TV-movie Sybil. No one who’s ever seen her in that can ever completely forget it! She only acted on screen four more times after Sybil, even though she wasn’t yet sixty when she retired in 1983. No matter how kind she might have been in real life, people were probably petrified of her! She passed away in 2006 at age eighty from renal failure.

Also on hand in this episode is Beatrice Straight. Straight had been kicking around Hollywood since 1951, her first film being the Bette Davis-Gary Merrill drama Phone Call from a Stranger. About a decade after this, she won a small part in the Sidney Lumet drama Network and won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the five minute and forty second performance. Her greater claim to fame, at least with regards to public identity, came in 1982 when she played a key role (as an expert on the paranormal) in the huge hit Poltergeist. She retired in 1990 and passed away in 2001 at the age of eighty-six from pneumonia. What I always find fascinating about her is that the way she looked in the 1950s is not too much different from the way she looked in the 1960s and she proceeded to look basically the same in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, too! Basically she just had more and more wrinkles, but the hairstyle and hair color rarely varied much.

??? Another fun show of the (late) ‘60s was The Mod Squad. The trio of teen detectives would often find themselves undercover, sometimes in unusual places. In one episode, they spent time in a country-western bar in which the lady pictured here worked as a waitress. Check out the gal in the frilly calico uniform and see if you can figure out who she is. She was in the first blush of a career that would eventually turn quite hot by the early ‘80s and span TV, stage and the big screen. The cop series in which she costarred from 1981 to 1988 gleaned her four Emmy awards and she proceeded to win two more for her work in two subsequent series. (Interestingly, despite all the Emmy acclaim, she couldn’t get even one Golden Globe award, with Jane Wyman, Angela Lansbury, Sharon Gless and Claire Danes stealing her thunder over the years.)

The actress is Miss Tyne Daly, the daughter of Medical Center’s James Daly (whose show she guested on four times) and brother to Timothy Daly. Her long-running ‘80s series was, of course, Cagney & Lacey. Her later series included Christy and Judging Amy. Having gained weight in the years since this installment of The Mod Squad (Cagney costar Sharon Gless has, too!), she nonetheless enjoyed a very healthy acting career afterwards.

??? Another performer who guest-starred on The Mod Squad during the early days of his career is shown here bandaged in the hospital bed (and in the inset with fellow guest star Daniel J. Travanti, who then went by the moniker Dan Travanty.) Like Tyne Daly, he would also gain weight over the course of his career. After years of working as a guest on many TV westerns and other shows, he hit it really big in 1973 with an ultra-violent exploitation flick based on a true story. Few of his subsequent movies were able repeat that high, but he has worked steadily ever since.

The man in question is Joe Don Baker, star of Walking Tall, which was based on the experiences of small town sheriff Buford Pusser. Later, he starred in the infamous howler Mitchell, which was skewered on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and had a supporting part in the Pierce Brosnan Bond film Goldeneye in 1995. He’s still at it today, though with less frequency than he once maintained.

Perhaps one of the last people one might expect to see on The Mod Squad (not to mention pregnant at forty-three!) is Betty Lynn! Lynn had worked in quite a few 1950s films before segueing into television and landing a recurring role on The Andy Griffith Show. There, she played the girlfriend of nervous, neurotic deputy Barney Fife (played by Don Knotts) from 1961 to 1966. Check out the vivid set decor in this photo, by the way! Recurring roles seemed to be a forte of hers because she later had them on such series as Family Affair, My Three Sons and Matlock. She took part in the 1986 Andy Griffith Show reunion movie Return to Mayberry, then played a nun in a 1990 telefilm called Shades of LA before retiring. Now in her mid-eighties, she is still with us now.

??? Does this chick look at all familiar? Keen eyes will note that this is not actually a female, but a male in drag. By the time of this 1977 The Love Boat appearance, the actor was already a nearly decade-long veteran of his profession and was well on his way to becoming a household name. The son of a famous country singer, he had worked on Burt Reynolds' short-lived TV series Dan August in a 1970 episode and then acted in two lesser-known Walt Disney movies, The Barefoot Executive and Scandalous John, in 1971. A supporting role in the cult favorite The Other came in 1972. That year marked his first appearance on The Waltons in a part that he periodically appeared in, in between reams of other guest roles on other shows, until his next series rendered that impossible. Yes, once he landed the lead in a 1977 sitcom, one that lasted until 1983, he could hardly return to The Waltons, for the show was about a single man posing as gay and living with two single females! Yes, this is John Ritter, son of Tex Ritter, of Three's Company fame. He later worked in several movies and on the aforementioned series Hearts Afire (1992-1995) and 8 Simple Rules (2002-2003) before dying of a heart ailment at only fifty-four.

In this Love Boat episode, he is following a girlfriend who just jilted him and wants to buy a ticket, but the only available cabin is shared with a female, so he steals a country singer's wig and some old ladies' clothes and dresses up as a chick. His roomie turns out to be recently dumped bride-to-be Tovah Feldshuh, she of the Broadway stage and occasional film and television appearance. One minute, Ritter is her rather unusual female roommate and the next he is a cute, male, fellow passenger. Naturally, they soon begin to have feelings for one another. Feldshuh was a remarkable actress who never really got the recognition that was due her. A decent part in 2001's Kissing Jessica Stein won her a bit of newfound attention, brief as it was, though she still works steadily today at close to sixty years of age.

This child actor, all freckled, teary and snot-nosed after a Christmas gift mishap on the Pacific Princess, is of special note to 1970s disaster movie fans like myself. Tiger Williams played Corry, the hapless (blessedly silent for most of the film) son of Genevieve Bujold, in Earthquake. Though his career only last about a decade, he did appear on many TV shows of the '70s including Adam-12, The Waltons, The Incredible Hulk and Little House on the Prairie. Having retired from show business in 1980, he has been the subject of several bizarre rumors (almost like Mikey from the Life cereal ads), but in fact leads a normal life in San Diego, California.

The Love Boat was a show built upon the novelty and familiarity of its guest stars, with a new wave of passengers appearing in the opening credits each week, setting sail for drama, comedy and romance. Thanks to a pool deck set that was utilized in virtually every episode, it was also a show that offered up some opportunities for navel-gazing. Take David Hedison, here playing an old flame of Lauren “Julie” Tewes who had lied to her during their previous relationship about being married. The costar of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea from 1964-1968 knew a thing or two about setting out to sea and about getting wet. (He's shown here is a split-second scene, emerging from the pool in some snug, white trunks.) He was often featured on The Love Boat as well as the similar Fantasy Island and Hotel. He also had nine appearances on the 1980s primetime soap The Colbys as Katharine Ross's unfortunate husband. In 1989, he took on the role of Felix Leiter (one of only two actors ever to play that role more than once) in the James Bond film Licence to Kill. Now in his mid-eighties, he hasn't worked since about 2005.

A once-hot actor of the '70s who hasn't been seen for a while now is Charles Frank. He got his start playing Jeff Martin on All My Children in 1970 and left the series in '75 to try his luck in Hollywood. He made a living as a guest star on countless shows from Police Woman to Barney Miller to Laverne & Shirley, eventually winning regular roles on highly varied series that just couldn't quite make it for the long haul (including Young Maverick, Filthy Rich and Emerald Point N.A.S.) His most high-profile part came in 1983 when he played one of the astronauts in The Right Stuff.

In this 1977 episode of The Love Boat, he plays the young leader of a senior citizen excursion group which has come on board the Pacific Princess for an eventful vacation. He's attracted to Julie (Lauren Tewes), as so many male guest stars were, but can't get any time alone with her because the old buzzards won't let him have a moment's peace during all their revelry. Frank had the most beautiful eyes and a golden tan, but needless to say, the appeal in these photos is his set of hairy legs and the way his abbreviated white shorts are gaping as he sits alongside the pool. He retired from the screen at only age fifty in 1997 and remains married to his wife of thirty-five years, Susan Blanchard.
This shot above takes place on the deck of The Love Boat (aka The Pacific Princess), but is not actually from a Love Boat episode! It's from a two-part Charlie's Angels cross-over in which the gals go undercover on a cruise ship to solve a mystery. The regular Love Boat crew even acted in the episode during its opening minutes. You would not believe the number of people who wash up at The Underworld looking for shirtless photos of Bert Convy! So, for those folks, I give you these snaps of the actor-turned-game show host. There's even a little glimpse of either his briefs, a jock strap or the lining of his trunks as he rises from his lounge chair situated next to Miss Cheryl Ladd.

Speaking of Charlie's Angels, Miss Jaclyn Smith had taken a trip on The Love Boat previous to this. She and then-husband Dennis Cole played opposite each other. In the ep in question, Smith was married to a controlling, distrustful jerk who had no time for her. As she went off on a relaxation cruise, he hired Cole to spy on her and see what she was up to. Trouble was, Cole fell in love with her himself after determining that she was indeed a faithful wife! They then proceed to lovingly spend time together until she realizes why he's there.

Smith and Cole worked together fairly frequently (he popped up three different times on Angels), but their marriage didn't last. He'd met her for the first time while guesting on her show in 1976, then they married in 1978, but by 1981 it was through. I've posted shots of him from this episode before as he skulked around the pool deck in some revealing white shorts, but these are a tiny bit better (the split-second moment is somewhat far away and difficult to capture!)

Here, the couple exits the boat's gift shop and enters a contest to see whose pants are the most snug! Cole started out as a physique strap model in the late-'50s/early'60s, so showing off his body was really old news by this time. In some angles, his face had a flat, skeletal aspect (also almost simian at times!), but in others, he was really nice looking and oh how I loved that sun(?)-bleached hair of his. I got to see him on stage once in a tour of the Broadway musical Victor, Victoria. Do you know who played the title role?! Toni Tenille of The Captain and Tenille!

Another famous real-life couple to set sail on The Love Boat was Bill Bixby (of My Favorite Martian, The Courtship of Eddie's Father and The Incredible Hulk fame) and Brenda Benet. As was often the case in these set-ups, they started out as antagonists and then fell for each other in spite of their differences. She was playing an ace tennis pro, recently felled by injury and wheelchair-bound, and he a smarmy sports reporter.

After an argument between them, he winds up hurting himself and is forced to use a wheelchair himself and begrudgingly accepts her advice about getting around in it. Soon they are mooning over each other at dinner, but can their love survive the fact that she may never walk again, a fact he tries to keep from her?

Sadly, this couple had a very hard time in real life, far worse than what they faced here. Benet had been a busy TV actress who was married to Paul Peterson (of The Donna Reed Show.) She left him for Bixby after the two met at a beauty pageant. Once her divorce was final, she and Bixby married in 1971, then proceeded to have a son in 1974 (the only child either of them would ever have.) By '79, however, their marriage had hit the skids and they divorced. She began playing the evil Lee DuMonde on Days of Our Lives. Two years later, a freak illness/infection led to the death of her and Bixby's six year-old boy. Emotionally adrift, she entered into a lesbian affair. Benet never recovered from his death and committed suicide by gunshot one year later when she was only thirty-six. Bixby only outlived her by a dozen years, felled by prostate cancer in 1993 at only fifty-nine.

Most of the couples on Love Boat were not so in real life. The pairings could be quite fun and/or interesting. I mean, would you expect to see Mr. John Gavin and Miss Donna Mills playing a married couple?! They seem like they come from different eras! Gavin was portraying a businessman newly released from prison after a false charge of embezzlement. Mills was his patient and understanding wife (she had not yet taken on her legendary and career-changing bitch role of Abby on Knots Landing.)

When I think of Gavin, Lana Turner and Susan Hayward come to mind. Thing is, he was ten years younger than Turner and fourteen years younger than Hayward! Way to go, ladies!! It seems that "cougars" are not such a recent phenomenon after all! At nine years Mills' senior, the age gap between them was actually less than the ones he had with the golden age actresses!

Sometimes, a future “name” actor or actress will pop up in a Love Boat episode even though they were, at the time of filming, not considered important or experienced enough to make it to the opening credits. Such is the case of Joanna Kerns. At the time of her guest role on the series, she had done one movie (the godawful King King rip-off Ape) and a couple of one-shots on Rhoda, Emergency!, and Charlie's Angels. Here, she played one of three women (one of the others being Jane Curtin) who come on board and play a dating game. They declare that the first men who say the word “screwdriver” in their presence will be the target of their affections for the cruise. 5'9” Kerns winds up having to court a diminutive, nerdy type (though as luck would have it, she ends up adoring him anyway.) Many, many parts in TV-movies and shows followed until she landed the role of Alan Thicke's wife in the 1985 sitcom Growing Pains. That series lasted until 1992 and since then she has continued to work in additional telefilms and series.

For her part, Jane Curtin heads to the bar, thinking that an eligible man will order a screwdriver, but then a plumber who is underneath working on a sink asks her to hand him an actual screwdriver! Fortunately, the plumber is hirsute Italian Vince Bagetta. Unlike Kerns, Bagetta had been working in TV for fifteen years by this time, but still couldn't warrant billing in the opening credits. He had appeared in the daytime soap Love is a Many Splendored Thing and on such TV series as The Defenders, Get Christie Love!, The Rookies, Kojak and even the original Twilight Zone back in 1963. He never really did make it big, but his brief series The Eddie Capra Mysteries (1978-1979) was popular in my house and he worked with regularity until the mid-1990s. He's now in his mid-sixties.

I've been watching a fair amount of The Rifleman, a black and white Chuck Conners western that ran from 1958 – 1963. Conners' son on the show, an endearing, polite and respectful boy, was played by Johnny Crawford. Crawford grew up before viewers' eyes (he was one of the original Mouseketeers on The Mickey Mouse Club), but, like many child performers, had significant trouble establishing an adult career. This 1968 episode of Hawaii 5-O finds him playing an army private who is framed for murder. A scattershot acting career proceeded with more lows than highs and eventually he focused on a music career, something he'd dabbled in as a teen star. Now in his late-sixties, he leads his own big band orchestra and entertains all over the country.

On the subject of child stars, here is the series acting debut of a young girl who would go on to significant success on TV, but who would also stand as one of the great examples of just how badly it can all go wrong when the spotlight is turned away. In this 1975 episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, the one that introduced Lindsay Wagner to the world as The Bionic Woman, Lee Majors is watching Wagner play tennis when he meets one of her admirers, a young lady played by Dana Plato. Within three years of this, Plato would be cast in the Conrad Bain-Gary Coleman sitcom Diff'rent Strokes, a major hit that ran for eight seasons. (Plato was let go near the end of the series' run due to pregnancy, but came back occasionally as a guest.) Subsequently, Plato became involved in a long string of issues from drug abuse to robbery to a softcore bisexual video and ultimately died of an overdose at only the age of thirty-four.

While doing strenuous research into the faded denim bulge of Fred Dryer, star of Hunter (1984-1991), I came upon this guest-starring oddity. William Windom, a very familiar face on so many series over the years, but perhaps best known now for his recurring role as Angela Lansbury's pal Seth on Murder, She Wrote, played a man whose wife is blown up in a car bomb. As Dryer and his partner Stepfanie Kramer attempt to get to the bottom of things, Windom's tennis coach is interrogated as a possible suspect. The tennis instructor is played by that gorgeous hunk of man Sam J. Jones (who is paid heavy tribute elsewhere in The Underworld if you care to see more of him.)

It's exciting enough to see the former star of Flash Gordon on one's screen, and he still looks awesome as the show was broadcast in 1984, but there's more. In the course of the storyline, we learn that Windom and Jones were gay lovers!!!!! Nothing is shown to that effect, but it is still part of the plotline. Can you imagine?! I am miffed that the drop-dead Jones would choose paunchy William Windom over me, but perhaps it was his money, something I am basically without. LOL!

Windom, a highly prolific actor who won an Emmy in 1970 for Best Leading Actor in a Comedy Series (for the now-forgotten My World and Welcome to It), is nearly ninety now and retired from the screen in 2006. He had actually played a conflicted and tormented homosexual once before in Frank Sinatra's The Detective in 1968, but in real life was a five times married father of four. Mr. Jones seems to be in retirement now, not having done any sort of acting since about 2007. He's only fifty-seven as of this writing. Married twice, he has five children of his own.

???Now we're about to wrap up this windy, sprawling post, but I at least managed to hold back a little more beefcake for you till the end. The beefcake doesn't come from the guest star, but he was privy to it so I'm highlighting it. (You do realize that in The Underworld, if nowhere else, I make the rules! LOL) Take a looky at this shot from The Wild Wild West and see if you know the man in the center and in the inset. (Of course, we all recognize the perfect body of Robert Conrad lying on his side in this prison pit.)
In this episode, Conrad goes undercover at the infamous Devil's Island prison in order to free a captive there, a fellow U.S. government agent who's been interred there against his will. This prisoner, shown again in this shot looking up. (I have to say it again, though, is Robert not TO DIE FOR beautiful here?!) Anyway, the actor enjoyed a nearly forty year career in films and TV. He began in the movies during the glory days of the studio system, working at MGM, the very best one. Later, TV guest parts became his bread and butter until 1978 when he retired at fifty-eight.

Despite his lengthy and prolific career, he's really chiefly remembered by most people for just one film, Meet Me in St. Louis. Yes, this is Tom Drake, Judy Garland's "boy next door!" I leave you now with a couple more shots of the beauteous Mr. Conrad, one of his incredible face and eyes and one of his prison shirt being torn off by a vicious guard. If one is going to be tossed into a prison pit, this is the type of roommate that makes it all better...

There are SO MANY more great guest stars to reflect upon and I'll be back to this subject again, I know. Because of my tendency to rattle on (and the time it takes to obtain the visual evidence), it becomes rather exhausting and time-consuming, so I'll have to stop here for now! I hope you enjoyed seeing these various celebrities in a different setting.

8 comments:

sowhatelse said...

Great, great post! Thanks for all of your hard work on this. Is it just me or is Stephen Moyer of True Blood a dead ringer for the young Joe Don Baker? And thanks for the shirtless shot of Vince Baggeta. He was one of those omnipresent guest stars of the '70s and '80s and I always thought he was so sexy.

Poseidon3 said...

Thank you, sowhatelse. I'm so out of it on contemporary television I had to look up Stephen Moyer, but I immediately saw the resemblence you're referring to! I hope he manages to stay in better shape than big ol' Joe Don did! :-P Take care!

NotFelixUnger said...

Thanks for another awesome post! I love Robert Conrad but any sighting of Gil Gerard still gets my heart racing. :-)

sowhatelse said...

Let me add that Charles Frank was another favorite. Appreciate the mention of him. He was in two short series and managed to get shirtless in both and I always found him to be extremely attractive. Never understood why he ended his acting career at such a young age.

brad williams said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
brad williams said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ken Lau said...

I watched The Love Boat mainly for the pool scenes...to see if any of the male extras wear Speedos. There is a dude with straight blind hair and mustache who is always walking around in black speedo briefs.

Poseidon3 said...

Yes, Ken, you could generally count on AT LEAST one good scene around the pool area per episode. ;-)