Gavin MacLeod captains a memoir
This post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.
Gavin MacLeod was a fixture on television for years. From 1970 to 1977, he played sweet-natured news writer Murray Slaughter on CBS’ “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” No sooner did “MTM” close up shop than he moved over to ABC to appear as Captain Stubing on “The Love Boat,” which cruised until 1986. To this day, MacLeod travels the seven seas as an ambassador for Princess Cruise Lines.
The 82-year-old actor has had a diverse career: appearing on Broadway, guest-starring in countless series including “My Favorite Martian” and “Peter Gunn,” and working with such directors as Blake Edwards (“Operation Petticoat”) and Robert Wise (“I Want to Live,” “The Sand Pebbles”) and with such actors as Steve McQueen, Barbara Stanwyck, Peter Sellers and Clint Eastwood.
But his life hasn’t always been a pleasure cruise. MacLeod grew up poor during the Depression in upstate New York -- his father, who had drinking problems, died when he was 13 -- and he also battled alcoholism, quitting cold turkey in 1974.
After his divorce from his first wife, MacLeod married actress-dancer Patti Steele. Though they briefly divorced, they remarried and have been born-again Christians for three decades.
MacLeod’s earnest memoir, “This Is Your Captain Speaking: My Fantastic Voyage Through Hollywood, Faith & Life,” which he wrote with Mark Dagostino, has just been published. He’ll be doing a book signing Nov. 22 at Barnes & Noble in Manhattan Beach.
The actor, who has survived two heart attacks and a quintuple bypass, was in fine fettle during a recent phone interview from his home in Palm Springs.
I was surprised to learn that you were originally in the running to play Archie Bunker in “All in the Family.” In fact, it was down to you and Carroll O’Connor.
I didn’t feel right for the part. I don’t like bigotry in any way, shape or form. Norman Lear’s assistant called and said, “Gavin, we made a decision. We are going to go with Carroll.” I was so happy. I knew someday my time would come.
And it quickly did when you got the role of Murray in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” I have to admit, I think Murray was my favorite character on the series, because he wore his heart on his sleeve.
People really identified with Murray. He was Everyman. I love Murray Slaughter to this day. I just kvell a little bit that I had the opportunity to play him. I think “Mary Tyler Moore” did more for women’s lib than any show on television.
“The Love Boat” was an even bigger success. The series was on ....
Nine years. And then we came back for a two-hour special.
Wasn’t Andy Warhol a guest star on “The Love Boat”?
Andy Warhol: I had a whole lunch hour with him. He was a very shy, kind of quiet person. In that episode, the guests were Warhol, Hulk Hogan and the Temptations.
“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” won numerous Emmys and was a critical favorite, but “The Love Boat” was more of a popular hit.
The critics hated it. They called it mindless TV, but we became goodwill ambassadors. We were on in 90 countries and, as a result, it gave new birth to the cruise industry, where I have been working since 1986.
You were bald by the time you got to New York in the 1950s. Was it difficult to get roles being follicly challenged at such a young age?
When you are starting out and want to get a job and they see a young kid come in [for an audition] with a bald head....
Your career began to gather some heat after you saved enough money to buy a secondhand hairpiece.
I got my first Broadway show because of it. I continued to wear that for years. I wore it for one episode of “McHale’s Navy,” but it was so dry it looked like a rat. We threw it on the ground and shot it.
You came out to Los Angeles in the late 1950s because you got a role in the pilot of “The Hal March Show.” But March had you fired because he wanted his friend to play the part. But as soon as you were fired, writer-director Blake Edwards came to your rescue, casting you as a heavy in the pilot episode of his seminal detective series, “Peter Gunn.”
If he hadn’t existed, I don’t know where I would be. I got fired. I was so depressed. I was ready to go back to New York. I thought it was all over. Then my agent called and said, “Do you know Blake Edwards? He wants to see you at 4 p.m for a new pilot called ‘Peter Gunn.’ ” I said, “Should I bring my hair?” I kept my hair in a box. So I went over with my hair in the box.
We just hit it off. He always trusted his instinct about casting. Then I did “Operation Petticoat” [with him], and to work with Cary Grant -- come on -- and get paid for it? We did “High Time” with Bing Crosby, which was one of Frank Sinatra’s favorite movies, and “The Party.”
You and your wife, Patti, have been a major presence on the religious Trinity Broadcasting Network over the years, and you starred in the Christian-themed 2008 feature “The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry.”
If it wasn’t for the Lord I wouldn’t be alive.
[For the Record, 7 p.m. Nov. 10: An earlier version of this post said Gavin MacLeod had guest-starred on “My Favorite Martin” instead of “My Favorite Martian.”]
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