According to The Associated Press via NPR.org, actor Gavin MacLeod, who died in 2021, was "known to sitcom fans for his bald head and wide smile." And he "toiled in near anonymity for more than a decade, appearing on dozens of TV shows and in several movies before landing his Mary Tyler Moore role in 1970."
As the AP continued to report, MacLeod "had originally tested for Moore's TV boss, Lou Grant, a part that went to Ed Asner. Realizing he wasn't right for playing the blustery, short-tempered TV newsroom leader, MacLeod asked if he could try instead for the wisecracking TV news writer, his jokes often at the expense of the dimwitted anchorman Ted Baxter."
"The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a smash from the start and remains a classic of situation comedies," AP noted. "It produced two spinoffs, Rhoda and Phyllis, starring Valerie Harper and Cloris Leachman, who had portrayed Mary's neighbors. It was still top-rated when Moore, who played news producer Mary Richards, decided to end it after seven seasons.
"MacLeod moved on to The Love Boat, a romantic comedy in which guest stars, ranging from Gene Kelly to Janet Jackson, would come aboard for a cruise and fall in love with one another.
Although scorned by critics, the series proved immensely popular, lasting 11 seasons and spinning off several TV movies, including two in which MacLeod remained at the cruise ship's helm. It also resulted in his being hired as a TV pitchman for Princess Cruise Lines.
"The critics hated it. They called it mindless TV, but we became goodwill ambassadors," he told the Los Angeles Times in 2013.
Among his final TV credits were Touched by An Angel, JAG, and The King of Queens.
MacLeod's lighthearted screen persona was in contrast to his private life. In his 2013 memoir, This Is Your Captain Speaking, MacLeod acknowledged that he had struggled with alcoholism in the 1960s and '70s. He also wrote that losing his hair at an early age made it hard for him to find work as an actor.
"I went all over town looking for an agent, but no one was interested in representing a young man with a bald head," he wrote. "I knew what I needed to do. I needed to buy myself a hairpiece." A toupee changed his luck "pretty quickly." By middle age, he didn't need the toupee."
To read more about Gavin MacLeod, click here.
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