Dan Blocker: The Extraordinary Life of the "Bonanza" TV Icon

Herbie J Pilato

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Dan Blocker was a beloved actor best known for TV's Bonanza.

According to IMDB.com, there is a museum dedicated to the actor, who died in 1972, in the West Texas panhandle town of O'Donnell, about 40 miles south of Lubbock.

Blocker's two sons followed in his footsteps in the entertainment industry: producer David Blocker (b. 1955) and actor Dirk Blocker (b. 1957), while he also left behind identical twin daughters, Debra Lee and Danna Lynn (both born 1953).

As IMDM continued to report, Blocker began and owned the Ponderosa Steakhouse and Bonanza Steakhouse restaurant chains. The 1973 feature film, The Long Goodbye is dedicated to him. The movie's director, Robert Altman, had guided several early episodes of Bonanza and had befriended Blocker, who had originally cast him in the role of Roger Wade.

Unfortunately, Blocker passed away before filming commenced, so the role was played by Sterling Hayden.

As IMDB also noted, in 1964, Blocker had been approached to portray Major "King" Kong in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb after Peter Sellers was injured. But according to Terry Southern, a co-writer on the movie, Blocker's agent rejected the script.

Blocker, a former schoolteacher, had also been considered for a lead role in the 1970 big-screen M*A*S*H movie. As fate would have it, he had served in the Korean War (which was the setting of M*A*S*H).

Blocker was an activist liberal Democrat and a staunch opponent of the Vietnam War, IMDB noted. Also, his great grandfather Michael Patrick Blocker (1829-1897) was a private soldier in Phelan's Company, Alabama Light Artillery during the War Between the States, as were two other Blocker boys. The Blocker family lived in the Tuscaloosa, AL area at the time.

Blocker, who supported Pat Brown for governor of California in 1966 and campaigned for Eugene McCarthy in the 1968 Democratic primaries, was discovered in a phone booth making a call while he was dressed in Western grab and a cowboy hat.

As IMDB.com concluded, Blocker once said, "Fame frightens me; it truly does, perhaps because I wasn't expecting it. I feel like I have a tiger by the tail. I'm in this business for the money. I need money, like anyone else, because I want to give to my wife and kids a good home and a good life. It's what any man wants to do for his family....I'm just an ordinary guy."

Make that, extraordinary.

To read more about Dan Blocker, click here.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including RETRO ACTIVE TELEVISION, THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

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