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Robert Conrad

Robert Conrad

Actor, singer, radio commentator
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Actor, singer, radio commentator
Countries United States of America
Occupations Actor Singer Television actor
Gender male
Birth March 1, 1935 (Chicago)
Stats
Height: 1.7018 m
Robert Conrad
The details
Biography

Robert Conrad (born Conrad Robert Falk; March 1, 1935) is an American film and television actor, singer, and stuntman. He may be best known for his role in the 1965–69 television series The Wild Wild West, playing the sophisticated Secret Service agent James T. West. He portrayed World War II ace Pappy Boyington in the television series Baa Baa Black Sheep (later syndicated as Black Sheep Squadron). He was a recording artist of pop/rock songs in the early 1960s as Bob Conrad before he began his acting career. He has hosted a weekly two-hour national radio show (The PM Show with Robert Conrad) on CRN Digital Talk Radio since 2008.

Career

Conrad was signed to Warner Bros. as an actor. He later released several recordings with Warner Bros on a variety of LPs, EPs, and SPs 33-1/3 and 45 rpm records during the late 1950s and early 1960s. He had a minor Billboard hit song in "Bye Bye Baby" which reached #113. In 1959, he played Billy the Kid in the episode "Amnesty" of Colt .45.

In 1958, he appeared in the second season of the James Garner series Maverick (episode: "Yellow River"). Before The Wild Wild West, Conrad played Tom Lopaka on Hawaiian Eye. The show was a hit from 1959-63, both in the U.S. and overseas. In Mexico, he signed a recording contract with the Orfeon label, where he released two albums, with a few singles sung in Spanish. He played "Eric Dean" in Palm Springs Weekend (1963). In 1964, he went to Spain and filmed La Nueva Cenicienta.

Robert Conrad with co-star Connie Stevens on Hawaiian Eye, 1961

In 1965, he garnered fame with his starring role in The Wild Wild West (airing on CBS for four seasons until its cancellation in 1969). He later starred in such roles as prosecuting attorney Paul Ryan in the short-lived 1971 NBC series, The D.A., and as American spy Jake Webster in Assignment Vienna. He starred in a third-season episode of Mannix, called "The Playground", and as a murderous fitness franchise promoter in an episode of Columbo ("An Exercise in Fatality"). He guest-starred as a killer for hire on an episode of Mission: Impossible.

He found ratings success again from 1976-78 as legendary tough-guy World War II fighter ace Pappy Boyington in Baa Baa Black Sheep, retitled for its second season and in later syndication as Black Sheep Squadron. The show's success led Conrad to win a People's Choice Award for Favorite Male Actor and a Golden Globe nomination for his performance. In 1978, he starred in the short-lived TV series The Duke, as Duke Ramsey, a boxer turned private eye. In 1980, he played a paraplegic coach in Coach of the Year.

In the late 1970s, he served as the captain of the NBC team for six editions of Battle of the Network Stars. He played a modern-day variation of James West in the short-lived series A Man Called Sloane in 1979, which was around the same time that he reprised the role of West in a pair of made-for-TV films which reunited him with his West co-star, Ross Martin. He also starred in the 1978 TV miniseries Centennial, based on the novel by James Michner.

Conrad was widely identified in the late 1970s for his television commercials for Eveready batteries, particularly his placing of the battery on his shoulder and prompting the viewer to challenge its long-lasting power: "Come on, I dare ya". The commercial was frequently parodied on Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show and The Carol Burnett Show. In 1984, along with Red West from the Black Sheep series, Conrad starred in Hard Knox, playing Marine Aviator Joe Knox, whose career was ending due to minor medical issues.

That same year (1984), he was awarded a star on the Walk of Western Stars in Newhall, California.

In 1986, he was a special guest referee for the main event at Wrestlemania 2 featuring Hulk Hogan vs King Kong Bundy inside a steel cage.

In 1988, Conrad starred in a short-lived television series, High Mountain Rangers, with two of his sons. High Mountain Rangers, known for its spectacular scenery and stunts, had a one-season spinoff, Jesse Hawkes. In 1990, Conrad starred in the made-for-television adventure film Anything to Survive. In 1992, Conrad played the role of the sheriff in Richard Marx's "Hazard" music video. In 1996, he played a police officer in Jingle All the Way. He took over hosting The History Channel's Weapons At War (later Tech Force) in 2000, succeeding George C. Scott.

In 2006, Conrad recorded audio introductions for every episode of the first season of The Wild Wild West for its North American DVD release on June 6. The DVD set also included one of Conrad's Eveready battery commercials; in his introduction, Conrad stated he was flattered to be parodied by Carson. He was inducted into the Stuntman's Hall of Fame for his work on The Wild, Wild West series, and notably is the only actor to claim this honor.

He appeared in the documentary film, Pappy Boyington Field, where he recounted his personal insights about the legendary Marine Corps aviator whom he portrayed in the television series. Conrad hosts a weekly radio talk show PM Show with Robert Conrad with Erik Hines on CRN Digital Talk Radio.

Personal life

Conrad was born Conrad Robert Norton Falk in Chicago, Illinois. His father, born Leonard Henry Falkowski (born November 3, 1918), was then 16 years old; Leonard was of Polish ancestry. His mother, Alice Jacqueline Hartman (born May 15, 1919, daughter of Conrad and Hazel Hartman), was 15 years old when she gave birth, and named her son after her own father. She would go on to become first publicity director of Mercury Records, known as Jackie Smith. She would marry several times, including once to Chicago radio personality Eddie Hubbard in 1948. Eddie Hubbard and Jackie Smith reportedly had a child together (born circa 1949) before splitting up in 1958.

Conrad and his first wife, Joan, were married for 25 years until an amicable divorce. The couple had five children. His second marriage, to LaVelda Ione Fann, produced three children. Conrad and Fann divorced in 2010.

Conrad was joined on some television shows by his sons, Shane and Christian, and his daughter, Nancy. Another daughter, Joan, became a television producer. In a 2008 interview, Conrad described the late Chicago Outfit "made man" and burglar, Michael Spilotro, as his "best friend". Spilotro's slaying was featured in the movie Casino.

Conrad was involved with a volunteer organization in Bear Valley known as Bear Valley Search and Rescue, which later formed the basis for High Mountain Rangers.

On March 31, 2003, while on Highway 4 in the California Sierra foothills near his Alpine County home, Conrad drove his Jaguar over the center median and slammed head-on into a Subaru being driven by 26-year-old Kevin Burnett. Both men suffered serious injuries. Tried on felony charges, Conrad pleaded no contest, and he was convicted of drunk driving. (His blood-alcohol level had been 0.22%, nearly three times the legal limit.)

He was sentenced to six months of house confinement, alcohol counseling, and five years probation. A civil suit filed by Kevin Burnett against Conrad was settled the following year for an undisclosed amount. In 2005, Burnett died at age 28 from perforated ulcers, which his family attributed to his difficult recovery from the crash. Conrad himself suffered severe nerve injuries from the crash, which left his right side partially paralyzed.

Selected filmography

  • Palm Springs Weekend (1963)
  • Young Dillinger (1965)
  • The Bandits (1967)
  • Weekend of Terror (1970)
  • Five Desperate Women (1971)
  • Live A Little, Steal A Lot (1975)
  • Smash-Up on Interstate 5 (1976)
  • Sudden Death (1977)
  • The Lady in Red (1979)
  • Coach of the Year (1980)
  • Wrong Is Right (1982)
  • The Fifth Missile (1986)
  • Anything to Survive (1990)
  • Samurai Cowboy (1993)
  • Jingle All the Way (1996)

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