Wesley Eure (born Wesley Eure Loper, August 17, 1951) is an American actor, singer, author, producer, director, charity fundraiser, and lecturer. He is best known for appearing as Michael Horton on the American soap opera Days of Our Lives from 1974 to 1981, during which he also starred on the popular children's television series Land of the Lost. He later hosted the popular children's game show Finders Keepers in 1987 and 1988, and co-created the children's educational television show Dragon Tales in 1999. He subsequently published several books (for children and adults), and has produced plays and raised funds for HIV/AIDS and other causes.
Early life and career
Eure was born Wesley Eure Loper in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on August 17, 1951. His father abandoned the family when he was two years old, so his mother, Mary Jane Loper (February 6, 1927 - January 25, 2011), moved him and his sister Gai (born September 10, 1950) to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where Eure's grandmother lived. While Eure grew up in Mississippi, his mother got a bachelor's degree in psychology and began teaching. She took positions in Texas and Illinois, and then got a job as a drug abuse counselor with the state of Nevada. The Eures moved to Las Vegas, where his mother ran a methadone clinic and hosted a radio talk show about drug abuse. He spent his senior year of high school in Las Vegas.
Eure wanted to be an actor since the age of five, his love of performing stemming from a need for attention. While the family lived in Illinois, he enrolled in a summer program at Northwestern University, where he took acting lessons and won an award. His first break came when he was 17 years old and working part-time at the New Frontier Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas selling artwork. He was hired as a driver for Robert Goulet and Carol Lawrence during their summer tour. He spent most of 1968 and 1969 as their driver.
After the Goulet-Lawrence tour ended in New York City, Eure decided he would not return to high school and stayed. After a few short months of auditions and odd jobs, in 1970 Eure became a cast member at the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Connecticut. Hired more for his ability to make the cast and crew laugh than his acting skill, Eure worked with a dialect coach to get rid of his deep Southern accent. During his time in Stratford, he worked with Jane Alexander in The Tempest, and appeared in Mourning Becomes Electra, Merry Wives of Windsor, Twelfth Night, and many original works produced by the company. At the Bucks County Playhouse in Pennsylvania, he performed in West Side Story (portraying "Action" of the Jets) and then joined a musical comedy revue and traveled throughout the East Coast resort areas.
Eure moved to Los Angeles in 1973 after discovering it was cheaper to live there but offered just as much opportunity to become an actor. He was hired to star in a pilot for a Kaye Ballard TV series, The Organic Vegetables, created and produced by the team behind The Monkees.
When that series was not picked up due to the 1973 writers' strike, Eure answered an ad in an industry trade publication to audition for a television show. He learned that David Cassidy was threatening to leave The Partridge Family, and that the audition was for a role as a "neighbor boy" who would take over the lead in the family band from Cassidy. Eure won the audition, but never joined The Partridge Family after Cassidy agreed to stay on. The show was canceled before the next season started.
In 1974, Eure tried out for and won a role on NBC's Days of Our Lives. Eure had previously met producer Sid Krofft and was committed to do an audition for a new children's show he was working on. When Eure flew to New York City at the request of Broadway producer David Merrick to try out for a role in a theatrical production of Candide, he didn't want to audition for Krofft due to his commitment to Days (and because he'd be playing a 16-year-old boy). But Eure auditioned and won the role of Will Marshall on Land of the Lost. He kept his commitment to both shows after the Kroffts repeatedly asked him to star on Land of the Lost.
From 1974 to 1981, Eure starred on NBC's Days of Our Lives, playing the role of Mike Horton. He also starred as Will Marshall in Sid and Marty Krofft's children's adventure series, Land of the Lost from 1974 to 1976, filming this show and Days of Our Lives simultaneously. (The gold chain he wore on the show was a gift from his then-lover.) As a publicity stunt, Eure agreed to be billed simply as "Wesley" on Land of the Lost, although he later regretted the decision. Eure's stardom in the 1970s led to a number of appearances on game shows. He was repeatedly asked to appear on both Password and Match Game. He appeared on Password so often that he became a semi-regular on the show. He earned $2,000 to do a week's worth of shows (five shows), which took a single day to shoot.
In 1987, Eure became host of the Nickelodeon children's game show Finders Keepers, and continued in this role through 1988. When the show was sold to Fox for its 1989 (and final) season, Fox declined to hire Eure as host.
Eure co-produced, wrote and acted in Fox Television's hidden-camera show Totally Hidden Video (which aired from 1989 to 1992). He also co-created Dragon Tales, PBS Kids's Emmy-nominated animated series for preschoolers which began airing in 1999, and directed Spy TV for NBC in 2001.
Eure also hosted an educational DVD called Power Over Poison to teach kids how to avoid poisons, produced by WQED, the PBS station in Pittsburgh. Channel 9 TV in Australia hired Eure to be the permanent host of their Tonight Show, but lost a ten-month immigration battle with Actor's Equity in Australia.
Eure appeared in 1978 as a murderer in The Toolbox Murders and as an evil man who is eaten by snakes in Jennifer. While filming Jennifer, Eure claims he had a difficult time working with the various snakes on the set, including the large boa constrictor that features in the climax. He later appeared in Hanna-Barbera's 1979 comedy C.H.O.M.P.S., which also starred Valerie Bertinelli, Red Buttons, Jim Backus, Hermione Baddeley, and Conrad Bain.
He appeared in the 2014 independent thriller film, Sins of our Youth as Chief Police Kaplan.
Whenever his acting career seemed stalled, Eure continued to sing. He became friends with Shaun Cassidy and Leif Garrett, and some of his music was produced by Bobby Sherman, though a full album was never completed. Motown Records placed him under contract, and he was in a boy band whose music was produced by Mike Curb. He also sang a few times with the Jackson Five. He had a Las Vegas act at Harrah's casino.
Eure lived briefly in Bali after leaving Totally Hidden Video. In 1992, Eure published his first children's novel The Red Wings of Christmas. It has been called "the new American classic" by CNN, and was optioned by Disney for a full-length animated feature. The book was illustrated by Ron Palillo who played Arnold Horshack on the 1970s TV series Welcome Back, Kotter.
Eure's fifth book, A Fish Out of Water, is his first pre-schooler book. The story of a bird and a fish that fall in love and make it work, it is used by schools to teach racial tolerance. The graduate art students at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina illustrated it. He also wrote The Whale That Ate the Storm.
Knightsbridge Publishing released two of his humor books, Fun with Fax and On-the-Wall Off-the-Wall Office Humor.
For many years, Eure has given interactive lectures in elementary and secondary schools about reading and writing.
Other activities and honors
- Eure has starred on the stage in shows like Bus Stop, Butterflies Are Free, Love Sex and the IRS, as well as the musicals I Love My Wife and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
- His company Games at Sea created, produced and directed on-board entertainment for cruise ships such as Crystal Cruises and Celebrity Cruise Line.
- For several years, Eure's Blues Brothers 2000 live stage show appeared at Universal Studios Hollywood.
- Eure co-produced a Stephen Schwartz musical titled Snapshots.
- Eure was the Travel Editor for Palm Springs Life magazine, writing a bi-monthly travel column.
- For many years, Eure was a fundraiser for the March of Dimes, and has also raised money through telethons and fund-raising campaigns for groups like the Variety Club and the Special Olympics.
In 2007, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.
Although Eure had relationships with women, he knew he was gay. He met movie star Richard Chamberlain in the early 1970s, and they entered into a serious relationship in 1975 when Chamberlain was 41 and Eure was 24. According to Eure, the two men lived together until their breakup in 1976, after which Chamberlain met his long-term partner Martin Rabbett. During this time, Eure says, he lived a fairly open life with Chamberlain, with many of his co-stars, producers, and crew aware of their relationship and Eure's homosexuality. Eure says of the relationship, "It broke my heart. I was destroyed. I was a kid, and he was a much older guy. ... I remember we broke up and I was on Days of Our Lives, I couldn’t stop shaking. I was crying so hard. I was a kid, comparatively. I went to the studio that day, and I was sobbing in the dressing room."
During his time on Password, he became friends with host Allen Ludden and his wife, Betty White. His work on Match Game led to friendships with Charles Nelson Reilly, Brett Somers, and Fannie Flagg. While working on Land of the Lost, Eure met actress Deidre Hall, who was working on the Krofft children's superhero show Electra Woman and Dyna Girl. Eure learned she was auditioning for Days, and worked with her and coached her on her successful audition for the soap. Also while on Days, Eure supported his mother as she attended law school. After her graduation, he named her his manager and personal attorney.
Eure was fired from Days of Our Lives in 1981. According to Eure, he was given many reasons for the cancellation of his contract after nine years on the show. But Eure says he believes the real reason was his homosexuality, which attracted attention and threatened more deeply closeted producers and actors. He learned of his firing while his mother was in the hospital about to undergo surgery for colon cancer. Years later, Eure says he met Earl Greenburg, the head of NBC's daytime programming division at the time he was fired. Greenburg, who was also gay, confirmed that Eure was fired because of rumors about his homosexuality. Eure also says one of the stars of Days of Our Lives confirmed that Eure's sexuality was the cause of his dismissal.
Eure did not act in film or television for six years after leaving Days of Our Lives, falling back on his musical career, and attributes this difficulty to Hollywood gossip about his sexual orientation. During the 1980s, Eure lost most of his gay friends to AIDS—including one of his best friends, the director John Allison.
When Chamberlain was outed by a French magazine in 1989, Eure (who had already been named in one book as a closeted homosexual) feared, in those days before the national consciousness changed, that he would be exposed as well. But with the assistance of a friend at the National Enquirer, Eure's name was kept out of the American tabloid press.
Though still in the closet, Eure became a fund-raiser for a number of HIV/AIDS causes. It was during the premiere of the Land of the Lost film in 2009 that Eure decided to come out. He attended the premiere with a friend, Days of Our Lives production assistant Deanne Anders. While on the red carpet, Eure decided he would never again hide his sexuality. Already scheduled to do an interview with the LGBT news and lifestyle Web Site AfterElton.com about his HIV/AIDS charity work, Eure decided to finally come out of the closet in the interview.
He has helped to organize and host the LalaPOOLooza HIV/AIDS fund-raiser in Palm Springs, California, for many years. He has also raised funds for and assisted with Project Angel Food, a nonprofit organization that feeds homebound AIDS patients.