Gavin MacLeod, captain of the love ship Stubing, dies at 90 | TV and radio

Gavin MacLeod, the actor who achieved fame as a satirical television news writer, Murray Slaughter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and jubilant Captain Stubing on the Love Boat, has died at the age of 90.

Stephanie Steele Zalin, his stepdaughter, said MacLeod died early Saturday at his home in Palm Desert, California. She attributed his death to his age, saying he was in good health until very recently.

“He had one of the most amazing and joyful outbursts in the life of anyone I know. He enjoyed every minute of it,” said Still Zalin. “I don’t even think of his wildest dreams that he was dreaming of the life he ended up creating.”

She described him as “the best, sweetest, purest man”.

Ed Asner, who played opposite McLeod on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, said on Twitter: “My heart is broken. Gavin was my brother, my partner in crime (and food) and my comedian co-conspirator.”

Known to sitcom fans for his bald head and wide smile, MacLeod worked in anonymity for more than a decade, appearing on dozens of TV shows and in several films before landing the role of Murray Slaughter in 1970.

He had originally auditioned for Moore’s television boss, Lou Grant, for the role that went to Asner. Realizing that he wasn’t suited to play the rowdy, short-tempered TV newsroom leader, he asked if he could instead try for the wise TV news writer, often his jokes at the expense of obscure anchor Ted Baxter.

Gavin McLeod from New York in 2013.
Gavin McLeod from New York in 2013. Photo: D Dipasupil / Getty Images for Extra

The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a crush from the start and remains a classic of situation comedy. It was still number one when Moore, who played news producer Mary Richards, decided to quit after seven seasons.

MacLeod has taken to The Love Boat, a romantic comedy in which guests, from Jane Kelly to Janet Jackson, go on a cruise and fall in love with each other.

Despite critics’ scorn, the series proved hugely popular, ran for 11 seasons, and several television movies were shown, including two in which MacLeod stayed at the helm of the cruise ship. It also led to his appointment as a television businessman for Princess Cruise Lines.

Critics hated him. They called it mindless television, but we became goodwill ambassadors,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 2013.

Among his recent TV credits touched by An Angel, JAG, and The King of Queens.

MacLeod’s jovial on-screen character was in contrast to his private life. In his 2013 memoir, This Is Your Captain Speaking, MacLeod admitted that he struggled with alcoholism in the 1960s and 1970s. He also wrote that losing his hair at a young age made it difficult for him to find work as an actor.

He wrote: “I went all over town looking for an agent, but no one was interested in representing a bald-headed young man.” “I knew what to do. I needed to buy myself a piece of hair.” Wig changed his luck “very quickly”. By middle age, he didn’t need wigs.

Gavin MacLeod, second from right, as Murray Slaughter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Gavin MacLeod, second from right, as Murray Slaughter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Photo: CBS Photo Archive / Getty Images

In a 2013 interview with The Associated Press, MacLeod frequently used the word “grateful” because he was reflecting on his born-again Christian faith, surviving a heart attack and his strong life.

“This is a big word in my life. I am so grateful that I had another day, another day, another day, and that my kids are doing so well,” he said.

MacLeod, whose name is Allan See, took his first name from a French film and the latter from a drama teacher at Ithaca College in New York who encouraged him to pursue an acting career.

After college, the Mount Kisco, New York native, became a supporting actor in A Hatful of Rain and other Broadway plays, and in films like I Want to Live! and the petticoat process.

He appeared as a guest on television shows throughout the 1960s, including Hogan’s Heroes, Hawaii Five-O, and the Dick Van Dyke Show. He also appeared in the Navy McHale from 1962 to 1964 as sailor Joseph Happy Haines.

He auditioned for the role of Archie Bunker in All in the Family, but soon realized that the character, immortalized by Carol O’Conner, was wrong for him. “I immediately thought, ‘That’s not the scenario for me. The character is too fanatical. I can’t say these things,” MacLeod wrote in his diary.

Other film credits included Kelly’s Heroes, The Sand and Pebbles, and Ali Baba’s Sword.

MacLeod had four children with his first wife, Joan Rotvik, whom he divorced in 1972. He was the son of an alcoholic, and his drinking problems helped lead to his divorce once again, from actress dancer Patti Steel. After MacLeod stopped drinking, he and Steele married again in 1985.

Raised a Catholic, Steele is credited for their common, born-again faith. The couple hosted a Christian radio show called “Back on Track: Ministry for Marriages.”

Among the survivors, McLeod, along with his wife, included his children, three stepchildren, 10 grandchildren and his first grandchild, who arrived in December, Steele Zalin said.


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