Lee Majors

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Not to be confused with Lee Major.
Lee Majors
Lee Majors at Baftas.02.jpg
Lee Majors, 2008
Born Harvey Lee Yeary
(1939-04-23) April 23, 1939 (age 75)
Wyandotte, Michigan, U.S.
Alma mater Eastern Kentucky University,
Indiana University
Occupation Actor
Years active 1964–present
Spouse(s) Kathy Robinson (1961–64)
Farrah Fawcett (1973–82)
Karen Velez (1988–94)
Faith Noelle Cross (2002–present)
Children 3 sons, 1 daughter

Lee Majors (born Harvey Lee Yeary on April 23, 1939) is an American television, film and voice actor, best known for his roles as Heath Barkley in the TV series The Big Valley (1965–69), as Colonel Steve Austin in The Six Million Dollar Man (1973–78) and as Colt Seavers in The Fall Guy (1981–86).

In the late 1980s and 1990s, he reprised the role of Steve Austin in a number of TV movies, and appeared in a number of supporting, recurring and cameo roles in feature films and TV series, and lent his voice to a number of animated TV series and video games.

Early life[edit]

Majors was born in the Detroit suburb of Wyandotte, Michigan. His parents, Carl and Alice Yeary, were both killed in separate accidents (prior to his birth and when he was one year old, respectively). At age two, Majors was adopted by an uncle and aunt and moved with them to Middlesboro, Kentucky.[1]

He participated in track and football at Middlesboro High School. He graduated in 1957, and earned a scholarship to Indiana University, where he again competed in sports. Majors transferred to Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky, in 1959.[2] He played in his first game the following year, but suffered a severe back injury which left him paralyzed for two weeks, and ended his college football career. Following his injury, he turned his attention to acting and performed in plays at the Pioneer Playhouse in Danville, Kentucky. Majors graduated from Eastern in 1962 with a degree in History and Physical Education.[3]

After college, he received an offer to try out for the St. Louis Cardinals football team. Instead, he moved to Los Angeles and found work at the Los Angeles Park and Recreation Department as the Recreation Director for North Hollywood Park. In LA, Majors met many actors and industry professionals, including Dick Clayton, who had been James Dean's agent, and Clayton suggested he attend his acting school. After one year of acting school, Clayton felt that Majors was ready to start his career. At this time, he picked up the stage name Lee Majors as a tribute to childhood hero Johnny Majors who was a player and future coach for the University of Tennessee. Majors also studied at Estelle Harmon's acting school at MGM.[3]

Career[edit]

Early roles[edit]

At age 25, Majors landed his first, although uncredited, role in Strait-Jacket (1964), which starred Joan Crawford. After appearing in a 1965 episode of Gunsmoke, he starred as Howard White in an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, “The Monkey’s Paw - A Retelling,” based on the short story by W. W. Jacobs later the same year.

Majors got his big break when he beat out over 400 young actors, including Burt Reynolds, for the co-starring role of Heath Barkley in a new ABC western series, The Big Valley, which starred Barbara Stanwyck. Also starring on the show was another newcomer, Linda Evans, who played Heath's younger sister, Audra. Richard Long and Peter Breck played his brothers Jarrod and Nick, respectively. One of Heath's frequently used expressions during the series was "Boy howdy!" Big Valley was an immediate hit. During the series, Majors co-starred in the 1968 Charlton Heston film Will Penny, for which he received an "Introducing" credit, and landed the lead role in The Ballad of Andy Crocker (1969), a made-for-television film which was first broadcast by ABC. The film is notable as being one of the very first films to deal with the subject matter of Vietnam veterans "coming home". That same year, he was offered the chance to star in Midnight Cowboy (1969), but The Big Valley was renewed for another season and he was forced to decline the role (which later went to Jon Voight). When The Big Valley was cancelled in 1969, he signed a long-term contract with Universal Studios. In 1970, Majors joined the cast of The Virginian for its last season.

Majors was called a "blond Elvis Presley" because of his resemblance to Elvis during this period of his career.[4]

1970s: The Six Million Dollar Man[edit]

Lee Majors in 1972

In 1971, he landed the role of Arthur Hill's partner, Jess Brandon, on Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law, which garnered critical acclaim during its three seasons on ABC.

Majors' co-starring role on Owen Marshall led him to a starring role as Colonel Steve Austin, an ex-astronaut with bionic implants in The Six Million Dollar Man, a 1973 television movie broadcast on ABC. In 1974, the network decided to turn it into a weekly series. The series became an international success, being screened in over 70 countries, turning Majors into a pop icon. Majors also made his directorial debut in 1975, on an episode called "One of Our Running Backs Is Missing" which co-starred professional football players such as Larry Csonka and Dick Butkus.

In 1977, with The Six Million Dollar Man still a hit series, Majors tried to renegotiate his contract with Universal Television. The studio in turn filed a lawsuit to force him to report to work due to stipulations within his existing contract that had not yet expired. When he did not report to work that June, studio executives relented and offered Majors a raise.[citation needed] However, ratings began to decline and The Six Million Dollar Man was cancelled in 1978 (as was The Bionic Woman). In November 2010, Time Life released a 40 DVD set featuring every episode and bonus features from the show.[5]

1980s: The Fall Guy[edit]

In 1981, Majors returned in another long-running television series. Producer Glen A. Larson (who had first worked with Majors on Alias Smith and Jones, where Majors had a one-episode part, and later on The Six Million Dollar Man) asked him to star in the pilot of The Fall Guy. Majors played Colt Seavers, a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a bounty hunter. Majors was also a producer and a director on the show, and even sang its theme song, the self-effacing "Unknown Stuntman." Majors also invited several longtime friends, Linda Evans, Peter Breck, Lindsay Wagner and Richard Anderson, to guest-star in various episodes. The series ran for five seasons until it was cancelled in 1986.

Between 1987 and 1994, Majors and Lindsay Wagner reunited in three The Six Million Dollar Man/The Bionic Woman TV movies. Majors also made a cameo appearance in the 1988 holiday comedy Scrooged.

1990s–present[edit]

In 1990, he had a recurring role in Tour of Duty, and a recurring role in the short-lived 1992 series, Raven. He also had supporting roles in the films Out Cold (2001), Big Fat Liar (2002), and The Brothers Solomon (2007). He voiced the character of "Big" Mitch Baker in the 2002 video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. He played Jaret Reddick's disconnected father in Bowling For Soup's 2007 video, "When We Die." That same year, he played Grandpa Max in Ben 10: Race Against Time, and voiced a character on the APTN animated children's program Wapos Bay: The Series that was named "Steve from Austin". He also played a minor role in Stephen King's The Mist.

Majors played Coach Ross on the CW Network's television series The Game, which ran from October 1, 2006 to May 20, 2009.[6]

Majors appeared in the role of God in "Jim Almighty" a 2007 episode of According to Jim. He would later return to the role in that show's 2009 series finale, "Heaven Opposed to Hell". Also in 2008, Majors played a member of the Minutemen (dedicated to preventing illegal border crossings) in Season Four of the Showtime series Weeds, where he recruits Kevin Nealon’s character. Majors reprised his role (voice only) as Col. Steve Austin in the "Bionic Woman" segment of the Robot Chicken season four episode "Love, Maurice" (2009).

In March 2010, Majors played the crusty sailing instructor in the Community episode "Beginner Pottery". In April 2010, he appeared as the mentor of the series lead in "Christopher Chance", the 12th episode of Human Target. Later that year, he provided the voice of General Abernathy in G.I. Joe: Renegades. He later reprised the role in a 2011 episode. In 2011, he appeared as "Rockwell" in Jerusalem Countdown. On February 1, 2013, it was announced that Majors would appear in a two-episode guest spot in Season 2 of TNT's Dallas as Ken Richards, an old flame of Sue Ellen.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Marriages[edit]

  • Kathy Robinson (married 1961, divorced 1964) – One child together, Lee Majors Jr. (born April 8, 1962) who appeared in an episode of The Fall Guy and the three Six Million Dollar Man/Bionic Woman reunion movies
  • Farrah Fawcett (married July 28, 1973, separated 1979, divorced February 16, 1982) – During the first six years of their marriage, she went by Farrah Fawcett-Majors. After they split, Fawcett said, "If he's the six-million-dollar man, I'm the ten-billion-dollar woman." When Fawcett died on June 25, 2009, after her three-year-long battle with anal cancer, Majors issued a statement which read, "She fought a tremendous battle against a terrible disease. She was an angel on earth and now an angel forever." Besides attending her funeral, several reports indicated that Majors reconnected with Fawcett before her death.[8]
  • Karen Velez (married 1988, divorced 1994) – Playboy Playmate; one daughter, Nikki Loren, and twin sons, Dane Luke and Trey Kulley[9]
  • Faith Cross (married on November 1, 2002) – actress and model

Health[edit]

In 2003, Majors had heart bypass surgery.[10]

Popular culture[edit]

The song “Midnight Train to Georgia” was inspired by Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett.[11] Songwriter Jim Weatherly phoned his friend Lee Majors one day, and the call was answered by Fawcett. Weatherly and Fawcett chatted briefly and she told him she was going to visit her mother and was taking “the midnight plane to Houston.” Although Majors was a successful television star by that time, Weatherly used them as “characters”[12] in his song about a failed actress who leaves Los Angeles, and is followed by her boyfriend who can’t live without her. Eventually the genders were swapped, the plane turned into a train, and Houston was changed to Georgia. The recording by Gladys Knight & The Pips went to Number One in 1973.[13]

References[edit]

External links[edit]