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Cavonis was born in the Hells Kitchen section of Manhattan in New York City. He is of Greek ancestry. He was drafted and served in the United States Army in the period between the Korean War and the full-scale escalation of the Vietnam War. Cavonis has said jokingly about his service in the Army that, “Not one Viet Cong soldier invaded Hawaii on my watch.”
Cavonis’s first TV appearance was as Mickey in the 1972 made for TV movie The Living End starring Lou Gossett Jr. He next appeared as Rick Niels in the award nominated made for TV movie Short Walk to Daylight alongside James Brolin. Throughout the 1970s Cavonis made appearances in the Brady Bunch, Six Million Dollar Man, S.W.A.T., Kojak, The F.B.I., Banacek, The Bionic Woman, Baretta, The Rockford Files, Police Story, and Rhoda. Cavonis had a recurring role on The Streets of San Francisco, multiple roles in Charlie's Angels and M*A*S*H, and appeared in the episode "A Hand For Sonny Blue" from the 1977 series Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected (known in the United Kingdom as Twist in the Tale).
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