Conrad in 1972
|Born||Conrad Robert Norton Falk
March 1, 1935
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Joan Kenlay (February 23, 1952–1977; divorced); 5 children
LaVelda Ione Fann (March 28, 1983–2010; divorced); 3 children
Robert Conrad (born March 1, 1935) is an American film and television actor, best known for his role in the 1965–1969 CBS television series The Wild Wild West, playing the sophisticated Secret Service agent James T. West. He also portrayed World War II ace Pappy Boyington in the television series 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.
Early years/age discrepancy
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's year of birth has been cited as 1929, however there is no evidence to support this. 1935 appears to be the correct year per his 1940 census profile (see bottom of page); this indicates that he was a week shy of his 17th birthday when he eloped with his first wife, Joan.
Signed to Warner Bros. as an actor, Conrad took advantage of Warner's recording division. He eventually released several recordings issued on a variety of LPs, EPs, and SPs 33 and a third 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.
Before The Wild Wild West, Conrad played Tom Lopaka on the ABC/WB series Hawaiian Eye, opposite Anthony Eisley and Connie Stevens. The show was a hit and lasted from 1959 to 1963. The show was also a big hit overseas. In Mexico he signed a recording contract with the Orfeon label where he released two albums, a few singles sung in Spanish, and was introduced as Tom Lopaka himself. He played "Eric Dean" in the 1963 spring break film Palm Springs Weekend. Then, in 1965, Conrad received nationwide notiriety with the starring role in the hit TV series, The Wild Wild West (airing on CBS for 4 seasons), which was a ratings success, consistently winning its time slot until its cancellation in 1969; due to being considered overly violent, and by increased pressure placed upon CBS from parents-rights groups concerned with family friendly, non-violent programming for America's children, as well as the "Presidential Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence," initiated by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. Joining Conrad in "The Wild Wild West, were other stars including Michael Dunn, Robert Duvall, and, most-notably, co-star Ross Martin as Artemus Gordon, James West's partner. After the cancellation of the series, Mr. Conrad starred in such roles as prosecuting attorney Paul Ryan in a short-lived 1971 NBC series, The D.A., and American spy Jake Webster in the series Assignment Vienna. He starred in a third season episode of Mannix called "The Playground" and an episode of Columbo entitled "An Exercise in Fatality".
With his muscular build and cigarette-induced gravelly voice, Conrad found ratings success from 1976-78 playing 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. In 1978 he starred in the short lived TV series "The Duke" as boxer turned private eye Duke Ramsey. In 1980, he played a paraplegic coach in the film Coach of the Year which also featured a then-sixteen year old Richard Marx as a high school football player. 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. He also starred in the 1978 TV miniseries Centennial on NBC.
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 1986, Conrad was special guest referee for the main event at Wrestlemania II 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 alongside Matt LeBlanc and Emily Perkins. In 1992, Conrad played the role of the sheriff in Richard Marx's "Hazard" music video. In 1996, he played the part of a police officer in the film Jingle all the Way. He took over hosting The History Channel's Weapons At War (later Tech Force) in 2000, succeeding George C. Scott (who died in 1999).
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 that 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. He appeared in the documentary film, Pappy Boyington Field, where he recounted his personal insights about the legendary Marine Corps Aviator that he portrayed in the television series. Conrad hosts a weekly radio talk show on CRN Digital Talk Radio.
Conrad was married to Joan Kenlay from February 23, 1952 until their divorce in 1977; the couple had five children. His second marriage, to LaVelda Ione Fann, produced three children. After living in Bear Valley in the High Sierra, Conrad and Fann relocated to Thousand Oaks, California in 2006. Conrad and Fann divorced in 2010.
Conrad would be joined on a few of his TV 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.
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 percent, 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.
In February 2013, Conrad gave $500 to a British couple on holiday in Los Angeles after they were interviewed on KFI Radio, recounting that their hotel was closed after a corpse was found in the Cecil Hotel's water cistern.
- The PM Show with Robert Conrad
- Cook County Genealogy Certificate #6053005 (registration required)
- Cook Country Genealogy Certificate #6016090 (registration required)
- Marriage between Eddie Hubbard and Jackie Smith. 1948-06-12. Retrieved 2011-06-27.
- Billboard. Google Books. 1949-05-28. Retrieved 2011-06-27.
- Eddie Hubbard and wife Jackie split up. Google Books. October 20, 1958. Retrieved 2011-06-27.
- *1940 CENSUS PROFILE:
*Conrad Robert Falk
*Estimated Birth Year: abt 1935
*Marital Status: Single
*Relation to Head of House: Stepson
*Home in 1940: Chicago, Cook, Illinois
*Street: Ada Street
*House Number: 8957
*Inferred Residence in 1935: Chicago, Cook, Illinois
*Residence in 1935: Same Place
*Sheet Number: 1B
*Name: George Smith (26)
*Name: Jacqueline Smith (20)
*Name: Conrad Falk (5)
*Birth Date: 1 Mar[ch] 1935
*Birth Location: Cook County, IL
*File Number: 6008106
*Archive Collection Name: Cook County Genealogy Records (Births)
*Archive repository location: Chicago, IL
*Archive repository name: Cook County Clerk
*Source Citation: Year: 1940; Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Roll: T627_959; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 103-1267.
- Source Information: Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1940. T627, 4,643 rolls.
- "Shadoe Steele's Interview with Actor Robert Conrad". nctc.net. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- Whitburn, Joel. Top Pop Singles, 12th ed.
- "Colt .45". ctva.biz. Retrieved December 22, 2012.
- Coach of the Year at the Internet Movie Database
- "Stuntmen's Hall of Fame (listed as Bob Conrad)". Stuntmen.org. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- "After fight, airport named for legendary ace". Marinecorpstimes.com. Retrieved 2011-06-27.
- Robert Falk married Lovelda [sic] Ione Fann on March 28, 1983 in Tonopah, Nye County, Nevada on April 4, 1983.
Book: I-8, Page: 1, Instrument number: 8345
*Ancestry.com. Nevada, Marriage Index, 1956-2005 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007
*Nevada State Health Division, Office of Vital Records. Nevada Marriage Index, 1966-2005. Carson City, Nevada: Nevada State Health Division, Office of Vital Records.
*Clark County, Nevada Marriage Bureau. Clark County, Nevada Marriage Index, 1956-1966. Las Vegas, Nevada: Clark County, Nevada Marriage Bureau.
- "One on One with Robert Conrad". TonyMedley.com. 1957-08-17. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- Winslow, Harriet (1995-06-18). "Need 911? Dial C-o-n-r-a-d". The Washington Post (Pqasb.pqarchiver.com). Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- "Actor Robert Conrad to be tried on felony DUI charges". 2003-11-20. Retrieved 2008-12-03.
- Associated Press (November 24, 2004). "Robert Conrad sentenced for DUI accident". MSNBC.com. Retrieved February 23, 2011.
- "Newsbank info re 2003 car crash". Nl.newsbank.com. 2005-08-19. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- "Man injured in Conrad accident dies from perforated ulcers at 28"
- "Robert Conrad Takes Wrong Turn". CBSnews.com. 2003-04-15. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- "Actor Robert Conrad 'helps Plymouth couple' after hotel body find", BBC News, March 9, 2013
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Robert Conrad.|
- Robert Conrad at the Internet Movie Database
- Robert Conrad interview video at the Archive of American Television