Urich in 1973
|Born||Robert Michael Urich
December 19, 1946
Toronto, Ohio, United States
|Died||April 16, 2002
Thousand Oaks, California, U.S.
Cause of death
|Synovial cell sarcoma|
|Southern Ontario, Canada|
|Other names||Bob Urich
|Alma mater||Florida State University
Michigan State University
|Spouse(s)||Barbara Rucker (m. 1968–74)
Heather Menzies (m. 1975–2002)
Robert Michael Urich (December 19, 1946 – April 16, 2002) was an American film, television and stage actor and television producer. Over the course of his 30-year career, Urich starred in a record 15 television series.
Urich began his career in television in the early 1970s. After guest stints and roles in short-lived television series, Urich won a co-starring role in the action/crime drama series S.W.A.T., in 1975. In 1976, he landed the role of Dan Tanna in the crime drama series Vega$. The series aired on ABC from 1978 to 1981, and earned Urich two Golden Globe Award nominations. In addition to his work in television, he also starred in several feature films, including Magnum Force (1973), The Ice Pirates (1984), and Turk 182 (1985). From 1985 to 1988, he portrayed the title role in the Detective television series Spenser: For Hire, based on Robert B. Parker's popular series of mystery novels. In 1988, Urich began hosting the documentary series National Geographic Explorer. He won a CableACE Award for his work on the series. Urich was also awarded a Golden Boot Award for his work in Western television series and films.
In 1996, Urich starred in the The Lazarus Man. It was canceled shortly after he announced that he was diagnosed with synovial cell sarcoma, a rare cancer in July 1996. Urich sought treatment for his illness while continuing his career and also worked to raise money for cancer research. He was declared cancer free in 1998 and returned to television in the UPN series, The Love Boat: The Next Wave. In 2000, Urich made his Broadway debut in the musical Chicago, as Billy Flynn.
Urich attended Florida State University on a football scholarship, and was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. In 1968, he earned a bachelor's degree in Radio and Television Communications. He went on to Michigan State University after working in Ohio to earn a master's degree in Broadcast Research and Management. Urich then worked as a salesman in Chicago at WGN-TV. He later worked as a weatherman.
Urich made his television debut in a guest starring role in The F.B.I., in 1972. The following year, he won a lead role in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. The series was an adaptation of the 1969 film of the same name. Bob & Carol... struggled in the ratings and was canceled after six episodes. Urich made his film debut later that same year opposite Clint Eastwood in the Dirty Harry film Magnum Force playing a vigilante motorcycle-patrol police officer.
In 1975, Urich was cast in the action/crime drama series S.W.A.T.. According to the series' executive producer Aaron Spelling, Urich's friend Burt Reynolds convinced Spelling to allow Urich to read for the part. Spelling was impressed with Urich's reading and cast him in the role of "Officer Jim Street". A mid-season replacement, S.W.A.T. earned high enough ratings to warrant a second season. However, the series was canceled in 1976 due to its violent content.
Urich's next role was on the sitcom Soap as Peter the Tennis Player in 1977. That same year he was cast as Paul Thurston, a good-looking, ego driven talk show host in the Bewitched spin-off series Tabitha, starring Lisa Hartman. The show's rating were initially strong, but schedule changes caused ratings to drop and the series was canceled in 1978 after 13 episodes. Shortly after Tabitha was canceled, Urich was cast in another Aaron Spelling produced series Vega$. He portrayed the series' lead character, Dan Tanna, a private detective who solves crimes in Las Vegas. The series was a hit for ABC and Urich received two Golden Globe Award nominations for his work on the series. By the series' third season, however, Urich had grown tired of the role and complained about the declining quality of the writing. Ratings had also declined and the series was canceled in 1981. Shortly after Vega$ was canceled, Urich signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and decided to focus on his film career. His first film for Metro was Endangered Species (1982), a science fiction film directed by Alan Rudolph.
Shortly after filming Endangered Species, Urich signed on to star in another series Gavilan. Urich starred as the title character who was a former CIA agent turned oceanographer. Gavilan was canceled after seven episodes. In 1984, he starred in two more films The Ice Pirates, and Wes Craven's Invitation to Hell. The following year, Urich co-starred in Turk 182. The film was a box office failure and Urich was nominated for Golden Raspberry Award.
In 1985, Urich returned to episodic television as the title character in Spenser: For Hire. The series was another hit for Urich and aired for three seasons. He reprised the role in several television films after the series was canceled: Spenser: Ceremony (1993), Spenser: Pale Kings and Princes (1994), Spenser: The Judas Goat (1994), and Spenser: A Savage Place (1995). In 1988, Urich began hosting the documentary series National Geographic Explorer. He won a CableACE Award for his work on the series. In 1989, he portrayed Jake Spoon, in the acclaimed television miniseries Lonesome Dove, a role for which he received many positive reviews.
In the 1990s, Urich mainly appeared in television films and several short-lived television series. From 1990 to 1991, he starred in the sitcom American Dreamer. The following year, he starred in Crossroads, a drama series that aired on ABC for ten episodes. In 1993, he and Faye Dunaway starred in the sitcom It Had to Be You. The series was critically panned and canceled after four episodes. In 1995, Urich narrated an extremely rare one-night showing of a Disney television documentary called "Alien Encounters:From New Tomorrowland". It has never been shown again. In 1996, Urich starred in the TNT Western series The Lazarus Man. The series earned strong enough ratings to be picked up for a second season but shortly after the series was renewed, Urich announced he had been diagnosed with synovial cell sarcoma. The series' production company, Castle Rock Entertainment, opted to cancel the series due to Urich's illness. In 1999, Urich commented on Castle Rock's choice to end the series, "There's really a law against what they did. They found out I had cancer, and they just canceled the show. They didn't ask the doctors if I could work. They didn't ask if I could go back to work." In 2000, he sued Castle Rock for breach of contract. The lawsuit was later settled with both parties agreeing not to publicly disclose the terms of the settlement.
While undergoing cancer treatments, Urich hosted the medical documentary series Vital Signs in 1997 and the PBS series Boatworks. After a year of treatment, Urich was declared cancer-free and returned to television in 1998 as Captain Jim Kennedy III in The Love Boat: The Next Wave. The series aired on UPN for two seasons. In 2000, Urich made his Broadway debut in the musical Chicago. He played the role of Billy Flynn on Broadway in 2000, and also was in the North American tour of the musical, in 1999 and in 2000. The next year, he co-starred in Emeril, a sitcom starring celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. While Emeril was critically panned, Urich received good notices for his work on the series. It would be his last role in a television series.
Marriages and children
Urich first marriage was to actress Barbara Rucker in 1968. They divorced in 1974. He married actress Heather Menzies in 1975. They adopted three children, Ryan, Emily and Allison. Urich and Menzies remained married until his death in 2002.
Illness and death
In July 1996, Urich announced he had been diagnosed with synovial cell sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that attacks soft tissue. He continued working while undergoing treatment for his illness and also became a cancer advocate. Urich won an award from the John Wayne Cancer Institute and the Gilda Radner Courage Award for his work raising cancer awareness. He and his wife also founded the Urich Fund for the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center to raise funds for cancer research. He also donated the $125,000 he won when he appeared on an episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Urich was declared cancer free in 1998. That same year, he was named the national spokesperson for the American Cancer Society.
In November 2001, Urich revealed in an interview that his doctors had discovered lumps in his body but "a wonder drug had cleared them up". The week before his death, Urich was hospitalized at Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks for breathing problems. He died there on April 16, 2002. A memorial service for Urich was held on April 19 on St. Charles Borromeo Church in North Hollywood. He was cremated and buried on the grounds of his family's vacation home in Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada.
Before his death, Urich and his wife Heather Menzies established the Robert and Heather Urich Fund for Sarcoma Research at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. Menzies, who also battled cancer and is an ovarian cancer survivor, continues to work for the center.
Urich's hometown of Toronto, Ohio named the Robert Urich Interchange in his honor. It connects the town to Ohio State Route 7.
Before his death, Urich and his wife helped to raise money for the Eccles Performing Arts Centers at the Park City High School in Park City, UT. After his death, the school established the Robert Urich Scholarship fund in his honor.
For his contribution to the television industry, Robert Urich has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 7083 Hollywood Blvd. He is the only person with a surname starting with the letter U that has a star on the walk of fame.
|1973||Magnum Force||Mike Grimes|
|1982||Endangered Species||Ruben Castle|
|1984||The Ice Pirates||Jason|
|1984||Invitation to Hell||Matt Winslow|
|1985||Turk 182||Terry Lynch|
|1988||April Morning||Joseph||Credit at beginning only|
|1989||Dragon Fight||Airport police|
|1992||Jock: A True Tale of Friendship||Rocky||Alternative title: Jock of the Bushveld|
|1995||Young Again||Michael Riley, Age 40|
|1996||The Angel of Pennsylvania Avenue||Angus Feagan|
|1972||The F.B.I.||Davie Stroud||Episode: "The Runner"|
|1973||Kung Fu||Greg Dundee||Episode: "Blood Brother"|
|1973||Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law||Episode: "A Girl Named Tham"|
|1973||Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice||Bob Sanders||12 episodes|
|1973||Marcus Welby, M.D.||Mike Lowry||Episode: "Death Is Only a Side Effect"|
|1974||Killdozer!||Mack McCarthy||Television film|
|1974||Nakia||Episode: "A Beginning in the Wilderness"|
|1975||The Specialists||Dr. William Nugent||Television film
Credited as Robert York
|1975||Gunsmoke||Manolo Etchahoun||Episode: "Manolo"|
|1975-1976||S.W.A.T.||Officer Jim Street||37 episodes|
|1977||Soap||Peter the Tennis Player||8 episodes|
|1977-1978||Tabitha||Paul Thurston||12 episodes|
|1977-1978||The Love Boat||Various roles||3 episodes|
|1978||Charlie's Angels||Dan Tanna||Episode: "Angels in Vegas"|
|1978-1981||Vega$||Dan Tanna||69 episodes|
|1979||When She Was Bad...||Bob Morgan||Television film|
|1980||The Shadow Box||Television film
|1980||Fighting Back: The Rocky Bleier Story||Rocky Bleier||Television film|
|1980||Killing at Hell's Gate||Charles Duke||Television film|
|1982||The Billy Crystal Comedy Hour||Episode #1.2|
|1982||Take Your Best Shot||Jess Marriner||Television film|
|1982-1983||Gavilan||Robert Gavilan||7 episodes|
|1984||Mistral's Daughter||Jason Darcy||Miniseries|
|1984||His Mistress||Allen Beck||Television film|
|1985||Scandal Sheet||Ben Rowan||Television film|
|1985-1988||Spenser: For Hire||Spenser||65 episodes|
|1986||The Defiant Ones||Johnny "Joker" Johnson||Television film|
|1986||The Disney Sunday Movie||Michael Riley, Age 40||Episode: "Young Again"|
|1988||Hallmark Hall of Fame||Joseph Simmons||Episode: "April Morning"|
|1989||The Comeback||Scotty Malloy||Television film|
|1989||She Knows Too Much||Harry||Television film|
|1989||Lonesome Dove||Jake Spoon||Miniseries|
|1989||Night Walk||Simon||Television film|
|1989||Spooner||Harry Spooner/Michael Norlon||Television film|
|1990||Blind Faith||Rob Marshall||Television film|
|1990||A Quiet Little Neighborhood, a Perfect Little Murder||Ross Pegler||Television film|
|1990||83 Hours 'Til Dawn||Bradley Burdock||Television film|
|1990||Carol & Company||Mr. Carmen||Episode: "Teacher, Teacher"|
|1990-1991||American Dreamer||Tom Nash||17 episodes|
|1991||Stranger at My Door||Joe Fortier||Television film|
|1991||...And Then She Was Gone||Jack Bauer||Television film|
|1992||Survive the Savage Sea||Jack Carpenter||Television film|
|1992||Blind Man's Bluff||Thomas Booker||Television film|
|1992||Double Edge||Harry Carter||Television film
Alternative title: Hit Woman
|1992||Revolver||Nick Suster||Television film|
|1992-1993||Crossroads||Johnny Hawkins||9 episodes|
|1993||Evening Shade||Steve||Episode: "Frieda and the Preacher"|
|1993||Deadly Relations||Leonard J. Fagot||Television film|
|1993||Spenser: Ceremony||Spenser||Television film|
|1993||It Had to Be You||Mitch Quinn||6 episodes|
|1994||Spenser: Pale Kings and Princes||Spenser||Television film|
|1994||To Save the Children||Jake Downey||Television film|
|1994||A Perfect Stranger||Alex Hale||Television film|
|1994||Spenser: The Judas Goat||Spenser||Television film|
|1995||Alien Encounters: From New Tomorrowland||Narrator||Disney Television documentary|
|1995||Spenser: A Savage Place||Spenser||Television film|
|1995||A Horse for Danny||Eddie Fortuna||Television film|
|1995||She Stood Alone: The Tailhook Scandal||Adm. Williams||Television film|
|1996||Captains Courageous||Capt. Matthew Troop||Television film|
|1996||The Lazarus Man||Lazarus (James Cathcart)||20 episodes|
|1997||The Nanny||Judge Jerry Moran||Episode: "Samson, He Denied Her"|
|1997||Final Descent||Capt. Glen (Lucky) Singer||Television film|
|1998||Invasion America||Briggs||Unknown episodes|
|1998-1999||The Love Boat: The Next Wave||Captain Jim Kennedy III||25 episodes|
|1999||Final Run||Glen "Lucky" Singer||Television film|
|1999||Miracle on the 17th Green||Mitch McKinley||Television film|
|2001||Late Boomers||Dennis||Television film|
|2001||For Love of Olivia||Horton Roundtree||Television film|
|2001||Emeril||Jerry McKenney||10 episodes|
|2002||The President's Man: A Line in the Sand||President Adam Mayfield||Television film|
|2002||Night of the Wolf||Purly Owens||Television film|
- King, Susan. "Hollywood Star Walk: Robert Urich". latimes.com. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
- Dracut, Mary Ann Gaschnig. "Robert Urich", Carpatho-Rusyn American, Vol. XII, No. 1, 1989
- A. Lipton, Michael (April 29, 2002). "Bright Knight". People. Retrieved August 12, 2010. "'I was a very uptight Catholic boy who played by the rules'"
- "Actor Robert Urich dead at 55". cnn.com. April 16, 2002. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
- Huff, Richard (April 17, 2002). "VERSATILE, ENGAGING ROBERT URICH MOURNED". nydailynews.com. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
- Spelling, Aaron; Graham, Jefferson (2002). Aaron Spelling: A Prime-Time Life. Macmillan. p. 86. ISBN 0-312-31344-6.
- McNab, Chris (2009). Deadly Force: Firearms and American Law Enforcement, from the Wild West to the Streets of Today. Osprey Publishing. p. 126. ISBN 1-846-03376-4.
- Leszczak, Bob (2012). Single Season Sitcoms, 1948-1979: A Complete Guide. McFarland. p. 178. ISBN 0-786-49305-4.
- Scott, Vernon (February 19, 1982). "Snubbing TV Offers...Robert Urich Wants Movies Only". The Durant Daily Democrat. p. 7. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
- Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle F. (October 17, 2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present (9 ed.). Ballantine Books. p. 776. ISBN 0-345-49773-2.
- Thomas, George M. (November 3, 1999). "Second Chances". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
- "Urich suing over 'Lazarus Man'". The Spokesman-Review. April 14, 2000. p. D2. Retrieved January 2, 2013.
- Elber, Lynn (April 18, 2002). "Actor Robert Urich dies from cancer at age 55". Portsmouth Daily Times. p. B5. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
- Bark, Ed (April 17, 2002). "Actor Robert Urich, star of 14 TV series, died at age 55". Beaver County Times. p. D3. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
- O'Haire, Patricia. "'Chicago' Is Urich's Kind Of Show" New York Daily News, January 11, 2000
- Jones, Kenneth. "Lewis, Urich and Visitor are New Trio in 'Chicago' Tour, in Detroit, Nov. 16–28" playbill.com, November 16, 1999
- Dillard, Sandra C. "ALL JAZZED UP Robert Urich is keen on dancing in 'Chicago'", The Denver PostOctober 17, 1999, p. H1
- Jones, Kenneth. New Tour of Chicago Begins Oct. 6–7 in CT; Chita Will Join Troupe" playbill.com, October 5, 2000
- "Robert Urich, actor in 'Lonesome Dove', 'Spenser: For Hire', dies of cancer at 55". Lodi News-Sentinel. April 17, 2002. p. 7. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
- King, Susan (April 17, 2002). "Robert Urich, 55; Popular Star of 'Vega$' and 'Spenser'". The Los Angeles Times. p. B10.
- "Urich dies at age 55". Middlesboro Daily News. April 18, 2002. p. 3. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
- Robert Urich, (1946-2002) - The Carpathian Connection
- Robert Urich at the Internet Movie Database
- Robert Urich at the Internet Broadway Database
- Robert Urich at Find a Grave