Robert Conrad

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Robert Conrad
Robert Conrad 1965.jpg
Conrad in 1965
Born Conrad Robert Falk
(1935-03-01) March 1, 1935 (age 82)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1957–2002
Spouse(s) Joan Kenlay (February 23, 1952–1977; divorced); 5 children
LaVelda Ione Fann (March 28, 1983–2010; divorced); 3 children

Robert Conrad Falk (born Conrad Robert Falk; March 1, 1935) is an American film and television actor, singer, and stuntman. He may be best known for his role in the 1965–69 television series The Wild Wild West, playing the sophisticated Secret Service agent James T. West. He portrayed World War II ace Pappy Boyington in the television series Baa Baa Black Sheep (later syndicated as 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 since 2008.[1]

Early life[edit]

Conrad was born Conrad Robert Falk in Chicago, Illinois. His father, born Leonard Henry Falkowski (born November 3, 1918), was then 16 years old; Leonard was of Polish ancestry.[2][verification needed] 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.[3] 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.[4] Eddie Hubbard and Jackie Smith reportedly had a child together (born circa 1949)[5] before splitting up in 1958.[6][7][8]


Conrad was signed to Warner Bros. as an actor.[when?] He later released several recordings with Warner Bros on a variety of LPs, EPs, and SPs 33-1/3 and 45 rpm records during the late 1950s and early 1960s.[9] He had a minor Billboard hit song in "Bye Bye Baby" which reached #113.[10] In 1959, he played Billy the Kid in the episode "Amnesty" of Colt .45.[11]

In 1958, he appeared in the second season of the James Garner series Maverick (episode: "Yellow River"). Before The Wild Wild West, Conrad played Tom Lopaka on Hawaiian Eye. The show was a hit from 1959-63, both in the U.S. and overseas. In Mexico, he signed a recording contract with the Orfeon label, where he released two albums, with a few singles sung in Spanish. He played "Eric Dean" in Palm Springs Weekend (1963). In 1964, he went to Spain and filmed La Nueva Cenicienta.

Robert Conrad with co-star Connie Stevens on Hawaiian Eye, 1961

In 1965, he garnered fame with his starring role in The Wild Wild West (airing on CBS for four seasons until its cancellation in 1969). He later starred in such roles as prosecuting attorney Paul Ryan in the short-lived 1971 NBC series, The D.A., and as American spy Jake Webster in Assignment Vienna. He starred in a third-season episode of Mannix, called "The Playground"; and as a murderous fitness franchise promoter in an episode of Columbo ("An Exercise in Fatality").[12] He guest-starred as a killer for hire on an episode of Mission: Impossible.

He found ratings success again from 1976-78 as 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. The show's success led Conrad to win a People's Choice Award for Favorite Male Actor and a Golden Globe nomination for his performance.[13] In 1978, he starred in the short-lived TV series The Duke, as Duke Ramsey, a boxer turned private eye. In 1980, he played a paraplegic coach in Coach of the Year.[14]

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 which reunited him with his West co-star, Ross Martin. He also starred in the 1978 TV miniseries Centennial, based on the novel by James Michener.[15]

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 American television comedies such as Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show and The Carol Burnett Show. In 1984, along with Red West from the Black Sheep series, Conrad starred in Hard Knox, playing Marine Aviator Joe Knox, whose career was ending due to minor medical issues.

That same year (1984), he was awarded a star on the Walk of Western Stars in Newhall, California.[16] In 1986, he was a special guest referee for the main event at Wrestlemania 2 featuring Hulk Hogan vs King Kong Bundy inside a steel cage.[17]

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 he was flattered to be parodied by Carson. He was inducted into the Stuntman's Hall of Fame[18] for his work on The Wild, Wild West series, and notably is the only actor to claim this honor.[19]

He appeared in the documentary film, Pappy Boyington Field, where he recounted his personal insights about the legendary Marine Corps aviator whom he portrayed in the television series.

Personal life[edit]

Conrad and his first wife, Joan, were married for 25 years until an amicable divorce. The couple had five children. His second marriage, to LaVelda Ione Fann, produced three children.[20] Conrad and Fann divorced in 2010.

Conrad was joined on some television 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".[21] Spilotro's slaying was featured in the movie Casino.

Conrad was involved with a volunteer organization in Bear Valley known as Bear Valley Search and Rescue, which later formed the basis for High Mountain Rangers.[22]

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 driven by 26-year-old Kevin Burnett. Both men suffered serious injuries.[23] Tried on felony charges, Conrad pleaded no contest,[24] and he was convicted of drunk driving.

He was sentenced to six months of house confinement, alcohol counseling, and five years probation.[24] 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.[25][26] Conrad himself suffered severe nerve injuries from the crash, which left his right side partially paralyzed.[27]

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ The PM Show with Robert Conrad,; accessed January 11, 2016.
  2. ^ Cook County Genealogy Certificate #6053005 (registration required)
  3. ^ Cook Country Genealogy Certificate #6016090 (registration required)
  4. ^ Marriage between Eddie Hubbard and Jackie Smith. 1948-06-12. Retrieved 2011-06-27. 
  5. ^ Billboard. Google Books. 1949-05-28. Retrieved 2011-06-27. 
  6. ^ Eddie Hubbard and wife Jackie split up. Google Books. October 20, 1958. Retrieved 2011-06-27. 
  7. ^ *1940 CENSUS PROFILE:
    *Conrad Robert Falk
    *Age: 5
    *Estimated Birth Year: abt 1935
    *Gender: Male
    *Race: White
    *Birthplace: Illinois
    *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
    *Household members:
    *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.
  8. ^ Source Information: 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: 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.
  9. ^ "Shadoe Steele's Interview with Actor Robert Conrad". Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  10. ^ Whitburn, Joel. Top Pop Singles, 12th ed.
  11. ^ "Colt .45". Retrieved December 22, 2012. 
  12. ^ "An Exercise in Fatality",; accessed April 20, 2015.
  13. ^ "Robert Conrad biography". 1935-03-01. Retrieved 2016-10-05. 
  14. ^ Coach of the Year on IMDb
  15. ^ Centennial full credits",; accessed April 25, 2014.
  16. ^ "Downtown Newhall Walk of Western Stars". 2013-04-16. Retrieved 2016-10-05. 
  17. ^ "Wrestlemania 2: Caged Heat". Slam! Sports. Retrieved September 12, 2016. 
  18. ^ "Stuntmen's Hall of Fame (listed as Bob Conrad)". Retrieved April 26, 2010. 
  19. ^ "Shadoe Steele's Interview with Actor Robert Conrad". Retrieved 2016-10-05. 
  20. ^ Hutchings, David (March 28, 1988). "Tough Guy Robert Conrad, with His Offspring in Tow, Heads for the Hills and High Mountain Rangers". Retrieved March 16, 2016. 
  21. ^ "One on One with Robert Conrad". August 17, 1957. Retrieved April 26, 2010. 
  22. ^ Winslow, Harriet (June 18, 1995). "Robert Conrad involved with Bear Valley Search and Rescue". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 1, 2016. 
  23. ^ "Actor Robert Conrad to be tried on felony DUI charges". November 20, 2003. Retrieved December 3, 2008. 
  24. ^ a b "Robert Conrad sentenced for DUI accident". Associated Press. November 24, 2004. Retrieved February 23, 2011. 
  25. ^ "Newsbank info re 2003 car crash". August 19, 2005. Retrieved April 26, 2010. 
  26. ^ ""Man injured in Conrad accident dies from perforated ulcers at 28"". 2005-08-09. Retrieved 2016-10-05. 
  27. ^ "Robert Conrad Takes Wrong Turn". April 15, 2003. Retrieved April 26, 2010. 

External links[edit]