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 (1952–1977; divorced)
LaVelda Ione Fann (1983–2010; divorced)
Children 8

Robert Conrad Falk (born Conrad Robert Falk; March 1, 1935) is a retired American film and television actor, singer, and stuntman. He was 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). In addition to acting, he was a singer, and recorded several pop/rock songs in the late 1950s and early 1960s as Bob Conrad. 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 Falk (born November 3, 1918), was then 16 years old; Leonard was of German descent. 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.[2] She would go on to become first publicity director of Mercury Records, known as Jackie Smith. She would marry twice, including once to Chicago radio personality Eddie Hubbard in 1948.[3] Eddie Hubbard and Jackie Smith reportedly had a child together (born circa 1949)[4] before splitting up in 1958.[5][6][7]

Conrad attended the schools of Chicago, and went on to become a student at several area high schools, including Harvard School for Boys, South Shore High School, Hyde Park High School, the YMCA Central School, and New Trier High School.[8] He dropped out at age 15 to live on his own and begin working full time, including jobs loading trucks for Consolidated Freightways and Eastern Freightways, and driving a milk delivery truck for Chicago's Bowman Dairy.[9]

After working in Chicago for several years and studying theater arts at Northwestern University, Conrad decided to pursue an acting career.[9] One of his first paying roles was a week-long job posing outside a Chicago theater when the 1956 film Giant was showing;[10] Conrad bore a resemblance to James Dean, one of the film's stars, so his mother used her entertainment industry contacts to help him get the part, which was intended as a publicity stunt to boost attendance at the theater.[11] Conrad also studied singing; his vocal coach was Dick Marx, the father of singer Richard Marx.[12]


Early Performances[edit]

In 1957, Conrad met actor Nick Adams while visiting James Dean's gravesite in Fairmount, Indiana.[13] The two struck up a friendship, and Adams suggested that Conrad move to California to pursue acting.[13][14]

Adams got Conrad a bit part in the 1958 film Juvenile Jungle.[13] Adams was supposed to appear in it, but later withdrew so he could take a part in a different movie.[13] Conrad's brief non-speaking role in Juvenile Jungle enabled him to join the Screen Actors Guild.[13]

He had a small role in the film Thundering Jets (1958) and made his TV debut in the Bat Masterson episode "One Bullet from Broken Bow".

Warner Bros[edit]

Conrad was soon signed to an acting contract by Warner Bros. He also sang, and released several recordings with Warner Bros. Records on a variety of LPs, EPs, and SPs 33-1/3 and 45 rpm records during the late 1950s and early 1960s.[15] He had a minor Billboard hit song in "Bye Bye Baby" which reached #113.[16]

At Warners, he appeared in the 1958 second season of the James Garner series Maverick (episode: "Yellow River"). He guest-starred in a number of other shows, either for Warners or Ziv Television, including Highway Patrol, Lawman, Colt .45 (playing Billy the Kid[17]), Sea Hunt, The Man and the Challenge, and Lock Up.

Hawaiian Eye[edit]

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

Warners had a big success with their detective show 77 Sunset Strip and decided to make a follow-up series, Hawaiian Eye. Conrad was to star as detective Tom Lopaka. He was introduced on Strip then spun off into his own series that ran from 1959-63, both in the U.S. and overseas.

During the series' run, Conrad appeared on an episode of the Warners series The Gallant Men. When it was over Conrad starred in a feature film, Palm Springs Weekend (1963), Warners' attempt to repeat the success of Where the Boys Are (1960) with their young contract players.

In Mexico, Conrad signed a recording contract with the Orfeon label, where he released two albums, with a few singles sung in Spanish.

In 1964, he guest-starred on an episode of Temple Houston and then went to Spain to perform in the comedic film La Nueva Cenicienta (also known as Cabriola). The next year he was in the episode "Four into Zero" of Kraft Suspense Theatre and played Pretty Boy Floyd in Young Dillinger alongside his old friend Nick Adams, as a favor to Adams.[18]

The Wild Wild West[edit]

In 1965, Conrad also began his starring role as government agent James West on the popular weekly series The Wild Wild West, which aired on CBS until its cancellation in 1969. He made $5,000 a week.[19]

While starring in The Wild Wild West, Conrad found time to work on other projects as well. He went, for example, to Mexico in 1967 to appear in a musical, Ven a cantar conmigo. He also formed his own company, Robert Conrad Productions; and under its auspices he wrote, starred in, and directed the 1967 Western film The Bandits.[20]

Paul Ryan and Jake Webster[edit]

Conrad appeared in episodes of Mannix and Mission: Impossible.

In 1969 he signed a three picture deal with Bob Hope's Doan Productions. The first two were meant to be Keene then No Beer in Heaven but only the first was made.[21]

In 1969 he debuted as prosecutor Paul Ryan in the TV movie D.A.: Murder One (1969). He reprised the movie in D.A.: Conspiracy to Kill (1971) and the short-lived 1971 NBC series, The D.A..[22]

He was also in the TV movies Weekend of Terror (1970), Five Desperate Women (1971) and Adventures of Nick Carter (1972).

Conrad tried another TV series, as American spy Jake Webster in Assignment Vienna (1972), but it only lasted eight episodes.[23] He was a murderous fitness franchise promoter in an episode of Columbo ("An Exercise in Fatality").[24]

Conrad starred in the TV movies The Last Day (1975) and Smash-Up on Interstate 5 (1976), and the features Murph the Surf (1975) and Sudden Death (1977). He reprised his role as Paul Ryan in the TV movie Confessions of the D.A. Man.

Baa Baa Black Sheep[edit]

Conrad 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. Conrad also directed some episodes.[25]

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.[26]

He followed it with a lead part in the mini series Centennial (1978).

The Duke and A Man Called Sloane[edit]

In 1978, Conrad starred in the short-lived TV series The Duke, as Duke Ramsey, a boxer turned private eye. Conrad directed some episodes.

In the late 1970s, he served as the captain of the NBC team for six editions of Battle of the Network Stars. Around this time reprised the role of West in a pair of made-for-TV films which reunited him with his West co-star, Ross Martin, The Wild Wild West Revisited (1979) and More Wild Wild West (1980).

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.

Conrad made the occasional feature such as The Lady in Red (1979) for Roger Corman's New World Pictures, where he played John Dillinger from a script by John Sayles.

He played a modern-day variation of James West in the short-lived series A Man Called Sloane in 1979. Conrad directed some episodes.

1980s: Producer[edit]

Conrad spent most of the 1980s starring in TV movies. He played a paraplegic coach in Coach of the Year (1980), and the title role in Will: The Autobiography of G. Gordon Liddy (1982). Both were for his own company, A Shane Productions.

He had a support part in the feature The Man with the Deadly Lens (1983) with Sean Connery then returned to TV: Confessions of a Married Man (1984), Hard Knox (1985) (for which he also provided the story), and Two Fathers' Justice (1985). The last two were made for his company.

In 1984 he was awarded a star on the Walk of Western Stars in Newhall, California.[27]

Conrad was a villain in the comedy Moving Violations (1985) for theatres but the following was for TV: The Fifth Missile (1986), Assassin (1986), Charley Hannah's War (1986)[28], and One Police Plaza (1986).[29]

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.[30]

Conrad starred in a series High Mountain Rangers (1987), directing the pilot and writing several episodes. The series co starred Conrad's two sons and was executive produced by his daughter.[31]

He was in the TV movies Police Story: Gladiator School (1988), and Glory Days (1988), directing the latter.

He then tried another short lived series, Jesse Hawkes (1989), a spin off of High Mountain Rangers, directing the pilot.


Conrad returned to TV movies:Anything to Survive (1990), Mario and the Mob (1991), The Kennedy Assassinations (1992), Sworn to Vengeance (1993), and Two Fathers: Justice for the Innocent (1994).[32]

Conrad did a movie, Samurai Cowboy (1994). He created a TV movie Search and Rescue (1995) which he starred in and led to a short lived TV series, created by Conrad.[33]

He had a support role in Jingle All the Way (1996) with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Conrad's later credits included an episode of Nash Bridges and the film Dead Above Ground (2002).


In 2005, he ran for head of the Screen Actors Guild.[34]

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[35] for his work on The Wild, Wild West series, and notably is the only actor to claim this honor.[36]

Since 2008, he's hosting a weekly two-hour national radio show (The PM Show with Robert Conrad) on CRN Digital Talk Radio.[1]

He also appeared in the documentary film, Pappy Boyington Field (released in July 2010 on DVD) 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.[37] 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".[38] 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.[39]

Car accident[edit]

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.[40] Tried on felony charges, Conrad pleaded no contest,[41] and he was convicted of drunk driving.

He was sentenced to six months of house confinement, alcohol counseling, and five years' probation.[41] 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.[42][43] Conrad himself suffered severe nerve injuries from the crash, which left his right side partially paralyzed.[44]

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ a b The PM Show with Robert Conrad,; accessed January 11, 2016.
  2. ^ Cook Country Genealogy Certificate #6016090 (registration required)
  3. ^ Marriage between Eddie Hubbard and Jackie Smith. 1948-06-12. Retrieved 2011-06-27. 
  4. ^ Billboard. Google Books. 1949-05-28. Retrieved 2011-06-27. 
  5. ^ Eddie Hubbard and wife Jackie split up. Google Books. October 20, 1958. Retrieved 2011-06-27. 
  6. ^ *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.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Libman, Norma (December 8, 1991). "An Actor`s Memories Of His `Real` Working Days In Chicago". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, IL. 
  9. ^ a b "An Actor`s Memories Of His `Real` Working Days In Chicago".
  10. ^ Thomson, Gus (August 28, 2005). "A wild, wild night with Conrad: Actor's Auburn visit recalls fond memories". Auburn Journal. Auburn, CA. 
  11. ^ Medley, Tony. "One on One with Robert Conrad". Retrieved October 1, 2017. 
  12. ^ Steele, Shadoe (April 25, 2007). "Shadoe Steele's Interview with Robert Conrad". Entercom Radio Network. Lower Merion Township, PA: Entercom Communications. 
  13. ^ a b c d e "One on One with Robert Conrad".
  14. ^ Zylstra, F. (1964, Mar 13). TV actor, former Chicagoan, likes to lend hand in kitchen. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current File) Retrieved from
  15. ^ "Shadoe Steele's Interview with Actor Robert Conrad". Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  16. ^ Whitburn, Joel. Top Pop Singles, 12th ed.
  17. ^ "Colt .45". Retrieved December 22, 2012. 
  18. ^ Major, Jack (1965). "Robert Conrad Interview", Akron Beacon Journal, Akron, Ohio, August 22, 1965.
  19. ^ Hopper, H. (1966, Jan 25). Bob Conrad doubles income five times. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current File). Retrieved from
  20. ^ Martin, B. (1966, Apr 29). Tony curtis joins 'waves'. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File). Retrieved from
  21. ^ Martin, B. (1969, Mar 22). MOVIE CALL SHEET. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  22. ^ Walker, J. (1971, Sep 25). Robert conrad: Law and order with a briefcase. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current File) Retrieved from
  23. ^ Robert conrad takes 'assignment: Vienna'. (1972, Jun 18). The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973) Retrieved from
  24. ^ "An Exercise in Fatality",; accessed April 20, 2015.
  25. ^ Daniels, M. (1978, Jan 08). Robert conrad is flying high as 'pappy' boyington. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current File) Retrieved from
  26. ^ "Robert Conrad biography". 1935-03-01. Retrieved 2016-10-05. 
  27. ^ "Downtown Newhall Walk of Western Stars". 2013-04-16. Retrieved 2016-10-05. 
  28. ^ Blake, J. P. (1986, Apr 04). ROBERT CONRAD/'LITTLE NICKY' SCARFO. Philadelphia Daily News Retrieved from
  29. ^ By Patricia Brennan Washington Post,Staff Writer. (1986, Mar 30). Robert conrad as 'charley hannah'. The Washington Post (1974-Current File) Retrieved from
  30. ^ "Wrestlemania 2: Caged Heat". Slam! Sports. Retrieved September 12, 2016. 
  31. ^ Robert conrad eager to quit california and move to spain. (2014, Nov 06). Express (Online) Retrieved from
  32. ^ Jay Bobbin Tribune, M. S. (1993, Mar 23). Actor robert conrad sees a bright future for his production company. Las Vegas Review - Journal Retrieved from
  33. ^ Robert conrad's high sierra search and rescue filming a series in the back yard. (1995, Jun 18). The Washington Post (1974-Current File) Retrieved from
  34. ^ Alex, B. B. (2005). ROBERT CONRAD TAKES HIS SLINGSHOT TO SAG. TelevisionWeek, 24(31), 6. Retrieved from
  35. ^ "Stuntmen's Hall of Fame (listed as Bob Conrad)". Retrieved April 26, 2010. 
  36. ^ "Shadoe Steele's Interview with Actor Robert Conrad". Retrieved 2016-10-05. 
  37. ^ 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. 
  38. ^ "One on One with Robert Conrad". August 17, 1957. Retrieved April 26, 2010. 
  39. ^ Winslow, Harriet (June 18, 1995). "Robert Conrad involved with Bear Valley Search and Rescue". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 1, 2016. 
  40. ^ "Actor Robert Conrad to be tried on felony DUI charges". November 20, 2003. Archived from the original on September 14, 2008. Retrieved December 3, 2008. 
  41. ^ a b "Robert Conrad sentenced for DUI accident". Associated Press. November 24, 2004. Retrieved February 23, 2011. 
  42. ^ "Newsbank info re 2003 car crash". August 19, 2005. Retrieved April 26, 2010. 
  43. ^ ""Man injured in Conrad accident dies from perforated ulcers at 28"". 2005-08-09. Retrieved 2016-10-05. 
  44. ^ "Robert Conrad Takes Wrong Turn". April 15, 2003. Retrieved April 26, 2010. 

External links[edit]