Love Boat captain Gavin MacLeod dies at 90

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LOS ANGELES (AP) – Gavin MacLeod, the veteran supporting actor who rose to stardom as Murray Slaughter, the sardonic television news writer on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” before growing even more famous as that merry Captain Stubing on “The Love Boat”, has passed away. He was 90 years old.

MacLeod died early Saturday, his nephew, Mark See, told Variety. MacLeod’s health had been poor recently, but no cause of death was given, the trade publication reported.

Known to sitcom fans for his bald head and broad smile, MacLeod worked in near anonymity for over a decade, appearing on dozens of TV shows and several films before landing her role as “Mary Tyler”. Moore “in 1970.

SAN PEDRO, CA - MARCH 02: Actor Gavin MacLeod aka Captain Stubing of "The boat of love", celebrates her 80th birthday aboard the Golden Princess on March 2, 2011 in San Pedro, California.  (Photo by Jerod Harris / FilmMagic)
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SAN PEDRO, CA – MARCH 02: Actor Gavin MacLeod, aka Captain Stubing of “The Love Boat,” celebrates his 80th birthday aboard the Golden Princess on March 2, 2011 in San Pedro, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris / FilmMagic)

He had originally tested for Moore’s television boss Lou Grant, a role that went to Ed Asner. Realizing he wasn’t good at playing the angry TV newsroom boss, MacLeod asked him if he could try the sarcastic TV reporter instead, his jokes often to the detriment of stupid presenter Ted Baxter.

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“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was a hit from the start and remains a sitcom classic. It produced two spinoffs, “Rhoda” and “Phyllis,” starring Valerie Harper and Cloris Leachman, who had portrayed Mary’s neighbors.

It was still top rated when Moore, who played news producer Mary Richards, decided to end it after seven seasons.

MacLeod moved on to “The Love Boat,” a romantic comedy in which guest stars ranging from Gene Kelly to Janet Jackson took a cruise and fell in love with each other.

Though despised by critics, the series proved to be immensely popular, spanning 11 seasons and multiple TV movies, including two in which MacLeod remained at the helm of the cruise ship. It also got him hired as a TV presenter for Princess Cruise Lines.

“The critics hated it. They called it stupid television, but we have become goodwill ambassadors,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 2013.

LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 14: Gavin MacLeod stars as Captain Stubing on The Love Boat.  Framegrab Season Two Episode "Julie's aunt / Where is it written? / The big deal,"aired October 14, 1978. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES – OCTOBER 14: Gavin MacLeod stars as Captain Stubing on The Love Boat. Framegrab from the Season Two Episode, “Julie’s Aunt / Where Is It Written? / The Big Deal,” aired October 14, 1978. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

Among his last television credits were “Touched by An Angel”, “JAG” and “The King of Queens”.

MacLeod’s light screen character contrasted with his private life. In his 2013 memoir, “This Is Your Captain Speaking,” MacLeod admitted that he struggled with alcoholism in the 1960s and 1970s. He also wrote that losing his hair at an early age prevented him from finding of work as an actor.

“I went all over town looking for an agent, but no one was interested in portraying a bald-headed young man,” he wrote. “I knew what to do. I had to buy myself a hairpiece.” A toupee changed his luck “pretty quickly”. In middle age, he did not need the forelock.

MacLeod, whose first name was Allan See, took his first name from a French film and his last from a drama professor at Ithaca College in New York City who had encouraged him to pursue an acting career.

After college, the Mount Kisco, New York native became a supporting actor in “A Hatful of Rain” and other Broadway plays, as well as in films such as “I Want to Live!” and “Operation Jupon”.

He made appearances on television shows throughout the 1960s including “Hogan’s Heroes”, “Hawaii Five-O” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show”. He also appeared on “McHale’s Navy” from 1962 to 1964 as Seaman Joseph “Happy” Haines.

A major role for which he auditioned: Archie Bunker in “All in the Family”. But he soon realized that the character, immortalized by Carol O’Conner, did not suit him. “Immediately I thought, ‘This is not the scenario for me. The character is too bigoted.’ I can’t say these things, “MacLeod wrote in his memoir.

Other film credits included “Kelly’s Heroes”, “Sand Pebbles” and “Ali Baba’s Sword”.

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MacLeod had four children with his first wife, Joan Rootvik, whom he divorced in 1972. He was the son of an alcoholic and his drinking problems helped lead to a second divorce, with Patti Steele. But after MacLeod quit drinking, he and Steele remarried in 1985.

The couple then hosted a Christian radio show called “Back on Course: A Ministry for Marriages”.

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The late AP Entertainment writer Bob Thomas contributed biographical material for this story.

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