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Lee Majors (born April 23, 1939) is an American prolific character actor of stage, primarily known for his roles in movies, sitcoms and television who also starred in four long-running ABC TV series over four decades.
The naturally blond-headed Majors is best known for his roles as Barbara Stanwyck's husband's illegitimate son, Heath Barkley, on The Big Valley (1965-1969), as Arthur Hill's law partner/friend, Jess Brandon, on Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law (1971-1974), as Colonel Steve Austin, on The Six Million Dollar Man (1974-1978), and as Colt Seavers on The Fall Guy (1981-1986). He also had a recurring role as Col. Seymour Kooze in Son of the Beach. Read Full Bio >>
Majors was born on 23 April 1939 as Harvey Lee Yeary II in the Detroit suburb of Wyandotte, Michigan. He was the only child of Carl Yeary, who was killed in a work related accident and Alice Yeary, who was killed in a car accident. In 1941, when Yeary was only two, he was adopted by his uncle and aunt, Harvey & Mildred Yeary, and moved with them to Middlesboro, Kentucky, where they had a son, Bill. They decided to raise Harvey, their own way, and he was raised with tremendous influence. Physical comforts didn’t prevent him from being taught the rules and manners of southern culture. While participating in many outdoor activities, he also spent time in the attic, searching for old articles, dwelling in his past. At age 12, Harvey could read the newspapers and found the numerous stories that related to his mother’s death. He kept what he had found quiet but as a result suffered depression. He resented his parents for keeping the truth from him, but overtime, his shock turned into motivation.
Since his older brother had been a football star in school, he tirelessly committed himself to the sport. When he was enrolled at Middlesboro High School, he participated in as many sports as he could, from track to football. He was also one of the best receivers in the school’s history. All classmates had noticed this handsome young athlete. According to a high school coach, he said that Harvey was a great athlete, did very well in school and had great character. Yeary graduated in 1957, and earned a scholarship to Indiana University, where he competed in more sports. Yeary left Indiana University in 1959 and transferred to Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky after he got into a fight at a fraternity house. After being transfered, he was only allowed to play with his new teammates, who he didn't know. He also continued relishing in the Eastern Kentucky coaching staff during practice. He played in his first game the following year. But during his second-half kick off return, he suffered a severe back injury at the beginning of the football season, which left him paralyzed for two weeks, and ended his football career. He was rushed to the Emergency Room, where he rested in a hospital bed for 24 hours, unable to feel his legs. Despite the discomfort, Harvey was determined to recover completely, but was growing restless and lonely. When an audition came up at college, his football buddies encouraged him to try acting. He performed plays at the Pioneer Playhouse in Danville, Illinois. Yeary graduated from EKU in 1962 with a degree in both History and Physical Education, which gave him the option of becoming a teacher.
Yeary adopted the stage name Lee Majors taken from his own middle name and from that of his cousin Johnny Majors, runner-up for the 1956 Heisman Trophy, and a long-time football coach, at Iowa State University (1968-1972), the University of Pittsburgh (1973-1976 and 1993-1996), and the University of Tennessee (1977-1992). At 25, Majors' first role was in Strait-Jacket (1964), starring leading actress Joan Crawford.
After graduating, Majors received an offer to try-out for the St. Louis Cardinals football team; however, he turned it down to instead search for a means to support he couldn't keep those jobs, as he didn't have the proper qualifications. The only job he could find was at the Los Angeles Park and Recreation Department as the Recreation Director for North Hollywood Park. It was there that Majors met many famous actors and industry professionals, including Dick Clayton, who had been James Dean's agent. Clayton suggested Lee attend his acting school. It took one year of studying in order for Clayton to help Majors start his career. Lee also studied at Estelle Harmon's acting school at MGM. At 25, Majors' first role was in Strait-Jacket (1964), starring leading actress Joan Crawford.
In 1965 Majors’ first guest-starring role was on an episode of Gunsmoke. This also led to other roles on other TV shows such as, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Bracken's World, two episodes of Marcus Welby, M.D. with Robert Young and James Brolin, Alias Smith and Jones, The Sixth Sense, he also reprised his role as Col. Steve Austin in The Bionic Woman with Lindsay Wagner for 8 episodes, 2 episodes of The Love Boat, among many others. In 1995, after a six-year-absence, he came back to do more guest-starring appearances, such as Lonesome Dove, Promised Land, Walker, Texas Ranger, V.I.P., The War Next Door, Jake 2.0, and he guest-starred on the popular sitcom, Will and Grace, where he played Alan Arkin’s buddy Burt. He also had a recurring role on the short-lived series Son of the Beach, as Col. Seymour Kooze. He also appeared as himself on popular series such as Family Guy, but with guest characters such as, Married to the Kellys, The Game and most recently, According to Jim, which he played God.
That same year, Majors got his big break when he beat out over 400 young actors, including Burt Reynolds, for the co-starring role of Heath Barkley in a new western series, The Big Valley, for ABC, which starred legendary screen actress Barbara Stanwyck. Also starring on the show was another newcomer, Linda Evans, who played Heath's younger sister, Audra. According to A&E Biography's narrator, Bill Mumy, early in the first season after Stanwyck’s character was rescued from an earthquake (which was the title's episode), Majors & Stanwyck both had a violent disagreement. She wanted to rule the show, herself, however, his southern instincts kicked in and he argued that he should drive. Off-screen, he threw a huge temper tantrum, hence, series’ star Barbara Stanwyck gave him the silent treatment for days. When it was clear, she was ready to speak with him, she felt that her point had been made. Afterwards, both Majors’ & Stanwyck’s chemistry developed an on- and off-screen mother and son relationship. The show was an immediate hit, and he often worked longer hours on the set, studying and remembering each line. Despite the fact that he was not a horseman, he quickly learned to ride for the role. On three separate episodes, his character Heath suffered whippings, which took an emotional toll on the actor. Majors went on to do some more films such as Will Penny (1968) with Charlton Heston. That same year, he was offered the chance to star in Midnight Cowboy (1969), but The Big Valley was renewed for another season, and he was forced to decline the role which went to Jon Voight. When The Big Valley was finally cancelled in 1969, he signed a long-term contract with Universal Studios, who thought they had a breakout star on their hands.
In 1970, Majors joined the cast of The Virginian for the last season, the following year, his next role was that of Arthur Hill's partner, Jess Brandon, on Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law, which garnered critical acclaim for three seasons on ABC. He wasn’t very happy with his role. Head of Universal Television, Frank Price suggested to Majors to take the part; which was a good departure for boy who grew up in Kentucky. On every episode, he would wear new suits and solve cases with his boss; while memorizing legal words. In one episode, his girlfriend, Farrah Fawcett, guest-starred. During this time, as the series progressed, he was frustrated by the restrictions of his role. He felt that his talent for Western and Action roles were being wasted. But it seemed that all Western roles were fading away.
Majors' co-starring role on the hit legal series Owen Marshall led him to the ultimate role of a lifetime, when in 1973, he starred as Col. Steve Austin, an ex-astronaut and test pilot with bionic limbs in the telemovie, The Six Million Dollar Man on ABC. The network decided to turn it into a weekly series early in 1974. This program made Majors a pop icon of the 1970s, and was seen in over 70 countries. Co-starring on the show was a familiar character actor, Richard Anderson, who played the role of Col. Austin's boss, Oscar Goldman, and Alan Oppenheimer before Martin E. Brooks, as Col. Austin's doctor, Rudy Wells. The three actors created a unique chemistry on the set. Lee also invited his then wife, Farrah Fawcett, to guest-star in four episodes, and both Majors and Fawcett were on the cover of magazines everywhere. He also made his directorial debut in 1975, on an episode in which Fawcett appeared.
One of the episodes was the daredevil stunts. The more dangerous ones done by professionals; and were done by Lee himself. He took on the wild tide, when an alien stuntman was unable to carry on his job, he attempted a risky areal maneuver on a tram high above the mountains; aided by safety cables; Lee made it within 6 ft. of the tram. Thanks to Lee, the directors got the shot he needed; but even after completing the stunt, he was uneasy. During the show's third season, the producers gave Majors a chance to have his character experience some love in his life, namely Jamie Sommers, (played by actress Lindsay Wagner). Steve and Jamie's romance ignites before she is injured in a skydiving accident and is bionically rebuilt, comparable to him, except with an ear instead of an eye. At the end of the two-part episode, Jamie dies. ABC received dozens of letters from upset fans who wanted Wagner's character brought back from the dead. This was done, and eventually the character was the star of a spin-off show, The Bionic Woman, for NBC, therefore, the romance was over and Jamie lost her memory of Steve. Both shows remained in the Top 10 for the next three and a half seasons. In 1977, though his second wife was able to leave Charlie’s Angels, she was currently under contract, Lee couldn’t, and was still under contract with Universal Pictures. That April, The Six Million Dollar Man, filed a lawsuit to force him to report to work due to stipulations within his contract. When he didn’t report to work that June, studio executives had other plans. Days before the next season’s shows were filming, Universal gave in, Majors got a raise and was delighted that he came back to the show, but ratings began to decline. When The Six Million Dollar Man was canceled in March 1978, after 100 episodes and followed by The Bionic Woman, a couple of months later, Majors was about to star in box office movies, but the fallout from Majors’ negotiations threatened his movie career.
Long before Richard Anderson would co-star with Majors on The Six Million Dollar Man, Majors’ professional and longtime friendship began with him in 1965, when he guest-starred on an episode of The Big Valley, where he was impressed by Majors. He later guest-starred with Majors on The Fall Guy, in the episode, Inside, Outside. In later years, long before he was concerned about the star's health, Anderson said of his old friend, "I had at least one or even two more missions for Majors himself, and that was to star in three movies. I realized was that after a cult show that had been cancelled for 10 years, and with the revival movies being difficult to shot production, I had to get the project moving to make the first one." Prior to filming the movies, Richard also said, "While the movies were shooting, Majors & I traveled to England for a charity event for blind children, that was headed by Princess Margaret. After studying a short scene, I along with everybody, except Majors, who all rode their bikes together." Then, in a 2002 A&E Biography interview, he also said of Richard’s own family who were devout fans of The Six Million Dollar Man, "My daughters called me from school; and said everybody’s running around in slow motion." He also said about the show that is turning into item heaven, "The merchandising was huge, we have those lunch boxes, containers, watches." The last thing that Richard realized that when Majors demanded more money to continue working, "At the end of the fourth year, he really wanted to make some more money, real money, and there was a holdout; and it was perfect for him cause that man was tough!" Barbara’s (Lee’s real-life acting coach/old friend’s) death in 1990, drew the friendship closer between Majors & Anderson. At the time, Anderson felt grief-stricken to lose a Hollywood legend. Today, Majors continues to contact Richard.
After his role as Steve Austin, Majors tried to start a feature-film career. He starred in five movies: The Norseman (1978), Steel (1979), Killer Fish (1979), Agency (1980) and The Last Chase (1981) and Out Cold (2001). None of these films performed well at the box office.
He will soon appear in Spring Break '83, which is currently in production of 2008.
In 1980, Majors came back to television for the fifth time. Producer Glen A. Larson (who previously worked with Majors in The Six Million Dollar Man); asked him to star in the pilot of The Fall Guy. Larson, who heard the actor sing, wanted him to croon the show’s concept to an ABC president. In The Fall Guy, Majors this time played Colt Seavers, whose character was a stuntman and a bounty hunter. The role took his new career in an acting motion. According to producer Larson, he said Majors’ The Six Million Dollar Man was on the stiff side, which showed him in a straight ahead kind of way and what critics hadn’t seen yet, which was the funny side. Majors was also a producer and a director of the show; which co-starred several unfamiliar actors, consisting those of, Douglas Barr, as Colt's cousin and stuntman, Howie Munson, Heather Thomas as Colt's fellow stunt performer, Jody Banks and Markie Post --- who joined the cast in 1982 and left in 1985, playing the role of Terri Shannon-Michaels. They all got along real great with Majors, esp. Thomas, who became another one of his best friends’ off-screen. At the same time, he was also encouraged by stuntmen to pursue acting, the show was impressed by Hollywood. By early 1982, the show was placed #10 in the Nielsen ratings. Lee proved his comeback to be a successful, again, as he sparkled his charismatic sense of humor with his co-stars and staff. He even invited four of his longtime friends, Farrah Fawcett, Linda Evans, Peter Breck and Richard Anderson to guest-star in numerous episodes. By the end of its fifth season in 1986, The Fall Guy, was still in the ratings, but this time, Majors had finally had enough of playing Colt Seavers, which ended its run after 113 episodes.
Thomas said of Majors' role on The Fall Guy which encouraged other actors to do other professional jobs, "It was so natural for him, he was really kind of a blue-collar worker, and I think the stuntman identification was huge with him." The final thing Heather said about Lee’s characteristic in the series of all the others he had starred in earlier before this one was, "Lee has a very dry sense of humor, and he’s very tongue-in-cheek. We saw some guy who done an optomatom in the series before; now, he’s a funny guy with a great sense of humor." Today, he stays in touch with Heather.
After The Fall Guy, he left ABC after 22 years of fruitful association. Between 1987 and 1994, he and Lindsay Wagner starred in three The Six Million Dollar Man/The Bionic Woman movies. Also in 1989, he moved to CBS, and the following year had a recurring role in Tour of Duty, and a regular role in 1992’s, short-lived series, Raven. He also made three TV pilots that have not been shown. He co-starred on Too Much Sun, but it was canceled after only six episodes.
In the middle of 2003, Majors’ acting career was put on hold when he had double surgeries. He had a knee replacement, followed by a single heart bypass surgery, both of which were successful.
Lee has 11 hobbies, consisting those of golfing, hunting, fishing, sailing, swimming, playing football, playing softball, partying, riding horses and spending time with his family. He is also a singer, where he sang the opening theme to The Fall Guy.
Majors has been married four times, but his most famous marriage was to actress Farrah Fawcett, another 1970s pop icon. In 1976 Majors and Fawcett made TV history by being a husband and wife who simultaneously starred in separate top-rated shows (The Six Million Dollar Man (Majors) and Charlie's Angels (Fawcett)). They were married on July 28, 1973, and separated in 1979, but were not formally divorced until February 16, 1982. They broke up because Majors wanted his spouse to be home with him in the evenings, but she often needed to work on her show. The producers of her show made some concessions—for example she was allowed to leave the set to prepare dinner for Majors every evening—but eventually the demands of both their careers proved too onerous and they parted ways. What also hurt the marriage was when Majors had asked his good friend Ryan O'Neal to take care of Fawcett when he left town on business. When he returned, he found that Fawcett and O'Neal had become an item. After several break-ups and reconciliations, O'Neal and Fawcett ended their relationship in early 2008.
Majors has four children from two of his marriages. He has one son, actor Lee Majors II (born circa 1962), from his 1961-1964 marriage to Kathy Robinson, who would go on to appear as an OSI agent in the three The Six Million Dollar Man/The Bionic Woman reunion movies with his father. His 1988-1994 marriage to former Playboy Playmate, Karen Velez produced one daughter, Nikki Majors, and twin sons, Dane Majors and Trey Majors. He is currently married to actress Faith Noelle Cross, whom he wed on November 1, 2002.
Lee: "I'm from Middlesboro, Ky., a little town on the Tennessee and Virginia border." (Source: BrainyQuote.com)
Lee: "I thought I'd gone to heaven, because I grew up watching Roy and Gene Autry." (Source: BrainyQuote.com)
Lee on his cult role: "The Six Million Dollar Man was one thing, but I wanted to keep my own parts." (Source: BrainyQuote.com)
Lee on playing second-fiddle to actors Eddie Albert, Michael Landon, Bill Bixby, James Garner & James Brolin, who each have had their own successful careers: "I have done a series in the '60s, '70s and '80s." (Source: BrainyQuote.com)
Lee on his days as a football player: "Even when I was young, playing college football, and I injured my knee, I bounced right back." (Source: AllMyQuotes.com)
Lee on Clint Eastwood: "Clint Eastwood's a good friend, too - he and I used to play in softball games together." (Source: AllMyQuotes.com)
Lee on his current wife: "I have a wife now who's been with me for more than 10 years. Her name is Faith, and she's been great - I keep the Faith" (Source: AllMyQuotes.com)
Lee: "I also had a wonderful relationship with Paul Newman, and with Steve McQueen. He was one of my all-time favorites, but I never got to work with him." (Source: BrainyQuote.com)
Majors continues to play roles in made-for-TV movies, and makes cameo appearances on other shows and TV commercials, occasionally parodying his Steve Austin image.
He stars in a TV car commercial parodying the beginning of The Fall Guy, always refusing the challenges presented in the original.
Majors played Jaret Reddick's disconnected father in Bowling For Soup's video, "When We Die."
The football field at his old high school in Middlesboro, Kentucky, was renamed in his honor.
Majors portrayed the character Grandpa Max in the movie Ben 10: Race Against Time.
In the second season episode of Family Guy, Running Mates, when Lois scolds Peter for making a sexist comment, Peter quickly replies: "I didn't say that; Lee Majors did." The camera then shows Majors standing nearby; he shrugs and says, "What? Women are things."
In The Simpsons episode "Burns' Heir," Marge has a fantasy about Lee Majors in which in a parody of The Six Million Dollar Man, Bart is graduating from Havard in the future, and Lee Majors comes up to Marge asking if she wants to come with him and accepts. He picks her up, and they both take off in the air in the same way as in the film.
Majors also appeared in the two "featurettes" on "The Fall Guy Season One" DVD set. He discusses the show - both as an actor and executive producer - and talks about the show's title song, "The Unknown Stuntman".
On January 1, 2008, Majors appeared in the role of "God" on the season premiere of According to Jim.
Also in 2008, Majors plays a member of the Minutemen (dedicated to preventing illegal border crossings) in Season Four of the hit Showtime dramedy "Weeds," where he recruits Kevin Nealon’s character. << Less Bio
|2003||TV Land Awards||Superest Super Hero||"The Six Million Dollar Man" (1974).||Won|
|2001||Santa Monica Film Festival||Best Actor||Here (2001).||Won|
|1984||Walk of Fame||Television||Won|
|1983||Golden Boot Awards||Won|
|1982||Golden Apple Awards||Nominated|
|1977||Golden Globes, USA||Best TV Actor - Drama||"The Six Million Dollar Man" (1974).||Nominated|
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