For 10 seasons, Gavin MacLeod was the commanding, competent captain of "The Love Boat." But one thing that made his reign so remarkable was that he could be a leading man despite having what was considered in the industry at the time to be a physical detriment: A bald head.
"I had to get a hairpiece when I came to New York!" he told TODAY's Savannah Guthrie about his early days in entertainment as they discussed his new memoir, "This Is Your Captain Speaking: My Fantastic Voyage Through Hollywood, Faith & Life." "I got a job at Radio City Music Hall for $34 a week as an usher, and then I had to get a hairpiece."
He was so poor that his roommate had to loan him the cash to get a used wig.
But lack of hair proved not to be an impediment when he landed acting jobs on "Mary Tyler Moore" and later, "The Love Boat." On those TV series, he was funny and charming and completely at home with a shiny pate.
And to his agent's big surprise, "Love Boat" actually took off. "He says, 'I think it sucks,'" MacLeod recalled when the agent offered him the script. "I read it and I said, 'I don't think there's ever been anything on television like this.'" And MacLeod's wife had the final say, telling him, "If you get the right people and put it on at the right time, this is going to go."
So it did. But Guthrie had one more question for the former Captain Merrill Stubing: On "The Love Boat" he had to kiss his share of passengers. So who was the best?
"Joan Collins," the 82-year-old said without hesitation, noting that the actress came on the show as an Elizabeth Taylor-type character looking for her 10th husband. "She was gorgeous and wonderful." But then, MacLeod seemed to hear himself and made a quick course correction: "My wife is the best kisser, though."
"This Is Your Captain Speaking" is now available in bookstores.
First published October 23 2013, 7:08 AM