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Actor Robert Conrad, who starred in several hit television series from the 1950s through the 1970s, has died just a month short of his 85th birthday.
The Chicago-born Conrad came to Hollywood in the late 1950s to work as a stuntman, but soon became the star of 1959’s Hawaiian Eye, a police detective series whose setting was the newest American state.
The show with its exotic backgrounds and simple plots became a huge success and ran for five years.
Conrad was back the following season with his best-remembered role — James T. West in The Wild Wild West. Conrad’s West was teamed with disguise master Artemus Gordon, played by the late Ross Martin. The pair played secret agents employed by U.S. President Ulysses Grant.
The surrealistic series was set in the 1870s, but featured 20th century gadgets and strange villains, all done with a sense of humor that kept the series on for another five years.
Conrad also played real-life World War II pilot Gregory “Pappy” Boyington in TVs Baa Baa Black Sheep, renamed Black Sheep Squadron from 1976 thorough 1978.
The short but powerfully built Conrad had an off-screen reputation for arguments and fistfights. But his daughter said that was because her father was a hard worker who had no patience for people who weren’t doing their jobs.
Conrad enjoyed making fun of his tough-guy persona and told an interviewer in 2008, “If you treat me nicely, I’ll treat you nicer.”