Saturday, May 29, 2021

Gavin MacLeod, 'Mary Tyler Moore' and 'Love Boat' Star, Dies at 90


Another sad day in Minneapolis with the passing of WJM "Six O'Clock News" head writer Murray Slaughter. Hard to believe of the cast of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," the high-strung, overweight boss (Mr. Grant) and the old broad Happy Homemaker (Sue Ann Nivens) are the only main cast members still with us. (For perspective, Georgia Engel was born in 1948, Ed Asner was born in 1929 and Betty White in 1922!)  Some have pointed out to me that in his later years, Gavin MacLeod had become a Jesus freak, and "was a semi-regular on right wing and anti-LGBT Christian shows." But many more people -- especially gay friends including some who live in the homo mecca of greater Palm Springs, as did Gavin -- have said he was a kind and gentle man, not unlike Mary Richards's colleague, which is how I choose to remember him. RIP. 

In the early summer of 2016, I was just starting to work on a new book, about The #LoveBoat, and of course whom should I set a course to interview first but the Captain himself, Gavin MacLeod. 

Through his manager, we set a date in July where I would drive out to Palm Springs and interview him.  But the night before, I received a phone call during dinner that my father, after having had a fender bender earlier in the day, had collapsed at home and was in the hospital. 

I had to jump on the red eye to New Jersey, and let Gavin's manager know that I needed to reschedule (and of course, she couldn't have been nicer about it.)  I would ultimately spend the next six or so weeks at my father's bedside, then after his death, doing the usual chores and handling the usual affairs. 

I finally headed back to LA, and Gavin's manager rescheduled our day immediately, for August 31, 2016.  I drove to Palm Springs -- it was approaching 120 degrees that day -- and met Gavin at his beloved Coachella Valley Repertory Theater, where he was so active. 

The moment I walked through the front doors into the lobby, Gavin was there to greet me.  And I hadn't taken two steps before he said, "How's your father?" 

When I told him my father had passed away, he wrapped me in a hug, and I felt throughout the day that he never let that hug go.  He was kind and warm to me -- which he was, I would soon hear from other people, every day of his life -- and made me feel so much better. 

We spent the entire day talking about The Love Boat and other things, over lunch at the diner attached to the theater, where Gavin was apparently a regular, and where we sat until we closed down the place.  Later, in another prop room at the theater, we watched Love Boat musical clips on my phone.  Here was Gavin on screen, dressed in a silver sequined version of his Captain's uniform, putting his all into a Broadway-style number on the Lido Deck set, singing his heart out and appearing to love every minute.  And then I'd look at then 85-year-old Gavin, his eyes lit up in enjoyment of the clip, mouthing the words again right along.  It was clear that Gavin loved what he did, what he'd done, and was happy to share it with the world.  Both as an interviewer and just a person in his presence, I couldn't have asked for more than that. 

RIP to a lovely man, a TV icon, who for at least those 17 years (7 on MTM and 10 on Love Boat) and many more entered our hearts and brought us joy.

P.S. You can read a full obit by a gay blogger who also remembers Gavin MacLeod as a "warm man" HERE.

1 comment:

j said...

He had a very long career