- Category : Entertainment-Radio-D.J.-Announcer
- Type : GE
- Profile : 3/6 - Martyr / Role Model
- Definition : Split - Large
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Laws 4
Greek-American actor who was best known for his role as "Kojak," the bald-headed, lollipop-eating, tough New York City cop known for his trade phrase, "Who loves ya, baby?" Before his international TV stardom, Savalas played many villains in feature films. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in "Birdman of Alcatraz" in 1961. He won an Emmy award for his role as Lt. Theo Kojak as Best Actor in a dramatic series in 1974. He won a Peabody Award for his television broadcasting work for "Your Voice of America." Savalas ended up as an actor only as a fluke, by helping an agent friend who needed someone with a passable European accent. Savalas released a record album, "Telly" in 1974.
Savalas was the son of Greek immigrants. His father, Nicholas, was a businessman and his mother, Christina, an artist and former Miss Greece. Savalas was the second of five children growing up in Garden City, New York. His father ruled the family with plenty of strong love and discipline for his four sons and a daughter.
During WW II, Savalas was in the military for three years, seeing action on foreign shores. When he returned to the States, he earned his B.A. in psychology from Columbia University. He worked a number of jobs after college, one of which was the U.S. State Department of Information Service in Washington, DC. He worked for the Voice of America's Greek Service in the early 1950s. His broadcasting career took him to ABC in New York where he directed news broadcasts, earning his Peabody award. In 1958, he left ABC and began to direct plays at the Stamford, CT playhouse. In 1959, he taught adult education at his hometown of Garden City, New York.
In 1961, Savalas landed his first important film role in "The Young Savages" playing a police detective. Actor Burt Lancaster was so impressed with his performance that he cast him in his film, "The Birdman of Alcatraz." Savalas went on to appear in over 60 films including "Battle of the Bulge," 1965, shaving his head for "The Greatest Story Ever Told," 1965 and "The Dirty Dozen" in 1967. Cast in roles such as Genghis Khan and Al Capone, he often played the malevolent heavy. His hit television series, "Kojak" debuted in 1972 and soon the American television audience was familiar with the hard-boiled detective. The show ended in 1978. Savalas worked in TV movies reprising his role as Lt. Kojak in 1985.
Savalas married his first wife, Katherine Nicolaides in 1950 and had daughter Christiana in 1952. With his second wife, Marilyn Gardner, whom he married in 1960, Savalas added two more daughters, Penelope in 1962 and Candace in 1964. He began a long-term relationship with British actress Sally Adams in 1974 who gave birth to his son Nicholas the same year. In 1980, Sally Adams filed a $5 million palimony suit against Savalas and eventually settled with the actor for $1 million. In 1984, Savalas married his third wife and former Minnesota travel agent, Julie Howland and the couple had two children; son Christian in 1985 and daughter Ariana in 1987. His six kids ranged in age from 7 to 42.
With his generous and expansive nature, Savalas enjoyed gambling. He owned a racehorse "Telly's Pop" which earned $35,000 in purse money in the 1970s. In 1985, he played in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas and lost $10,000 in 30 minutes. His friends called him impulsive, impetuous, and impractical. He enjoyed the notoriety and recognition he received from his work on Kojak and loved his fans' enthusiasm. He took care of his mother who lived in a suite over his at the Sheraton-Universal Hotel in Universal City, CA. She died in 1988.
First diagnosed with bladder cancer in 1987, he was in remission for six years. One of his brothers suffered from the illness but Savalas refused to consider treatment. He died in his sleep at his suite at the Sheraton-Universal Hotel after checking out of the Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena. He did not tell many of his friends of his illness. He died on 1/22/1994, two days after his 70th birthday, in Universal City, CA. His funeral was held at St. Sophia's Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Los Angeles.