1928-09-01

GEORGE MAHARIS, gay American actor, born. In 1960, Maharis shot to stardom with his successful turn as Buz Murdock in the popular TV series Route 66, which co-starred Martin Milner as formerly rich, now orphaned Tod Stiles. The show featured the two rebel-hunks traveling throughout the U.S. along Route 66 (and elsewhere) in a new Corvette that belonged to Milner’s character. The series featured directors as acclaimed as Sam Peckinpah and Arthur Hiller, as well as guest stars as renowned as Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Buster Keaton, Ethel Waters and Martin Sheen. Even in such company, Maharis’ own acting skills did not go unnoticed, as he received an Emmy nomination in 1962 for his continuing performance as Buz. Maharis also recorded numerous pop music albums at the height of his fame, and later starred in the short-lived TV series The Most Dangerous Game.

Maharis departed Route 66 without completing his third season on the series. His participation that season had been spotty due to health problems, including two bouts of infectious hepatitis beginning in April 1962 Maharis insisted that he left Route 66 entirely for health reasons, due to the long hours and grueling conditions he frequently experienced while shooting episodes on location. “I have to protect my future,” Maharis said in a 1963 interview. “If I keep going at the present pace, I’m a fool. Even if you have $4,000,000 in the bank, you can’t buy another liver.” This interpretation of events was disputed by series producers Stirling Siliphant and Herbert B. Leonard, who believed that the health issue camouflaged Maharis’ desire to break his contract and make movies. Another claim was that there were conflicts between Milner and Maharis over acting styles, but this appears to have been less of an issue than was reported at the time. After Maharis’ departure, the show’s appeal declined. Glenn Corbett stepped in as Milner’s new sidekick on the road, Linc Case, but a year later, Route 66 was canceled.

Maharis was the second ever centerfold in Playgirl in July 1973 and in 1974, he was arrested and charged with Commission of a Lewd Act after being caught having sex with Perfecto Telles, a 33-year old hairdresser, in the men’s room of a Los Angeles gas station. Police said he was booked on a “sex perversion charge” and released on $500 bail. Maharis had previously been arrested in 1967, by a vice officer who said the actor had made a pass at him in the men’s room of a Hollywood restaurant; that charge had been dropped when Maharis pleaded guilty to one count of disturbing the peace and paid a $50 fine.

The last professional appearance Maharis made was in the film Doppelganger in 1993 with Drew Barrymore.