GEORGE MAHARIS, gay American actor, born (d: 2023); 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 was 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. Later it was learned that producer Leonard felt decived and angry that Maharis had deceived him about his sexuality. He had hired Maharis to be his talk, dark, and handsome star that would attract the girls, which he was. But when Leonard found out that Maharis was gay, he made sure that George was shown the door.

The show’s appeal declined after Maharis’s departure. 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.

After leaving “Route 66,” Mr. Maharis appeared in feature films, including “Sylvia,” with Carroll Baker, and “The Satan Bug,” a science-fiction drama, both from 1965. He tried series television again in 1970 as the star of an ABC whodunit, “The Most Deadly Game,” with Ralph Bellamy and Yvette Mimieux, but the show lasted only three months.

In the 1970s and early ’80s, he made guest appearances on other television series, including “Police Story,” “The Bionic Woman” and “Fantasy Island.” He did occasional television films, including a poorly reviewed 1976 “Rosemary’s Baby” sequel. He worked infrequently in the 1980s and made his final screen appearance in a supporting role in “Doppelganger,” a 1993 horror film starring Drew Barrymore.

Maharis died on at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 94.