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Love Boat Captain Gavin MacLeod:
The Past, The Future and His Favorite Cruise Destinations

by Roy Witman © 2008

I recently had the great privilege to sit with one of my favorite television and screen stars for an interview. Gavin MacLeod has had a diverse and interesting acting career that began in the late 1950s. As we spoke, I was both impressed and awed at his genuine personality, gentle spirit and professional manner.

Born Allan George See on February 28, 1930, New York native Gavin MacLeod fulfilled a tour in the Air Force before returning to New York, changing his name and working at Radio City Music Hall. After breaking into the business in 1958 with his role in I Want To Live! MacLeod went on to star with some of Hollywood's most noted and respected stars. Topping the list were Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, Bing Crosby and Mary Tyler Moore.

During the mid-80s, MacLeod and his then ex-wife Patti, remarried and became evangelical Christians. They have been serving as hosts on the Trinity Broadcasting Network for about 14 years. Follow me as I take a walk down Memory Lane with Mr. MacLeod.

ROY: Hawaii Five-0 is my all-time favorite TV show. In the series you played a big, tough crime boss. The character's look and personality was unlike most roles audiences equate you with today- The Love Boat, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and more. The connection between my profession in the travel industry, specializing in cruises, and my personal pastime was the catalyst for my desire to interview you. Had you spent much time in Hawaii prior to the show? What was it like living and working there?

GAVIN: No, I flew over and had to wait for my hotel suite to be made ready. Ricardo Montalban was the first guest star and they hadn't finished shooting. I played a tough drug dealer named Big Chicken. When they cast me for the part, I told my agent, “This does not describe me. They want someone six-foot four, thin, with a goatee.” And I said, “I'm wrong. I mean, I'm only five-foot ten and a half and dumpy with no hair.”

We shot in the first film studio built on the island. The show was titled, They Painted Daisies On His Coffin. They wrote the character in a later show that first season called The Box. It was filmed in a real prison.

ROY: Actors who worked with Jack Lord called him a perfectionist. I read that when he started directing the show in the latter years, he would shoot up to 30 takes until he was happy with the scene. What was your experience like working with him as an actor? Would you say the description applies? Did you ever work with him after the show?

GAVIN: I heard from many actors that he was hard to work with. We got along great! I worked with Jack in a B movie with Betsy Palmer who was a guest years later on The Love Boat and in The True Story of Lynn Stuart back in 1957. I was very lucky. The other cast members were jealous that I got to eat lunch with Jack in his private, air-conditioned trailer. Jack mentioned making a movie together in Spain that never happened. He got so busy with the series. It happens in show business, you keep moving on.

ROY: You look great! Extremely fit and healthy. What was your secret to getting in shape after Hawaii-Five-0 and how do you maintain your healthy physical condition today?

GAVIN: I had a heart attack and I want to live! My family has big genes- strong stock. I exercise every morning. The best is yet to come!

ROY: You have been associated with some of our generation's longest-running television shows. Hawaii Five-0 is one of the longest- running police series - 12 seasons. The Love Boat lasted 9 plus seasons. The Mary Tyler Moore Show - 7 seasons. What was it about these shows that carried such tremendous audience appeal?

GAVIN: They had great writers, great stories, had interesting characters, the chemistry of the cast members all came together. The biggest factor might have been that the shows were put on TV at the right time at night to attract large audiences. The Love Boat had two pilots that failed. Then they bring me in and the series takes off!

ROY: In addition to an impressive list of movie credits, you have left an indelible mark on audiences with memorable characters and appearances in some of television's classic shows like McHale's Navy, The Untouchables, Perry Mason, Dr. Kildare, The Munsters, Gomer Pyle, The Andy Griffith Show, The Man From UNCLE, Hogan's Heroes, The Rat Patrol, Combat, It Takes A Thief, The Big Valley and the Twilight Zone to name a few. Obviously, typecasting was not a problem for you. What was the secret to your appeal?

GAVIN: Efficiency. I knew my lines. I was always ready. I took chances- almost never turned down work. On The Big Valley I was thrown from a horse! I remember being so sore. Being bald got me jobs, too. Probably my greatest asset! I lost my hair at 18 years old. I would go to casting calls with my hairpiece in a box in case they wanted someone with hair.

ROY: This year marks the 30th anniversary of The Love Boat and today you are Princess Cruises' most recognizable spokesman. From this special vantage point, how are today's Princess ships different from the cruise ships of the 70s? How has the passenger cruise experience evolved?

GAVIN: The ships are so much bigger! The choices are so many compared to what we had back then. Twenty-four hour dining, movies under the stars, gyms, computer rooms, the shows. The ports have gotten so huge and crowded with so much shopping. Not only in town but right at the docks.

ROY: You cruised around the world. Do you have a few favorite destinations you can share with us?

GAVIN: Alaska is so beautiful! Tahiti has the most beautiful water. I love the national parks in our country: they are breathtaking. The most beautiful spot I have ever seen was Lake Como, Italy. We were in Venice and took a car to Milan then drove up to the town. Such breathtaking beauty and the best Italian food I have ever eaten!

ROY: You and your family reside in Southern California but you grew up in Westchester County New York and attended Ithaca College right in the heart of the snow belt. Our company is based in Yonkers. I have to ask: do you miss the snow? What do you miss most about New York and do you get back here to visit or work very often?

GAVIN: I do miss the snow and sleet. As a kid I was very anxious for a snowstorm so I could go out and shovel and make some money. I have an apartment in New York City and try and visit and go to plays a lot. I have seen Jersey Boys three times already. I was in Rochester doing a shoot for a new movie this past August. I was interviewed recently on Good Morning America, so I have to say I miss New York.

ROY: Thank you so much for your time and hope to meet you one day at an industry function. On the Crown Princess last year, they had to stop the line because there was an hour and a half wait to take a picture with you. You still draw so many fans that keep The Love Boat very much alive!

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