Gavin MacLeod, who tasted stardom after years as a journeyman actor when he landed roles on two of the most successful television series of the 1970s and ‘80s — as news writer Murray Slaughter on ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ and Capt. Merrill Stubing on ‘The Love Boat’ — died Saturday at his home in Palm Desert, California. He was 90.
His nephew Mark See confirmed the death. He said that the cause was unknown but that MacLeod had recently had health issues.
When MacLeod was invited to audition for the pilot of ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ in 1970, he was almost 40, a recovering alcoholic and still looking for a breakthrough role after more than a dozen years as a working actor with a string of modest stage, film and television credits — notably on the sitcom “McHale’s Navy” — but little name recognition.
‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ ran from 1970-77 and became one of the most acclaimed comedies in television history, winning Emmys and a devoted audience.
Just weeks after ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ finished filming its final episode, MacLeod was offered the lead role of Captain Stubing on ‘The Love Boat’. That show was a hit as well, running from 1977-86.
Gavin MacLeod, the older of two children, was born Allan George See on February 28, 1931, in Mount Kisco, New York.
MacLeod graduated from Pleasantville High School in 1947 and received a scholarship to Ithaca College, graduating in 1952 with a degree in drama. In the early 1950s, he adopted his stage name in remembrance of Beatrice MacLeod, his drama teacher at Ithaca. He chose the first name Gavin after a character on the anthology television series ‘Climax’.
After a stint in the Air Force, he moved to New York City to look for acting jobs, working at first as an usher and an elevator operator at Radio City Music Hall, where he met Joan Rootvik, a Rockette. They married and went on to have four children before divorcing in 1972.
After his divorce, MacLeod married Patti Kendig, a dancer, in 1974. They also divorced, in early 1982, but remarried each other in 1985, by which time they had both become born-again Christians.
In addition to his wife, MacLeod is survived by two sons, Keith and David; two daughters, Meaghan MacLeod Launier and Julie MacLeod Ruffino; 10 grandchildren; one great-grandchild; and a brother, Ron See.