George Maharis, known best for portraying Buz Murdock in the first three seasons of “Route 66” before quitting the 1960s drama after contracting hepatitis, has died.
He was 94.
The Emmy-nominated actor died Wednesday at his Beverly Hills home, his longtime friend and caregiver Marc Bahan told The Hollywood Reporter.
“George is well known for his stardom in ‘Route 66,’ stage productions, singing, artist, and above all a great guy who would do anything for anyone. My dear friend, you’ll be terribly missed,” Bahan wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday.
Maharis was born on Sept. 1, 1928, in Astoria, Queens. He was one of seven children to Greek immigrants.
Maharis died on Wednesday at his Beverly Hills home. He was 94. Getty Images
He attended Flushing High School and spent 18 months with the US Marines before he began studying at the Actors Studio.
Maharis’ first big acting job was an off-Broadway production of Jean Genet’s “Deathwatch” in 1958.
About two years later he appeared in Edward Albee’s first produced play, The Zoo Story, which was also an off-Broadway production.
Maharis was nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of Buz Murdock. Getty Images
He then portrayed an underground freedom fighter in the 1960 film “Exodus,” before taking on the role of a gambler who mistreated his wife on the CBS soap opera “Search for Tomorrow”
Things started shaping up for Maharis when he was featured on a 1959 episode of “Naked City” as a character who longed to see the world, which set the groundwork for him to later become Buz Murdock on “Route 66,” a spin-off of “Naked City” that shared its same creator Stirling Silliphant.
Maharis’ portrayal of Buz, one of the show’s three main characters, earned him an Emmy nomination in 1062 for the acclaimed drama, which was unique for its time as the series was shot all across America.
Maharis was born on Sept. 1, 1928, in Astoria, Queens.Getty Images
“Nobody else ever did that, to my knowledge,” Maharis said during a 2007 interview with Route 66 News. “We worked six days a week, sometimes seven, because we were always behind schedule. You got up at 5 in the morning and you get back to your motel at 7 or 9 at night, sometimes even later.”
“And when we’d move the company from one location to another, sometimes we’d lose two or three days of shooting.”
Maharis was forced to leave the CBS drama during its third season in 1962 due to health issues, including hepatitis, which caused him to be hospitalized for a month and miss the filming of several episodes.
Maharis briefly returned before suffering a relapse.
“The doctor said, ‘If you don’t get out now, you’re either going to be dead or you’re going to have permanent liver damage,’” Maharis said.
While filming “Route 66,” Maharis would fly to New York City to work on a record he put out in 1962 for Epic Records. His song “Teach Me Tonight” made it to No. 25 on the Billboard charts.
Maharis said it took over two years for him to start receiving regular work again. He later appeared in films including “Quick Before It Melts” (1964), “Sylvia” (1965), “A Covenant with Death” (9167) and “The Happening” (1967).
Maharis was forced to leave the CBS drama during its third season due to health issues. Getty Images
In the 1970s he returned to television, starring in “The Most Deadly Game,” “Mission: Impossible,” and “Fantasy Island,” among many others.
In 1973, Maharis became the second actor to pose nude for Playgirl magazine.
His final credit was in the film “Doppelganger,” directed by Avi Neshar in 1993, starring Drew Barrymore and George Newbern.