Robert Urich

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Robert Urich
Robert urich 1973.JPG
Urich in 1973
BornRobert Michael Urich
(1946-12-19)December 19, 1946
Toronto, Ohio, U.S.
DiedApril 16, 2002(2002-04-16) (aged 55)
Thousand Oaks, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Synovial cell sarcoma
Resting place
Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
Other namesBob Urich
Robert York
Alma materFlorida State University
Michigan State University
OccupationActor, producer
Years active1972–2002
Spouse(s)Barbara Rucker (m. 1968–74)
Heather Menzies (m. 1975–2002)
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Robert Urich
Robert urich 1973.JPG
Urich in 1973
BornRobert Michael Urich
(1946-12-19)December 19, 1946
Toronto, Ohio, U.S.
DiedApril 16, 2002(2002-04-16) (aged 55)
Thousand Oaks, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Synovial cell sarcoma
Resting place
Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
Other namesBob Urich
Robert York
Alma materFlorida State University
Michigan State University
OccupationActor, producer
Years active1972–2002
Spouse(s)Barbara Rucker (m. 1968–74)
Heather Menzies (m. 1975–2002)

Robert Michael Urich (December 19, 1946 – April 16, 2002) was an American film, television and stage actor and television producer. Over the course of his 30-year career, Urich starred in a record 15 television series.[1]

Urich began his career in television in the early 1970s. After guest stints and roles in short-lived television series, Urich won a co-starring role in the action/crime drama series S.W.A.T., in 1975. In 1976, he landed the role of Dan Tanna in the crime drama series Vega$. The series aired on ABC from 1978 to 1981, and earned Urich two Golden Globe Award nominations. In addition to his work in television, he also starred in several feature films, including Magnum Force (1973), The Ice Pirates (1984), and Turk 182 (1985). From 1985 to 1988, he portrayed the title role in the Detective television series Spenser: For Hire, based on Robert B. Parker's popular series of mystery novels. In 1988, Urich began hosting the documentary series National Geographic Explorer. He won a CableACE Award for his work on the series. Urich was also awarded a Golden Boot Award for his work in Western television series and films.

In 1996, Urich starred in the The Lazarus Man. It was canceled shortly after he announced that he was diagnosed with synovial cell sarcoma, a rare cancer in July 1996. Urich sought treatment for his illness while continuing his career and also worked to raise money for cancer research. He was declared cancer free in 1998 and returned to television in the UPN series, The Love Boat: The Next Wave. In 2000, Urich made his Broadway debut in the musical Chicago, as Billy Flynn.

His last role was in the NBC sitcom Emeril, in 2001. In fall 2001, Urich's cancer returned. He died of synovial cell sarcoma in Thousand Oaks, California in 2002 at the age of 55.

Early life[edit]

Urich was born in Toronto, Ohio, the son of Cecilia Monica (Halpate) and John Paul Urich.[2] He was of Rusyn and Slovak extraction and raised Byzantine Catholic[3] and Roman Catholic.[4]

Urich attended Florida State University on a football scholarship, and was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. In 1968, he earned a bachelor's degree in Radio and Television Communications. He went on to Michigan State University after working in Ohio to earn a master's degree in Broadcast Research and Management. Urich then worked as a salesman in Chicago at WGN-TV. He later worked as a weatherman.[5]

After appearing in a production of The Rainmaker with Burt Reynolds, Urich decided to pursue acting full-time after Reynolds encouraged him to move to Los Angeles.[6]



Urich made his television debut in a guest starring role in The F.B.I., in 1972. The following year, he won a lead role in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. The series was an adaptation of the 1969 film of the same name. Bob & Carol... struggled in the ratings and was canceled after six episodes. Urich made his film debut later that same year opposite Clint Eastwood in the Dirty Harry film Magnum Force playing a vigilante motorcycle-patrol police officer.

Urich (left), Maureen Reagan, and Jack Hogan, pose for a 1974 publicity photo for the TV show Vector

In 1975, Urich was cast in the action/crime drama series S.W.A.T.. According to the series' executive producer Aaron Spelling, Urich's friend Burt Reynolds convinced Spelling to allow Urich to read for the part. Spelling was impressed with Urich's reading and cast him in the role of "Officer Jim Street".[7] A mid-season replacement, S.W.A.T. earned high enough ratings to warrant a second season. However, the series was canceled in 1976 due to its violent content.[8]

Urich's next role was on the sitcom Soap as Peter the Tennis Player in 1977. That same year he was cast as Paul Thurston, a good-looking, ego driven talk show host in the Bewitched spin-off series Tabitha, starring Lisa Hartman. The show's rating were initially strong, but schedule changes caused ratings to drop and the series was canceled in 1978 after 13 episodes.[9] Shortly after Tabitha was canceled, Urich was cast in another Aaron Spelling produced series Vega$. He portrayed the series' lead character, Dan Tanna, a private detective who solves crimes in Las Vegas. The series was a hit for ABC and Urich received two Golden Globe Award nominations for his work on the series. By the series' third season, however, Urich had grown tired of the role and complained about the declining quality of the writing. Ratings had also declined and the series was canceled in 1981. Shortly after Vega$ was canceled, Urich signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and decided to focus on his film career. His first film for Metro was Endangered Species (1982), a science fiction film directed by Alan Rudolph.[10]

Shortly after filming Endangered Species, Urich signed on to star in another series Gavilan. Urich starred as the title character who was a former CIA agent turned oceanographer. Gavilan was canceled after seven episodes. In 1984, he starred in two more films The Ice Pirates, and Wes Craven's Invitation to Hell. The following year, Urich co-starred in Turk 182. The film was a box office failure and Urich was nominated for Golden Raspberry Award.

In 1985, Urich returned to episodic television as the title character in Spenser: For Hire. The series was another hit for Urich and aired for three seasons. He reprised the role in several television films after the series was canceled: Spenser: Ceremony (1993), Spenser: Pale Kings and Princes (1994), Spenser: The Judas Goat (1994), and Spenser: A Savage Place (1995). In 1988, Urich began hosting the documentary series National Geographic Explorer. He won a CableACE Award for his work on the series. In 1989, he portrayed Jake Spoon, in the acclaimed television miniseries Lonesome Dove, a role for which he received many positive reviews.


In the 1990s, Urich mainly appeared in television films and several short-lived television series. From 1990 to 1991, he starred in the sitcom American Dreamer. The following year, he starred in Crossroads, a drama series that aired on ABC for ten episodes. In 1993, he and Faye Dunaway starred in the sitcom It Had to Be You. The series was critically panned and canceled after four episodes. In 1995, Urich narrated an extremely rare one-night showing of a Disney television documentary called "Alien Encounters:From New Tomorrowland". It has never been shown again.[11] In 1996, Urich starred in the TNT Western series The Lazarus Man. The series earned strong enough ratings to be picked up for a second season but shortly after the series was renewed, Urich announced he had been diagnosed with synovial cell sarcoma. The series' production company, Castle Rock Entertainment, opted to cancel the series due to Urich's illness.[12] In 1999, Urich commented on Castle Rock's choice to end the series, "There's really a law against what they did. They found out I had cancer, and they just canceled the show. They didn't ask the doctors if I could work. They didn't ask if I could go back to work."[13] In 2000, he sued Castle Rock for breach of contract.[14] The lawsuit was later settled with both parties agreeing not to publicly disclose the terms of the settlement.[15]

While undergoing cancer treatments, Urich hosted the medical documentary series Vital Signs in 1997 and the PBS series Boatworks.[16] After a year of treatment, Urich was declared cancer-free and returned to television in 1998 as Captain Jim Kennedy III in The Love Boat: The Next Wave. The series aired on UPN for two seasons. In 2000, Urich made his Broadway debut in the musical Chicago. He played the role of Billy Flynn on Broadway in 2000,[17] and also was in the North American tour of the musical, in 1999 and in 2000.[18][19][20] The next year, he co-starred in Emeril, a sitcom starring celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. While Emeril was critically panned, Urich received good notices for his work on the series. It would be his last role in a television series.

Urich's final television film, Night of the Wolf, aired on Animal Planet the night before his death.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Marriages and children[edit]

Urich's first marriage was to actress Barbara Rucker in 1968. They divorced in 1974. He married actress Heather Menzies in 1975. They adopted three children, Ryan, Emily and Allison. Urich and Menzies remained married until his death in 2002.[4]

Illness and death[edit]

In July 1996, Urich announced he had been diagnosed with synovial cell sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that attacks soft tissue. He continued working while undergoing treatment for his illness and also became a cancer advocate. Urich won an award from the John Wayne Cancer Institute and the Gilda Radner Courage Award for his work raising cancer awareness.[13] He and his wife also founded the Urich Fund for the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center to raise funds for cancer research. He also donated the $125,000 he won when he appeared on an episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.[15] Urich was declared cancer free in 1998. That same year, he was named the national spokesperson for the American Cancer Society.[5]

In November 2001, Urich revealed in an interview that his doctors had discovered lumps in his body but "a wonder drug had cleared them up".[15] The week before his death, Urich was hospitalized at Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks for breathing problems. He died there on April 16, 2002.[21][22] A funeral mass was offered for Urich on April 19 at St. Charles Borromeo Church in North Hollywood.[5] He was cremated and buried on the grounds of his family's vacation home in Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada.


Before his death, Urich and his wife Heather Menzies established the Robert and Heather Urich Fund for Sarcoma Research at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. Menzies, who also battled cancer and is an ovarian cancer survivor, continues to work for the center.

Urich's hometown of Toronto, Ohio named the Robert Urich Interchange in his honor. It connects the town to Ohio State Route 7.

Before his death, Urich and his wife helped to raise money for the Eccles Performing Arts Centers at the Park City High School in Park City, UT. After his death, the school established the Robert Urich Scholarship fund in his honor.[23]

For his contribution to the television industry, Robert Urich has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 7083 Hollywood Blvd.[1] He is the only person with a surname starting with the letter U that has a star on the walk of fame.[24][25][26]


1973Magnum ForceMike Grimes
1982Endangered SpeciesRuben Castle
1984The Ice PiratesJason
1984Invitation to HellMatt Winslow
1985Turk 182Terry Lynch
1988April MorningJosephCredit at beginning only
1989Dragon FightAirport police
1992Jock: A True Tale of FriendshipRockyAlternative title: Jock of the Bushveld
1992"Revolver"Nick Clayton
1995Young AgainMichael Riley, Age 40
1996The Angel of Pennsylvania AvenueAngus Feagan
2002Clover BendBill
1972The F.B.I.Davie StroudEpisode: "The Runner"
1973Kung FuGreg DundeeEpisode: "Blood Brother"
1973Owen Marshall: Counselor at LawEpisode: "A Girl Named Tham"
1973Bob & Carol & Ted & AliceBob Sanders12 episodes
1973Marcus Welby, M.D.Mike LowryEpisode: "Death Is Only a Side Effect"
1974Killdozer!Mack McCarthyTelevision film
1974NakiaEpisode: "A Beginning in the Wilderness"
1975The SpecialistsDr. William NugentTelevision film
Credited as Robert York
1975GunsmokeManolo EtchahounEpisode: "Manolo"
1975-1976S.W.A.T.Officer Jim Street37 episodes
1977BuncoWalkerTelevision film
1977SoapPeter the Tennis Player8 episodes
1977-1978TabithaPaul Thurston12 episodes
1977-1978The Love BoatVarious roles3 episodes
1978Charlie's AngelsDan TannaEpisode: "Angels in Vegas"
1978-1981Vega$Dan Tanna69 episodes
1979When She Was Bad...Bob MorganTelevision film
1980The Shadow BoxTelevision film
1980Fighting Back: The Rocky Bleier StoryRocky BleierTelevision film
1980Killing at Hell's GateCharles DukeTelevision film
1982The Billy Crystal Comedy HourEpisode #1.2
1982Take Your Best ShotJess MarrinerTelevision film
1982-1983GavilanRobert Gavilan7 episodes
1984Mistral's DaughterJason DarcyMiniseries
1984His MistressAllen BeckTelevision film
1985Scandal SheetBen RowanTelevision film
1985-1988Spenser: For HireSpenser65 episodes
1986The Defiant OnesJohnny "Joker" JohnsonTelevision film
1986The Disney Sunday MovieMichael Riley, Age 40Episode: "Young Again"
1987AmerikaPeter BradfordMiniseries
1988Hallmark Hall of FameJoseph SimmonsEpisode: "April Morning"
1989The ComebackScotty MalloyTelevision film
1989She Knows Too MuchHarryTelevision film
1989Lonesome DoveJake SpoonMiniseries
1989Night WalkSimonTelevision film
1989SpoonerHarry Spooner/Michael NorlonTelevision film
1990Blind FaithRob MarshallTelevision film
1990A Quiet Little Neighborhood, a Perfect Little MurderRoss PeglerTelevision film
199083 Hours 'Til DawnBradley BurdockTelevision film
1990Carol & CompanyMr. CarmenEpisode: "Teacher, Teacher"
1990-1991American DreamerTom Nash17 episodes
1991Stranger at My DoorJoe FortierTelevision film
1991...And Then She Was GoneJack BauerTelevision film
1992Survive the Savage SeaJack CarpenterTelevision film
1992Blind Man's BluffThomas BookerTelevision film
1992Double EdgeHarry CarterTelevision film
Alternative title: Hit Woman
1992RevolverNick SusterTelevision film
1992-1993CrossroadsJohnny Hawkins9 episodes
1993Evening ShadeSteveEpisode: "Frieda and the Preacher"
1993Deadly RelationsLeonard J. FagotTelevision film
1993Spenser: CeremonySpenserTelevision film
1993It Had to Be YouMitch Quinn6 episodes
1994Spenser: Pale Kings and PrincesSpenserTelevision film
1994To Save the ChildrenJake DowneyTelevision film
1994A Perfect StrangerAlex HaleTelevision film
1994Spenser: The Judas GoatSpenserTelevision film
1995Alien Encounters: From New TomorrowlandNarratorDisney Television documentary
1995Spenser: A Savage PlaceSpenserTelevision film
1995A Horse for DannyEddie FortunaTelevision film
1995She Stood Alone: The Tailhook ScandalAdm. WilliamsTelevision film
1996Captains CourageousCapt. Matthew TroopTelevision film
1996The Lazarus ManLazarus (James Cathcart)20 episodes
1997The NannyJudge Jerry MoranEpisode: "Samson, He Denied Her"
1997Final DescentCapt. Glen (Lucky) SingerTelevision film
1998Invasion AmericaBriggsUnknown episodes
1998-1999The Love Boat: The Next WaveCaptain Jim Kennedy III25 episodes
1999Final RunGlen "Lucky" SingerTelevision film
1999Miracle on the 17th GreenMitch McKinleyTelevision film
2001Late BoomersDennisTelevision film
2001For Love of OliviaHorton RoundtreeTelevision film
2001EmerilJerry McKenney10 episodes
2001AftermathJackTelevision film
2002The President's Man: A Line in the SandPresident Adam MayfieldTelevision film
2002Night of the WolfPurly OwensTelevision film


  1. ^ a b King, Susan. "Hollywood Star Walk: Robert Urich". Retrieved January 4, 2013. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Dracut, Mary Ann Gaschnig. "Robert Urich", Carpatho-Rusyn American, Vol. XII, No. 1, 1989
  4. ^ a b A. Lipton, Michael (April 29, 2002). "Bright Knight". People. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 'I was a very uptight Catholic boy who played by the rules' 
  5. ^ a b c "Actor Robert Urich dead at 55". April 16, 2002. Retrieved January 4, 2013. 
  6. ^ Huff, Richard (April 17, 2002). "VERSATILE, ENGAGING ROBERT URICH MOURNED". Retrieved January 4, 2013. 
  7. ^ Spelling, Aaron; Graham, Jefferson (2002). Aaron Spelling: A Prime-Time Life. Macmillan. p. 86. ISBN 0-312-31344-6. 
  8. ^ McNab, Chris (2009). Deadly Force: Firearms and American Law Enforcement, from the Wild West to the Streets of Today. Osprey Publishing. p. 126. ISBN 1-846-03376-4. 
  9. ^ Leszczak, Bob (2012). Single Season Sitcoms, 1948-1979: A Complete Guide. McFarland. p. 178. ISBN 0-786-49305-4. 
  10. ^ Scott, Vernon (February 19, 1982). "Snubbing TV Offers...Robert Urich Wants Movies Only". The Durant Daily Democrat. p. 7. Retrieved January 4, 2013. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle F. (October 17, 2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present (9 ed.). Ballantine Books. p. 776. ISBN 0-345-49773-2. 
  13. ^ a b Thomas, George M. (November 3, 1999). "Second Chances". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved January 4, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Urich suing over 'Lazarus Man'". The Spokesman-Review. April 14, 2000. p. D2. Retrieved January 2, 2013. 
  15. ^ a b c d Elber, Lynn (April 18, 2002). "Actor Robert Urich dies from cancer at age 55". Portsmouth Daily Times. p. B5. Retrieved January 4, 2013. 
  16. ^ Bark, Ed (April 17, 2002). "Actor Robert Urich, star of 14 TV series, died at age 55". Beaver County Times. p. D3. Retrieved January 4, 2013. 
  17. ^ O'Haire, Patricia. "'Chicago' Is Urich's Kind Of Show" New York Daily News, January 11, 2000
  18. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Lewis, Urich and Visitor are New Trio in 'Chicago' Tour, in Detroit, Nov. 16–28", November 16, 1999
  19. ^ Dillard, Sandra C. "ALL JAZZED UP Robert Urich is keen on dancing in 'Chicago'", The Denver PostOctober 17, 1999, p. H1
  20. ^ Jones, Kenneth. New Tour of Chicago Begins Oct. 6–7 in CT; Chita Will Join Troupe", October 5, 2000
  21. ^ "Robert Urich, actor in 'Lonesome Dove', 'Spenser: For Hire', dies of cancer at 55". Lodi News-Sentinel. April 17, 2002. p. 7. Retrieved January 4, 2013. 
  22. ^ King, Susan (April 17, 2002). "Robert Urich, 55; Popular Star of 'Vega$' and 'Spenser'". The Los Angeles Times. p. B10. 
  23. ^ "Urich dies at age 55". Middlesboro Daily News. April 18, 2002. p. 3. Retrieved January 4, 2013. 
  24. ^ "2015 honorees". Retrieved 8 January 2015. 
  25. ^ "LA Times List". Retrieved 8 January 2015. 
  26. ^ "walk of fame list". wikipedia. Retrieved 8 January 2015. 
  27. ^ Netflix

External links[edit]