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Having just recently had another birthday and waking up alive I thanked the Lord for a new day. I am luckier than many, especially it seems lately with the famous, in having another day. Sadly, again I am writing of a star actor who has died. He had a part in my view of television as I grew up. Living in Montana now, I understand having a television in Wisconsin was a real gift that only a few had in the beginning. My family used the TV as their entertainment and it became part of the culture of our family. I grew up with the excitement of a new series being a big deal. Television brought new worlds into our lives with its entertainment. Even though I spent time weekly watching Efron Zimbolist Jr. on 77 Sunset strip and later on the series “Remington Steele” with his daughter, Stephanie and on “The F.B.I.” series. Only now, in reading his obituary have I gotten a small glimpse into the real man.
It amazed me how our lives mirrored each other in tiny ways of which I will only mention a few. His family was of
Russian decent which also is in part my
background. His gift of music came from his great grandfather, grandfather and
father. His great grandfather was a conductor. His father
was a violinist with the Berlin Philharmonic and later the Boston Symphony
Orchestra. His mother was a known soprano singer and later after his mother’s
death his stepmother founded the Curtis Institute of Music. His life work included introducing to Broadway
three operas he produced.. One of his operas
he produced won a Pulitzer Prize
and the New York Drama Critics' Award. He went to Yale for 2
years enjoying the freedom of the world. Others can speak of his wild lifestyle during
that time as he sowed his oats. Not wanting
to tell his mother of his escapades or his departure from college so he moved in with a friend where he worked as a NBC page. He was not excited about “77 Sunset
Strip” and for 6 months refused the offer.
He finally gave in but just saw it as a job. “I ended up with my life slanted
toward television and I just accept that,” he said. “I think you play the hand
the way it’s dealt, that’s all.” I have to admit “Kookie” the car attendant was my favorite. Roger Smith was the crazy kid and Zimmerman the
straight handsome glamorous dapper man in the show. They won a Golden Globe in 1960. He was excited for his second series. The
series “The FBI’ mimicked the actual organization and ended with a most wanted criminal. He saw the need for the FBI and was known to
J. Edger Hoover, Later in 2009, the FBI honored Mr.
Zimbalist with his own special agent’s badge, making him an honorary G-man in
recognition of the contributions his show and his character made to the
agency’s reputation. At the time .FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said , “We
could not have asked for a better character, or a better man, to play his role”
.He also was a close
friend of Ronald Reagan. In my life I
also had a very unique brush with the FBI as a teenager and understand how they
. He also joined the service and received a Purple Heart after being wounded. With the loss of his wife of cancer he left acting to work with his father. He also appeared in the soap opera “Concerning Miss Marlowe.” He was offered roles with actors like Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy. His contributions to film also were many. Under Warner Bros. direction he was cast in several feature films, including” ‘’Home Before Dark,” ‘’The Crowded Sky”, “Too Much Too Soon, ‘’The Chapman Report” and “Wait Until Dark.” For me his most memorable movie appearance was as Audrey Hepburn’s husband in the 1967 thriller “Wait Until Dark.”
He was the voice of Alfred the butler in the cartoon version of the “Batman” TV series. He was quoted as saying that cartoon , “has made me an idol in my little grandchildren’s eyes.” He was also in Superman: the animated series, The Batman animated films Mask of the Phantasm, Mr. Freeze: subzero, Mystery of Bat woman and in the Spiderman animated series he played Doctor Octopus.
He also shared his quiet faith with others using his voice and wisdom on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
His families announcement sums him up well, “We are heartbroken to announce the passing into peace of our beloved father, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., today at his Solvang ranch,” the actor’s daughter Stephanie Zimbalist and son Efrem Zimbalist III said in a statement. “He actively enjoyed his life to the last day, showering love on his extended family, playing golf and visiting with close friends.” He was 95 years old when he died on Friday, May 2nd and what a contribution he made to the world of entertainment and to the world in general.