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Male Icons of the 70s: From the Desert to the Dance Floor

The male icons of the 70s came in as many different shapes and sizes as the vehicles that carted them through the wild, psychedelic decade. From the movies to politics to athletics to music to TV to the dance floor, these men ruled our culture in the 1970s.

Burt Reynolds

The male lead in Deliverance, Burt Reynolds is best known for his work as an actor and director. He was the first male to be given a solo cover on “Playboy” magazine (September 1972) and he also starred alongside Sally Field in Smokey and the Bandit. In 1976, he released his own workout video called “Burt Reynolds’ Complete Exercise Program”.

He has been married to Loni Anderson, Dinah Shore and Judy Carne.

Pete Rose

The career of Pete Rose spanned decades but his most memorable moments are linked to the 1970s. He was a three time World Series champion and won both Rookie of the Year (1963) and Most Valuable Player Award(1973). In 1989, he accepted a lifetime ban from baseball for gambling on games.

In 2004, Rose’s autobiography “My Prison Without Bars” became an international bestseller with many readers intrigued by his insight into the darker side of major league baseball. Rose has since released other books on his career and life.

John Travolta

John Travolta has been a male icon of the 1970s with roles in “Grease” and “Saturday Night Fever”. He also starred as Vincent Vega in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 masterpiece, Pulp Fiction.

In 2004, he reprised his role from Grease for the Broadway musical Grease: Live.

Travolta also helped bring disco to the world with his performance of the male lead in Saturday Night Fever.

Dr. J

Julius Erving, often known as Dr. J., was one of the most high-profile athletes of the 1970s, and he still cuts an imposing figure all these years later.

Erving led the Philadelphia 76ers to three NBA finals appearances in the early 1980s, including a title in 1983.

John Ritter

John Ritter had a long and fruitful career in television, but he’s largely remembered for his role as Jack Tripper on the sitcom Three’s Company.

In 1984, “Three’s a Crowd” was created to replace “Three’s Company” when it ended its run.

With his boyish good looks and outrageous physical comedy, Tripper attracted legions of fans during his career, both male and female.

Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone set the standard for male action stars with his portrayal of Rocky Balboa in 1976.

In fact, he co-wrote and starred in a low budget film called “Rocky” which became an unexpected hit and earned him many awards over the next few years, including best actor nominations from Oscar and Golden Globe.

Stephen King

The bestselling author of more than 50 novels went from being just another paperback writer to one of America’s most popular writers during the 1970s.

King had his first huge commercial success when his horror novel, “Carrie,” was made into a feature film in 1976.

King’s novels have sold more than 350 million copies worldwide, including 100 million of his most popular work “The Dark Tower.”

He is also known for writing numerous essays on both horror fiction and rock music as well as other non-fiction works such as “Different Seasons,” “Rage” and “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.”

Steven Spielberg

In 1974, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws became the first film to top $100 million at box offices all across America. With this success, Hollywood finally started paying attention to Spielberg’s work and he would go on to direct some of the most popular movies in history, which included “ET: The Extra-Terrestrial” (1982), Jurassic Park (1993) and Saving Private Ryan (1998).

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley was the King of Rock and Roll. He had 18 number one hits, including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog” and “(Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame.” In 1956 he starred in his first movie, Love Me Tender.

After a lull in popularity during the 1960s, Elvis came back in a big way during the 1970s, when he established one of the first Las Vegas residencies and performed on TV.

Johnny Carson

In 1962 Johnny Carson took over from Jack Paar as host of the Tonight Show. The show had been on hiatus for a year, but Carson made it into an institution that would last another 30 years before he retired in 1992.

Richard Pryor

Comedian Richard Pryor was one of the first African American comedians who captured America’s attention with his controversial style. Known for his roles in “Silver Streak” (1976) and “Stir Crazy” (1980), Pryor was also an iconic actor and director.

After the release of his controversial movie “Bustin’ Loose” in 1976, Pryor would go on to star in a number of other successful films such as “The Toy,” (1982).

Kenny Rogers

In 1977, Kenny Rogers released what would become one of country music’s all-time greatest hits with “Lucille.” In addition to being one of the most successful male country artists, he also had success the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

In 1984 Rogers would star in “Six Pack” and become an iconic actor who has starred in over 20 films including: “The Gambler” (1980), “Jinxed!” (1982) and “A Stranger in the Mirror” (1990).

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix is one of the most celebrated male rock stars in history. His career spanned two decades and his music continues to influence musicians today.

In 1970 Hendrix would release what some consider his best album, “Electric Ladyland.” He passed away a year later at 27 from drug use-related asphyxiation.

(Like Male Icons of the 70s? Then you might like our article on Female Icons of the 90s, click here. Or how about Love Songs of the 80s, click here.)

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