Quick … name a classic 1970s television cop …
Sure, Steve McGarret was cool. “Book ’em, Danno!”
OK, right … Mike Stone was pretty darn hard-boiled.
Fine, fine. We all wanted to be Jim Rockford.
Aggggghhhhhhhh! Yes, Pepper Anderson was the bomb in Police Woman.
Definitely. Columbo was unbeatable, no matter how scatterbrained he seemed.
Let’s try this another way — name THE classic 1970s television cop …
Bingo! How could there be a more iconic gumshoe from the shag decade than Kojak?
There couldn’t be.
But we all have questions about the Boss of Bald, the Lord of Lollipops so deftly brought to life by Telly Savalas.
I know I do. So let’s answer them.
Starting with …
What was Kojak’s first name?
The Kojak character was born as Lieutenant Theodore (Theo) Kojak in a 1973 TV movie called The Marcus-Nelson Murders.
Hey, wasn’t that Kojak in …?
Yes, Telly Savalas had been around for several years before he hit the mainstream with Kojak. Among his credits were roles in Armstrong Circle Theatre, The Witness, The Fugitive, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
These days, the early role you’re most likely to stumble upon is Erich Streator, a jackass step-dad who got his comeuppance at the hands of an evil doll in the “Living Doll” episode of Rod Serling’s The Twighlight Zone.
On a side note, if you want chills like you’ve never experienced before …
Lock yourself in a dark bathroom and say “Talky Tina” five thousand times. You won’t believe what happens next!
Right … Savalas had hair in “Living Doll.” Sort of, anyway.
It was more like an elongated Roman emperor do than an actual coif, but certainly more hirsute than the lollipop look that would make him famous as Kojak.
Telly first bared his scalp onscreen as Pontius Pilate in the 1965 epic, The Greatest Story Ever Told.
He never really looked back … which is good, because there was no hair chasing him, just dying to get back on his head.
Does Kojak have any relatives in Hollywood?
He does …
Telly Savalas’ brother, George, had a string of credits to his name by the time Telly became Theo.
Notably, George played Mulligan on Kelly’s Heroes (but strangely didn’t get to do it again) and scored bit parts on big shows like All in the Family, Mannix, and The Fugitive.
Not too surprisingly, George was a regular on Kojak, playing Detective Stavros in 114 episodes.
As you might expect of a man whose brother was a cue ball, George had a head full of black curls. In fact, he looked an awful lot like George Wendt, confusing given the shared first name.
And, just to top off the confusion factor, George (Savalas) also appeared as Kaz in a 1975 episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker (“The Youth Killer”).
Telly was also the Godfather … to Friends alum Jennifer Aniston.
Did Kojak do anything after Kojak?
See, the thing is, Kojak was actually just a character played by actor Telly Savalas. Kojak wasn’t a real dude.
But … yeah, of course, Telly did stuff after Kojak.
Here are just a few of the roles he took on after the bald detective went away in 1978 …
- El Sleezo Tough in The Muppet Movie
- Frank Cooper in Border Cop
- Dr. Fabian Cain in a two-part episode of The Love Boat
- The Cheshire Cat in a TV version of Alice in Wonderland
- A reprisal of Kojak in Kojak: The Price of Justice (a 1987 TV movie)
- Brother Joseph Heiden in The Equalizer
Wait … didn’t Kojak run Mel’s Diner in Alice?
No … well, maybe … no, no. Definitely not.
You’re thinking of the great Vic Tayback, who brought Mel Sharples to life like no one else could have. Except maybe Telly Savalas.
And, well, it’s confusing.
Because Telly did show up on an episode of Alice, appearing as a character named, “Telly Savalas.” The title of the episode?
“Has Anyone Here Seen Telly?”
George was also on this episode. Savalas, not Wendt.
When did Kojak stop acting?
Telly … Telly … worked pretty much up to his death at age 70 in January of 1994. By that time, George and their mother were already gone.
Kojak’s … um … Telly’s last role was “Most Evil Man” in the 1995 movie, Backfire!.
Who loves ya, Baby?
Um … my mom?