Robert Urich was a popular character actor that was mostly known for his television roles. At the height of his popularity, he played the lead character in the television show Vega$. However, he also performed several more lead roles, including in the show Spenser: For Hire and the popular miniseries Lonesome Dove. Over the course of his career, the actor starred in around 15 different television series. However, his life met a tragic end in the early 2000s after diagnosed with a major health problem. Join Facts Verse as we explore the devastating story of Robert Urich.
The great character actor Robert Urich became a media icon of his time for numerous reasons. Not only did he portray main character Dan Tanna on the hit show Vega$. But he also performed in a number of other television and film roles. While his role as Dan Tanna on the show Vegas$ made him somewhat of a hero in the famed Nevada city. His role as the titular character in the later show Spenser: For Hire made him an icon in the Boston community. Such varied iconic roles have made Robert’s legacy mean different things to different people. However, one thing that remains consistent is that the late actor continues to beloved and respect by those that knew him, both personally and professionally.
Although he passed away in the early 2000s after a long and tumultuous battle with poor health. He left behind a legacy that will likely never die.
Robert was born and raised in the town of Toronto, Ohio, to parents Paul and Cecelia Monica. He was a promising athlete in his high school career. And allowing him to attend Florida State University on a football scholarship. While there, the young actor earned a bachelor’s degree in the field of Radio and Television Communications. Although Robert wasn’t quite sure what specific field of interest he wanted to pursue a career in. He knew he had a passion for television.
Some time after attending Florida State University, Robert pursued a master’s degree in Broadcast Research and Management at Michigan State University. From there, he was able to get a menial job working at the WGN-TV offices in Chicago. Although he was doing office work when he started, he was eventually able to prove to the station that he was capable of being in front of the camera. Pretty soon, he given a venerated position as a weatherman.
Robert worked as a weatherman for some time, gradually building up his confidence in front of the camera. Pretty soon, he was trying out for television roles. Due to his distinct and masculine demeanor, Robert began making a name for himself as an authority figure almost immediately. His first role was on the television show The F.B.I. However, he also performed in some comedies, such as Soap. He could even seen dabbling in comedy features, including 1969’s Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. However, his most memorable feature role arguably remains his turn alongside Clint Eastwood in the Dirty Harry sequel Magnum Force.
Although Clint Eastwood’s Magnum Force may be Robert’s most memorable feature film role. His most iconic role in general by remains his turn as Dan Tanna on the television show Vega$. Dan Tanna a private detective known for driving around the streets of Las Vegas in his red 1957 Thunderbird. Robert’s work on the series netted the actor two Golden Globe nominations, but no wins. However, Dan Tanna stands as an iconic part of Las Vegas’ history, with many considering Robert himself to be an icon of the city.
After Vega$ came to an end in 1981, Robert continued working steadily until his death in the early 2000s. His career spanned many genres, from westerns to romance, comedy to drama. In the later 1980s, Robert became a private detective once again, playing the titular role in the television series Spenser: For Hire. The series was based on the popular book series by Robert B. Parker. Despite Spenser: For Hire reaching the same number of seasons as Vega$, Spenser hasn’t proved quite as iconic of a character for Robert as Vega$’ Dan Tanna. The actor was later awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And making him the only star on the walk with a last name starting with the letter U. That is, until singer Usher was inducted many years later.
After Spenser: For Hire came to an end in 1988, Robert still had one major starring role on television left in him before his death. This came in the form of the show The Lazarus Man. The show followed an amnesiac Civil War soldier played by Robert. The character was trying to learn details about his past. The show was popular with audiences, but a troubling on-set revelation was going to put the show to an end before it’s time. During the filming of the first season. Robert was diagnosed with a rare kind of cancer known as synovial sarcoma. When Robert admitted his medical predicament to the producers, he assured them that he wasn’t going to let the diagnosis get in the way of his work. However, the producers didn’t have confidence in his abilities and ended up pulling the plug.
Robert successfully sued the producers of The Lazarus Man due to a breach in the actor’s contract. Urich continued to perform on television after The Lazarus Man’s cancellation, including a 25-episode stint on The Love Boat: The Next Wave in 1998. A few years later, Robert passed away. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support. As well, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
One of Robert Urich’s greatest dreams when it came to his acting career was to appear on Broadway. By the end of the 1990s, it appeared as if this dream was never going to come true. However, a miracle came in the form of the 2000 revival of Chicago. Robert was given the role of Billy, and it proved one of the actor’s last great glories. Those closest to Robert could see the twinkle in his eye when he walked out on stage. Realizing his dream of being a true Broadway star at last. Many were surprised to realize that Robert actually had a pretty good singing voice. And his performance captivated even those who weren’t already fans.
After his diagnosis in 1996, Robert tirelessly fought his cancer until his death in 2002. This long battle saw three separate periods of relapse and remission, although Robert never gave up in his fight. Robert not only had a good team of doctors working on his side, but also had a lot of help in the form of his loving family. Robert was married twice in his life, with his true love proving to be his second wife. His second wife was an actress by the name of Heather Menzies. The two married in 1975, and stayed married until Robert’s death.
Heather not only stayed by Robert’s side during his struggle, but also actively dedicated her life to fighting his cancer both during and after his final years. After Robert’s death in 2002, Heather formed the Robert Urich Foundation. A foundation dedicated to helping put synovial sarcoma to an end. As well, Robert’s legacy also includes his three children.
Robert and Heather began trying to have children soon into their marriage, but Heather ended up suffering multiple miscarriages. Eventually, the couple turned to adoption in order to start a family. The couple adopted three children over the course of their marriage, being named Ryan, Emily, and Allison. Ryan and Emily are the eldest children, being only one year apart. Allison, on the other hand, is around 20 years younger. Ryan and Emily were in high school when their father was suffering from cancer. And they felt the effects of the struggle much stronger than Allison did. Because of this, the two grew up with a particular passion for cancer research, falling in line with their mother.
Today, Ryan and Emily run the Robert Urich Foundation. After watching the struggle of his late father, Ryan dedicated his life to becoming a doctor. The Robert Urich Foundation has been incredibly successful in raising funds for cancer research, oftentimes raising hundreds of thousands of dollars per event. Although Robert certainly had a tough battle towards the end of his life, he would likely be very proud of the work that his family has done since his passing. His fight allowed for synovial sarcoma to be much better understood than it was at the time of his diagnosis, which means that others in the future won’t have to suffer as much as he did during the final years of his life.
Whether in regards to his entertainment career or his struggles with synovial sarcoma, Robert Urich was a man who passionately believed in never giving up. Although there wasn’t a cure for his cancer, he was adamant that one was eventually going to come about if he kept pushing. This spirit was passed on to his children, who are still trying to find a cure to this day. Robert’s tenacious spirit truly touched a lot of lives, and his story continues to inspire new generations.
Despite Dan Tanna proving to be his most iconic character, Robert Urich was an actor that played a huge variety of roles over the course of his long and fruitful career. Comment down below to share which of his iconic roles was your personal favorite, or if there was one particular role that you think we should’ve mentioned but didn’t. As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!