Telly Savalas was an actor and singer who had a long and prolific career over four decades long! His iconic deep voice and bald head made him instantly recognizable across a variety of films and television shows. Most famously, he’s known for playing the role of Lieutenant Theo Kojak in the hit television show Kojak, which ran from 1973 to 1978. Terribly upset by the cancellation of the show, which had seen a decline in ratings over the years. Telly Savalas overjoyed to learn that he had a chance to continue playing the role between 1985 and 1990 in a series of television movies.
While his work on Kojak did earn Savalas an Emmy as well as two Golden Globe Awards, that’s not all that Savalas was known for. He also played the archvillain of James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and nominated for both an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor in the 1962 film Birdman of Alcatraz.
This man of many talents didn’t just find work as an actor, however. Telly Savalas also released a cover of the song “If” by Bread. And his iteration of the song quickly soared to a number 1 single in the UK in 1975. His resonant voice captured audiences all over the world, earning him a reputation for being quite versatile in show business.
As obvious as it is to audience members that Telly Savalas always destined for the big screen. And it took the talented actor many years to discover his true talent. A combination of grim life experiences and personal tragedy helped shape him into the man he eventually became. But it was a long and winding road through a variety of different career choices before he finally wound up as an actor. Many actors today found fame through their parents, who were either wealthy or already involved in the film industry. Telly Savalas, however, had to climb his way to the top all on his own. And not without his fair share of struggle along the way!
In today’s video, we’re going to take a look at some of the detours Telly Savalas took before eventually becoming the amazing actor we all know him as today, as well as the tragic circumstances that eventually led to his death. Make sure you stick around, because we’re also going to reveal the real reason Telly Savalas became so well known for his iconic bald head!
He Was a Strong Advocate for Water Safety
Telly Savalas had a lot of different jobs before he eventually became an actor. After graduating from high school in New York, he got a job as a lifeguard. He had a lifelong love of swimming and wanted to help keep others safe. One day, a man who had gone to the pool with his two sons began drowning. Savalas pulled him from the water and tried to resuscitate him, but it was no use. Despite all of Savalas’ training, he was unable to save the man’s life, and his heart broke as he watched his two sons crying over his body, asking him to wake up. It was a horrifying day for Savalas. And he knew he wanted to prevent as many water-related deaths as he could.
Throughout his life, he was a huge advocate for water safety. As he had firsthand experience with just how deadly a fun afternoon at the pool could eventually become. Telly Savalas would go on to have six children. All of whom he enrolled in swimming lessons as soon as he could.
The Truth Behind Telly Savalas’ Baldness
One of Telly Savalas’ defining physical features is his bald head. But did you know the true origin behind his baldness? Early on in his career, Telly Savalas began going through male-pattern baldness, and in 1965, he decided to end it early. After landing the role of Pontius Pilate in The Greatest Story Ever Told, he shaved his hair off because he felt it fit the role quite well. He ended up realizing that he rather preferred how he looked completely bald, and decided to keep the look.
He’s a Renowned Poker Player
We already know that Telly Savalas worked as a lifeguard before his career as an actor, but did you know he’s also amazing at playing poker? In 1985, Savalas entered a poker tournament because he wanted to get a better understanding of one of his roles as an actor. What started out as a little bit of research soon turned into a lot of fun. And before long, Savalas realized he was quite good at poker! In fact, he even made it into the 1992 Poker World Series, and finished in 21st place.
Amazingly enough, poker and swimming weren’t his only hobbies. He also loved reading, golfing, collecting luxury cars, and motorcycle racing! He truly was a man of many talents.
Telly Jump-Started Howard Cosell’s Career
Before becoming an actor, Savalas began studying radio and television production at the Armed Forces Institute. After that, he began hosting ABC News as well as his own radio show, and before long, he was executive and then senior director at ABC. One day, he saw that a man named Howard Cosell had applied for a job for the Gillette Cavalcade of sPorts, which Savalas was overseeing. He thought Cosell looked competent enough, and decided to hire him. Little did he know, he was the first person ever to hire Howard Cosell. And he would later become one of the most legendary broadcasters in the world!
It’s safe to say that Howard Cosell likely owes his career to Telly Savalas. Who knows how many others Savalas helped throughout his own career? While he left behind an amazing legacy, he sadly died 1994 at age 72. Make sure you stick around until the very end of the video, where we’ll reveal the tragic circumstances that eventually led to his death. And if you’re enjoying this video so far, please take a moment to like this video. And don’t forget to subscribe to Facts Verse for more!
The Origin Behind Detective Kojak’s Lollipop
Telly Savalas’ most famous role, Detective Kojak in Kojak, is well-remembered for constantly having a lollipop. Savalas actually came up with the idea on his own while filming the eighth episode of the first season. He decided to experiment with a prop, and when he asked why on earth he decided on a lollipop, he said it was a substitute for cigarettes. The character most often seen smoking. But Savalas knew his character so well that he decided that Detective Kojak was trying to cut back on smoking a bit. So, he introduced a lollipop as a way to curb his cigarette habit.
Privately, however, Telly Savalas had a huge sweet tooth, so part of the reason he brought the lollipop on set was to indulge in his cravings for candy.
He Was the Godfather of Jennifer Aniston
Telly Savalas became very close friends with John Aniston. The two shared a strong Greek heritage, as well as their love of acting. Aniston joined the television show Days of Our Lives, and began starring in other shows since then. Telly Savalas also used his power as a famous actor to ensure John Aniston even got a few roles, such as on Kojak.
In 1969, John Aniston had a lovely daughter named Jennifer. And he and his wife, Nancy, decided to name Telly Savalas as the godfather.
Of course, Jennifer Aniston would later go on to become a world-renowned actor, producer, and businesswoman! Some of her most famous film appearances include Marley and Me, Bruce Almighty, Office Space. And, of course, she’s incredibly famous for her role as Rachel in the hit sitcom Friends.
His Tragic Death
Telly Savalas lived a long and interesting life. Not only did he have a prolific career as an actor, but he also got involved in numerous hobbies and other careers, such as lifeguarding, motorcycle racing, and playing poker.
Sadly, however, Telly Savalas’ life came to an end January 22nd, 1994. He had been quietly suffering from bladder and prostate cancer, and succumbed to his illness surrounded by friends and family. John and Jennifer Aniston, his widow, his two ex-wives, his children, and many former co-stars all attended his funeral. After four decades of work as an actor, as well as inspiring people all over the world with his many talents and sonorous voice, Telly Savalas laid to rest in Forest Lawn- Hollywood Hills Cemetery. Other actors all over the world mourned the loss of such a talented man. And he has continued to inspire many even after his death.
Telly Savalas is one of the most interesting actors to have ever graced the screen. He’s known for having a variety of talents, and ended up going down a lot of different career paths throughout his life. Were you more surprised to learn that he was unable to save a man’s life and became an advocate for water safety, or that he helped start Howard Cosell’s career? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to Facts Verse for more!