REBUILDING THE BIONIC MAN

He's not exactly as invincible as he once was -- given the bum knee and all -- but Lee Majors is ready to be a star again


WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. - Lee Majors, actor. A man with a serious knee problem and a career in limbo. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make yet another ageing actor rise back to fame and fortune. Better than he was before. Better. Stronger. Faster.

It's no secret Lee Majors needs to rebuild himself -- and his once-hot TV career. Although he still sports ruggedly handsome good looks, all that running and jumping on The Six Million Dollar Man, the hit '70s series in which Majors played a souped-up bionic specimen, ravaged his knees.

"When I would jump into a scene, I always had to land stiff-legged and couldn't go down on my hands because I was bionic," the 62-year-old actor recalls. "I had to absorb it all in my knees, and all that sudden impact really killed them."

Majors says his left knee needs to be replaced. Playing golf, which he enjoys doing two or three times a week, can be painful. Majors wears a brace whenever he tees off. He has a broken tendon in his right shoulder.

"Yes, the bionic man has got to go in and be rebuilt," he cracks.

Majors, who has lived in Fort Lauderdale since 1991, admits he's ready for a comeback. His last ratings hit was 15 years ago, when he played a Hollywood stuntman who moonlighted as a bounty hunter in ABC's The Fall Guy.

Slowly, Majors, whose real name is Harvey Lee Yeary II, is putting himself back on Hollywood's radar. He's moving back to the West Coast with his fiancée in November to be closer to the work. Last year, he played an ageing actor with a bimbo wife in a British sitcom. He has two feature films in the can, one starring Malcolm in the Middle's Frankie Muniz. There's even been some talk about a Six Million Dollar Man theatrical movie.

"The Farrelly brothers were talking about doing a spoof on it, and I hear Universal and Miramax are looking into doing a film," Majors says. "I guess I would get an Oscar Goldman-like part. (He was the bionic character's government boss.) I would certainly be interested in co-operating in any way. Some people would be disappointed if I wasn't in it."

And Majors -- get this -- wants to star in yet another TV series.

"You hear so many people saying that after doing a series for one or two years, they'll never do another one, but that's not the way I was brought up," he says. "I can't sit around. I feel I got one more in me. It sure takes a lot out of you, but I think I can do another one for five years. Not a full action show. It's time I can be in a series not as one of the young stars, but I could be overlooking them and let them do all the action. I'll sit back like Oscar did."

In the meantime, Majors is hosting Forbidden Secrets, a one-hour series on U.S. station Pax TV that claims to shed light on such little-known secrets as where to buy cheap diamonds and how to use credit cards when travelling. While it's nice being back on the small screen, Majors admits working for cash-strapped Pax can be frustrating. For instance, all of the natty suits, ties, turtlenecks and sports jackets he wears are his own.

"I had to bring my own wardrobe from Florida," he says. "They wouldn't pay for anything, so I said, 'Well, you can at least have them cleaned for me.' After we get going on the air maybe they'll break down and pay for my wardrobe or buy me a new wardrobe. I bought seven or eight suits and tried to mix them up with different shirts and ties, but it's a pain in the butt. I feel like I'm doing this all by myself."

Before signing on to host Forbidden Secrets, Majors insisted it have a classy Dateline-like feel. "I love Stone Phillips' look and the classiness of that show," he says. "This is something we want to pattern after, not that we can do what fantastic shows they do, but I think we're close in some of them."

Someone Majors is no longer close to is his former wife, Farrah Fawcett. During their marriage in the '70s, Majors and Fawcett were one of Hollywood's most-watched couples. They divorced in 1981, and Majors says he hasn't spoken to Fawcett in 12 years. He has, however, heard about her violent domestic disputes with her boyfriend and seen her bizarre behaviour on such programs as Late Show with David Letterman. Rumours swirled that Fawcett was on drugs. Majors, however, doesn't believe it.

"I know she never did any drugs when I was with her for 12 years," he says. "She was just a straight-arrow girl. I feel sorry for her. People tend to pick up things the wrong way and the media runs it into the ground. Look at what you guys are doing to poor Gary Condit, that dumb jerk."

Florida has been Majors' home for 10 years. His mom, who passed away this year, lived in Boca Raton. Majors says he's going to miss the lush golf courses and his beloved Miami Dolphins.
"I had great season tickets," he says. One thing he won't miss is the unforgiving heat.

"I really, really loved Florida for the first few years, but after you've been there for a while, the humidity and those months during the summer start to drag on you a little bit," he says. "Somehow you forget how good it was."

Marriage hasn't been too good for Majors. He's done it three times, including one to a Playboy Playmate, and each one ended in divorce. Those failed unions, however, haven't made Majors, who has four children, reluctant to walk down the aisle again.He plans to wed Faith Noelle, 27, his companion of seven years, in 2002.

"I found a lovely young lady, and she's helped me with my kids and they love her," Majors says. "I'm going to keep getting married until I get it right."

Kevin D. Thompson
Cox Newspaper