PARADE REWIND WITH LEE MAJORS: SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN LEGACY, FARRAH FAWCETT, AND HIS LATEST MISSION
By ERIN HILL @ErinHillNY
Actor and ’70s pop culture icon Lee Majors stopped by to chat with Parade about his iconic role as Steve Austin in The Six Million Dollar Man, the price of fame when it came to his marriage to Farrah Fawcett, his latest mission, and more.
At 74, Majors is still in fighting shape. “I have a pretty nice wife that keeps me active and makes sure I stay on my diet!” he tells Parade.
The actor has also found a new mission, serving as the spokesperson for the National Council on Aging’s educational program Flu + You to educate older adults about the seriousness of the flu.
On the Flu + You program.
“With the flu season just around the corner, I’ve been working with the National Council on Aging to help bring awareness to everybody getting their flu vaccine this year. Each year in the U.S., 9 out of 10 flu-related deaths occur in people 65 and older, and 1/3 of those people don’t get a flu shot. That’s why I’ve joined this campaign — I have to get the word out there for people my age. If they’re like me, you may feel like you’re healthy and active and fit, but what people don’t reliaze is as you get older, your immune system gets weaker, and that leaves you much more vulnerable to the flu.”
“Retire? That’s not a word in my vocabulary! Most people retire, they’re put out to pasture, and they seem to pass away pretty quickly, so I’m not headed in that direction at all. I enjoy working. I love it, and I’m still looking forward to doing more. I’d even do another series because I just enjoy working. So we’ll see!”
On the important role sports played in his life.
“I played all sports in high school, and I played college football. I had an injury early in my college career and it kind of put me out for awhile, and while I was out, I was dared to go out for the lead role in this play called The Crucible, an Arthur Miller play. So I did it as a dare and ended up getting the part. There’s a very dramatic scene at the end when they’re coming to take my wife and burn her at the stake at the Salem Witch Trials, and I’m down on my knees and it’s a very emotional thing, and I’m looking at all these football players who are in the front row with their girlfriends and I see the girlfriends have little tears coming out of their eyes and then I see these big football players, and they’ve got a little glisten in their eyes, so I said to myself, ‘Man, I can do this!’ So that was what sports did for me, it got me into the acting business. Being athletic, I started out doing some stunt work and ventured out to getting roles. My first big part was in The Big Valley in the 1960s, so here we are in my 50th year and still working! I’ve been very lucky to have continued to work and make it my life.”
On how all that running in The Six Million Dollar Man took its toll.
“You must have seen me limping a little when I came in! I have one knee that is in question as to whether it needs to be replaced or not. I’ve been putting it off. I’m waiting for it to come out in pill form! The longer you wait, the better technology gets. Doing westerns took a toll on me, too. You’re getting on and off a horse a lot. I did calf roping and stuff like that. Everything takes a toll.”
On his favorite thing about playing Steve Austin in The Six Million Dollar Man.
“Well, it wasn’t the running. They ran my butt off on that show! I think I liked that show mainly because it was a family show. Everybody would say it was the one time everybody could gather around the television set with the whole family and watch.”
On his favorite shows growing up.
“I grew up in the day of the westerns. It was all cowboys. When Big Valley went on the air in the ’60s, there were twenty-some westerns on and there were only three networks, so it was very competitive. Westerns are what I grew up on.”
On what he likes to watch now.
“I watch a lot of the news. As you get older, you kind of get into the news more, but there are a few shows that I watch. There’s a new one that’s getting pretty raunchy though — Ray Donovan on Showtime. It’s a very good show, very well done. I also have a recurring role on the Fox sitcom, Raising Hope. They have me back each year. And last year, I did the last few episodes of Dallas, and since they didn’t kill me off, you always have a chance of going back!”
On how he and ex-wife Farrah Fawcett handled the spotlight in the ‘70s.
“It’s like any couple would if both of you are in the spotlight, which we both were. We both had hit shows. It was very difficult to go anywhere and if you did go anywhere, it made news. So you don’t get out much. But it wasn’t quite as bad as it is now because you have cellphone cameras and paparazzi meeting you at every restaurant when you walk out, which they do in L.A. It’s very tough.”
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