Back when men were men and women adored them, there was Mannix.
Mike Connors, best known for playing detective Joe Mannix on 1960s and ’70s show “Mannix,” died Thursday in Tarzana, Calif. He was 91.
He had been diagnosed a week ago with leukemia, according to his son-in-law Mike Condon.
“Mannix” ran for eight seasons from 1968 to 1975 and was the last series from Desilu Productions. Connors won a Golden Globe for his performance as a tough, athletic investigator, who in quintessential detective show style, insisted on doing things his own way and often got beat up in the process. He drove an impressive series of muscle cars including a Dodge Dart and Chevrolet Camaro.
Desilu president Lucille Ball convinced CBS not to cancel the show despite initial poor ratings, and it caught on after being retooled into a somewhat more conventional detective series. Mannix’s secretary, played by Gail Fisher, was one of few African-American actresses on TV at the time. “Here’s Lucy” produced a crossover episode in 1971 with Connors and Ball, called “Lucy and Mannix Are Held Hostage.”
As recently as 2007, he made a guest appearance on “Two and a Half Men.” His other TV appearances included “Murder, She Wrote,” “Love Boat,” and “Walker, Texas Ranger.”
The handsome square-jawed actor also appeared in early ’60s TV series “Tightrope!” and “Today’s F.B.I.” in the early ’80s. He later played Colonel Hack Peters in Herman Wouk miniseries “War and Remembrance.”
Born Kreker J. Ohanian in Fresno, Calif., Connors was of Armenian descent. He played basketball at UCLA where he was nicknamed “Touch,” and was credited in his first few films as Touch Connors. In the 1950s, Connors appeared in the John Wayne film “Island in the Sky” and in Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments.”
Connors is survived by his wife Mary Lou, daughter Dena, and granddaughter Cooper.
In the 60s if you weren’t Mannix you probably wished you were. Admiring glances and come-ons from lovely ladies, and a chance for some fisticuffs at least once per show, he was indestructible, heroic, and cool. So were the convertibles he drove. Plus, Mannix had a huge car phone long before cell phone service started. Almost nobody had those back then because they were so expensive.
Enjoy the unforgettable opening to Mannix 69:
One of the Mannix classic cars:
One of many Mannix car chases over the years: