Efrem Zimbalist Jr., actor who helped make Sunset Strip famous was 95

zimbalist-jr.jpgThe actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr. died Friday at his ranch in Solvang — dropped dead while outside watering the grass, his son Efrem (Skip) Zimbalist III said. At 95 he was still golfing three times a week. Zimbalist, the son of concert violinist Efrem Zimbalist Sr. and opera singer Alma Gluck , grew up in New York and was a Broadway actor until television and the movies came calling. He starred as detective Stu Bailey in the Warner Bros. series 77 Sunset Strip, on ABC from 1958-64, and as Inspector Lewis Erskine in "The FBI," 1965-74.

Zimbalist later had a recurring role on “Remington Steele,” which starred his daughter Stephanie, did voice on Batman and Spiderman cartoons, and portrayed a blind airline pilot in “Airport 1975.” All in all a good long career, and he was active in Republican Party politics and religious broadcasting. But I want to give him credit for a quip he made to the New York Times in 1959 about one benefit of his unusual surname.

“It’s kept me out of westerns. I can’t imagine a Hopalong Zimbalist.”

A statement from children Stephanie and Skip:

We are heartbroken to announce the passing into peace of our beloved father, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., today at his Solvang, Calif. ranch. He was 95 years old. A devout Christian, he actively enjoyed his life to the last day, showering love on his extended family, playing golf, and visiting with close friends. We will miss him dearly.

Skip Zimbalist is the chairman and CEO of Active Interest Media and was executive vice president and CFO of Times Mirror at the time of the company's purchase by Tribune Company.

Video bonus: "77 Sunset Strip" was one of the coolest shows on TV in the 1950s. Here's a taste of its style.

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