George Maharis, the star of “Route 66” who went on to appear on “Fantasy Island” and other shows, died Wednesday in Beverly Hills.
His friend and caretaker Marc Bahan announced his death on Facebook, writing that he was “above all a great guy who would do anything for anyone. My dear friend, you will be terribly missed.”
Maharis co-starred with Martin Milner in the early 1960s series “Route 66,” and received an Emmy nomination for his role as Buz, a handsome beatnik-adjacent working class man. Shot on location across the U.S., the adventure series portrayed two young men who travel around in a Corvette, looking for work and adventure as they struggle to find themselves. Part way through the third season, Maharis left the show after being hospitalized for hepatitis. He asserted later in an interview that his departure wasn’t because he wanted a higher salary or wanted to get into movies, but strictly for his health.
He went on to appear in a number of films, including “Sylvia,” “The Satan Bug” and “The Happening,” before landing another series role on the 1970 series “The Most Deadly Game,” which ran for 12 episodes. Maharis was one of the first celebrities to model nude for Playgirl.
Maharis continued working in television throughout the 1970s and ’80s, playing several different roles in six episodes of “Fantasy Island” and making guest appearances on shows including “Murder She Wrote,” “Police Story,” “Kojak,” “The Bionic Woman,” “Cannon” and “Barnaby Jones.”
Born in Queens to Greek parents, Maharis served in the Marine Corps, then studied at the Actors Studio and worked on off-Broadway productions and early television shows such as “Naked City,” which was co-created by Herbert B. Leonard and Stirling Silliphant, who went on to create “Route 66.”
Maharis was also a singer and released seven albums, with the single “Teach Me Tonight” charting in 1962. In the 1980s, he performed in Las Vegas and later took up painting.