Telly Savalas Had Six Kids and Was Jennifer Aniston's Godfather — Facts about the 'Kojak' Star

Greek-American actor Telly Savalas starred as the title character in the '70s series, "Kojak" for five years. While gaining recognition as the bald, lollipop-licking detective Kojak, the actor had a lot more going on off-the-screen.

"Kojak" star Telly Savalas licked, investigated, and talked his way into hearts of many in the '70s with his role as NYPD's Lt. Theo Kojak. However, not many knew him as the ideal family man, who lived through three marriages, had six kids, and a celebrity Goddaughter.

Before his death in 1994, Savalas made his swift ascent to fame, with notable movie roles while spotting his signature bald head. He also tried his hands on singing, releasing the bread song cover, "If," which soon became UK No. 1 single.

Telly Savalas attends the All Adult Living and Learning Benefit on March 4, 1983 at Sheraton Universal Hotel | Photo: Getty Images

Telly Savalas attends the All Adult Living and Learning Benefit on March 4, 1983 at Sheraton Universal Hotel | Photo: Getty Images

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT TELLY SAVALAS

Born to Greek parents on January 21, 1922, in New York's Garden City, Aristotelis Savalas was a Greek-American. He grew up as the second of five children born to Christina and Nick Savalas. 

As a youngster, the late icon attended the Cobbet Junior High School in Lynn, Massachusetts, and later went on to the Sewanhaka High School in New York.

He had excellent swimming prowess, once served as a lifeguard, and spent most of his life promoting water safety. In addition, Savalas was into racehorses, poker, and race motorbikes.

 Telly Savalas Stars in the TV series 'Kojak', 01.11.1986 | Photo: Getty Images

Telly Savalas Stars in the TV series 'Kojak', 01.11.1986 | Photo: Getty Images

The legend enlisted into the army in 1941. After three years onboard, he suffered injuries in a car accident, leading to his discharge.

Eventually, Savalas earned a degree in Psychology and went on to pursue a master's degree. He also attempted entry into medical school.

One of the Kojak roleplayer's distinguishing features was his deformed left finger. Telly Savalas' finger was projected as one of Lt. Kojak's visible features in the movie.

American actor Telly Savalas (1922 - 1994) as Detective Lieutenant Theo Kojak in the TV crime series 'Kojak', circa 1975 | Photo: Getty Images

American actor Telly Savalas (1922 - 1994) as Detective Lieutenant Theo Kojak in the TV crime series 'Kojak', circa 1975 | Photo: Getty Images

BECOMING AN ACTOR

Following his college degree, the star secured a writing job at the U.S Department of State Information Service. He soon became an assistant director. After years in the government organization, he got another job at ABC news and special events department as a senior director.

His post exposed him to more opportunities in the entertainment world. He worked as an executive producer at Gillette Cavalcade of Sports, where he directed WABC's news program, "Return To New York."

The icon got his first acting gig on an episode of "Armstrong Circle Theatre" in 1958. He took up the role to fill in for a friend who couldn't make it. He later starred in two additional episodes of the series, kicking off his career as an actor.

Telly Savalas and girlfriend Sally Sheridan at The White Cliff of Dover Appeal Dinner on May 6, 1977 | Photo: Getty Images

Telly Savalas and girlfriend Sally Sheridan at The White Cliff of Dover Appeal Dinner on May 6, 1977 | Photo: Getty Images

TELLY SAVALAS SUCCESS STORY

Telly Savalas appeared on numerous television shows following his first acting gig. He guest-starred in most of these shows and was in high demand. 

The late actor landed a role in "Mad Dog Coll" in 1961, which marked his film debut. He snagged his first lead role in the British crime comedy, "Crooks and Coronets."

Savalas' acting prowess landed him major roles in "The Young Savages," "Clay Pigeon," Kelly's Heroes," Violent City," "Redneck," and "Horror Express." 

American singer and actor Telly Savalas (1922 - 1994) with girlfriend Sally Adams, UK, 20th June 1977 | Photo: Getty Images

American singer and actor Telly Savalas (1922 - 1994) with girlfriend Sally Adams, UK, 20th June 1977 | Photo: Getty Images

The actor, who suffered from male pattern baldness, shaved his hair after landing a role as Pontius Pilate in "The Greatest Story Ever Told" in 1965. He adopted the new hairless look after the movie and retained it for the rest of his life.

Playing detective Theo Kojak in the '70s "The Marcus-Nelson Murders" marked his big break. He reprised his role as the cynical detective in the spin-off, "Kojak," which paved his way to stardom. 

American actor Telly Savalas (1922 - 1994) as Detective Lieutenant Theo Kojak in the TV crime series 'Kojak', circa 1975 | Photo: Getty Images

American actor Telly Savalas (1922 - 1994) as Detective Lieutenant Theo Kojak in the TV crime series 'Kojak', circa 1975 | Photo: Getty Images

PERSONAL LIFE

Savalas got married three times in his lifetime and has six children. His first marriage was to his college sweetheart, Kathrine Nicolaides, in 1948. The two shared a daughter, Christina, before their divorce in 1957.

In 1960, he tied the knot with Marilyn Gardner, a theatre teacher in his self-founded Garden City Theatre Center. Their marriage yielded two daughters, Candace and Penelope.

Following the wrap-off of Telly Savalas' run as Kojak in 1977, he met and married Julie Hovland. They got married almost seven years later.

Ariana Savalas arrives for the 8th Annual Los Angeles Greek Film Festival - Opening Night Gala at the Egyptian Theatre on June 4, 2014 | Photo: Getty Images

Ariana Savalas arrives for the 8th Annual Los Angeles Greek Film Festival - Opening Night Gala at the Egyptian Theatre on June 4, 2014 | Photo: Getty Images

Telly Savalas' spouse, Julie, who was a travel agent, stayed by his side until his death. Together, they were parents to two children, a son, Christian, and a daughter, Ariana.

Julie and Telly Savalas' children pursued careers in entertainment, like their father. Christian went on to become a singer, an entrepreneur, and a songwriter, while Ariana became a well-known actress.

The icon also had a son, Nicholas Savalas, from his relationship with actress, Sally Adams. Although the pair never got married, they stayed together from 1969 to 1973 and cohabited as a couple. Sally adopted Savalas' last name during their time as a couple.

Savalas was a close family friend of fellow actor, John Aniston. He was also godfather to John's daughter and now-successful actress, Jennifer Aniston.

 Nick Savalas (Telly Savalas' son) attends the "Backbeat" Hollywood Premiere on April 13, 1994 | Photo: Getty Images

Nick Savalas (Telly Savalas' son) attends the "Backbeat" Hollywood Premiere on April 13, 1994 | Photo: Getty Images

SAVALAS' BATTLE WITH CANCER

Telly Savalas battled prostate cancer during the last years of his life and doctors established his diagnosis in 1989, five years after his third marriage. He got diagnosed at the late stages of the ailment because he chose to ignore his earlier signs.

When he eventually discovered the disease, the cancer had already spread to his bladder wall's underlying layers. The only option available to him at the time was to undergo radical cystectomy.

Telly Savalas, wife Julie Hovland, son Christian Savalas and daughter Ariana Savalas and Ed McMahon, wife Victoria McMahon and daughter Katherine McMahon attend Young Musicians Foundation Celebrity Mother-Daughter Fashion Show on March 26, 1987 | Photo: Getty Images

Telly Savalas, wife Julie Hovland, son Christian Savalas and daughter Ariana Savalas and Ed McMahon, wife Victoria McMahon and daughter Katherine McMahon attend Young Musicians Foundation Celebrity Mother-Daughter Fashion Show on March 26, 1987 | Photo: Getty Images

Due to memories of his father's experiences after going through the procedure decades ago, the actor declined. Savalas opted for cystoscope and radiation, undergoing the sessions every three to four months. After a few years, the sessions became ineffective.

He eventually lost the battle with cancer. Savalas died in his Sheraton-Universal Hotel suite, surrounded by family on January 22, 1994, a day after his 72nd birthday.

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