Robert Conrad Was a Strict & Old-School Father of 8 Kids, One of Whom He 'Raised' on Set of 'Wild Wild West'
Robert Conrad was one of the most famous faces of American productions of the 1960s and 1970s. His performance as frontier secret agent James West in "The Wild Wild West" will undoubtedly go down in cinema history.
In the mid-1970s, the singer and director enjoyed more success thanks to him playing Major "Pappy" Boyington in the "Baa Baa Black Sheep" series.
In his early days as an actor, Robert Conrad gained more recognition for doing most of his stunt work, earning him some accidents.
Robert Conrad in "The Wild Wild West" circa 1967 | Source: Getty Images
His Long Career and Death
On February 8, 2020, his family announced that Conrad had died at home in Malibu, California, at 84. The cause of death was ruled as heart failure.
On March 1, 1935, Conrad Robert Norton Falk was born, but as he got older, he adopted the name Robert Conrad because he got tired of his mother changing his name to her husband's name every time she got remarried.
Before leaping the screen, the actor worked as a milkman and sang in a Chicago cabaret. He made it to Hollywood in 1957 and found success by signing to Warner Bros. studios and appearing in the hit T.V. series "Hawaii Eye" in 1959.
Robert Conrad in "The Wild Wild West" circa 1966 | Source: Getty Images
He appeared in "77 Sunset Strip," "Palm Springs Weekend," and "Young Dillinger" before taking a role in "The Wild Wild West." He also starred in the "Mission: Impossible" series and several films.
Before his death, Conrad had been charged with driving drunk in 2003. The charge came after he crashed into another vehicle, severely injuring himself and the other driver.
Conrad was fined and sentenced to six months of house arrest and was left with some right arm and hand paralysis. However, this was not the first time Conrad had been involved in an accident.
Robert Conrad as James T. West in "The Wild Wild West" aired on September 16, 1966 | Source: Getty Images
On the set of "The Wild Wild West," he had an accident and landed on his head. The accident left Conrad with a fractured skull and concussion, and the doctors said he was lucky to be alive.
The Special Ladies in His Life
The actor is also a lover who eloped and married his first wife, Joan Kenlay, in 1952. Unfortunately, their marriage ended in divorce in 1977.
The following year, while he was an M.C. at the Miss National Teenager pageant, he met his second wife LaVelda Fann, who was Miss National Teenager in 1977.
LaVelda Fann and Robert Conrad during the 1st Annual Stuntman's Awards Show in Los Angeles | Source: Getty Images
When they met, Fann was handing over her crown. Even though Conrad believed Fann was the most honest, real person he knew, they married in 1983 and divorced in 2010.
A Strict & Tough Head of Family
Conrad had a fairly big blended family of eight children. He had five children with his first wife and three children with his second wife. However, he and Kenlay made sure their kids were honest, hardworking, and moral people.
Now that they are adults, Conrad believed his children turned out well. Even after their divorce, Kenlay continued to run the family's financial affairs.
Robert Conrad in "Baa Baa Black Sheep" circa 1977 | Source: Getty Images
Being a star, his kids also got front-row seats while he worked. His sons Shane and Christian loved acting and enjoyed being on set. Shane loved the set of "Black Sheep Squadron," and Christian said,
"I was raised on the set of "Wild, Wild West." I got to play all these fantasies on the backlots of studios."
Although he let them join him on set, he was a strict parent who had an old-school way of raising his children and setting ground rules for them to follow.
Robert Conrad during NBC Tribute to Clint Eastwood in Los Angeles | Source: Getty Images
As children, he taught them about sexual equality, with the boys learning to iron and sew, and he took the girls to the gym to work out.
He made sure his girls went to Catholic schools and never allowed them to have a date before turning 16. He had also expected them to have spotless rooms while spanking them when they didn't do well in school.
Robert Conrad during CBS at 75 in New York | Source: Getty Images
Working Professionally with His Kids
Conrad wasn't only a supportive leader as a father, but he was also a proud co-worker with his children. When his children with his first wife grew up, they showed interest in his career to Conrad's delight and tried their hand working in front of and behind the camera.
His eldest daughter, Joan, has worked on set with him as a show producer, while two of his sons worked as co-stars of the show.
In the 1980s, he pitched a family-oriented show featuring mountain search-and-rescue workers to CBS, and he also wanted his kids to be a part of the family for the show. Though the network was skeptical, Conrad got his way.
Robert Conrad during CBS Winter TCA Press Tour on January 12, 1994 | Source: Getty Images
His children, who were working on different projects, were happy. His son Shane, who's glad to have the support of family, said,
"If you do talk shows, it's a lot easier having your brother or your dad next to you than being all alone."
His daughter, Joan, born on December 31, 1952, is a producer and was credited with producing "High Mountain Rangers." The drama series starred her brothers and father.
Nancy Conrad and Robert Conrad in Disney's "Assignment: Vienna" | Source: Getty Images
Nancy was born on March 1, 1954, and is an actress credited for her roles in "Black Sheep Squadron," "Sudden Death," "A Man Called Sloane." She is also the founder and chairman of The Conrad Foundation.
Christian, born on September 17, 1964, is an actor who has starred in television movies and specials. His acting career started in 1984 and was on a steady rise.
Shane was born on September 24, 1971. He is an actor known for his work on "The Brady Bunch Movie" in 1995, "The Crazies" in 2010, and "Wanderlust" in 2012.
Shane Conrad and Christian Conrad attend the premiere of "When Harry Met Sally" on July 13, 1989, in Beverly Hills | Source: Getty Images
There is not much information about his daughter Christy, but she attended Pepperdine University and did not follow her father's footsteps into the acting industry.
One of his daughters, Chelsea, is a creative professional specializing in interior design, set design, and creative concepts. She makes a conscious effort to reduce waste, choose ethically made products, and reuse existing pieces in her designs.
According to her Instagrams posts, Camille is a competitive skier and has won competitions. She works for the Austrian company Atomic Ski. Currently, there is little to no information on his daughter Kaja, and her Instagram page is also set to private.
A Philanthropist before His Death
Before his death, he received the Distinguished Service Award in Broadcasting and was known to give back to his community. He supported many organizations by helping those in need.
Conrad was a longtime supporter of the United States Marine Corps, Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Wounded Warriors Project, and the Jimmie Heuga Endowment, supporting those affected with multiple sclerosis.
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