by Jim Stoteck, QMI Agency
It's on YouTube for all the world to hear -- Lee Majors as bionic man Steve Austin, singing a song called Sweet Jaime, hitting enough notes to make a decent batting average in baseball at least.
"Uh oh, I go 'ouch' when someone brings that up," says the artist formerly known as The Six Million Dollar Man. "That was from the first show she (Jaime Sommers, later The Bionic Woman) was in.
"We had done a year or so of filming and I told the writers and producers, 'Look, it's been a year and a bit, 27 shows, and I haven't had a love interest. I'm tired of looking at you hairy-legged girls.
"So we came up with the idea of a girlfriend, and Lindsay Wagner was cast. I went ahead and wrote a song for it, and I never thought they'd actually use it."
And thus a bionic relationship was born. Majors, who'll be among the "genre" stars this weekend at Fan Expo Canada in Toronto, did other things besides jog 100 km/h in slow motion. But it's only recently he's decided to accept his overriding claim-to-fame and say yes to fan conventions
"I've only done a couple. All my friends, Richard Anderson (who played Agency boss Oscar Goldman on the show) and Lindsay does them. And (William) Shatner. I just finished working with him on ($#*! My Dad Says!). And we talked about it and he said, 'Do it, it's a blast!'
"So the first one I did was in New York. I'm sitting and this guy and girl come lugging this huge hood from a truck from The Fall Guy (Majors' post-bionic series, in which he played a stunt man). They were just huffing and puffing and sweating. It was the biggest thing anybody ever brought me to sign.
"There's sure some enthusiastic fans. They bring in all the dolls. I didn't know there was such memorabilia out there, with colouring books and comics.
"I was actually supposed to get a little piece of the merchandising when I did the show, but Universal, they've got such great bookkeepers, I never saw much of it," he says with a laugh.
But for a twist of programming, we would remember Lee Majors best for how he wore a cowboy hat. The Michigan-born actor broke into TV opposite Barbara Stanwyck in 1965 as Heath Barclay on The Big Valley. In 1969, he was cast in another sort of "hat" role, as one of the two leads in the classic Midnight Cowboy (the male hustler role that eventually went to Jon Voight). Unfortunately, The Big Valley was renewed for another season, forcing Majors to quit the film
"I had a meeting at the beach in Malibu with writer Waldo Salt and director (John) Schlesinger, and my agent was negotiating a three-picture deal. And all of a sudden ABC decides to bring back The Big Valley, which had been cancelled. That kind of knocked me out of that film, but I went on to do a lot of television (including one more Western, The Virginian, and the law series Owen Marshall).
"Jon Voight did a heck of a job and had a great career. But I have no regrets. I feel as an actor, I've probably worked five times more camera hours than Jon
And of course, Majors had his time in the celebrity spotlight, during his marriage to Farrah Fawcett. He expressed sadness when she died two years ago, but is in a 16-year marriage with his wife Faith, "who's not in the business, never wanted to be in the business and is with me wherever I go. Her name's Faith and I keep the faith," he says with a chuckle.
The visit to Toronto comes some 30 years after he got to know Canada in the early days of its film industry. He did the action film The Last Chase in Toronto with Burgess Meredith and Chris Makepeace, and Agency in Montreal with a young producer named Robert Lantos.
"Robert Lantos went on to one or two more things," Majors says with a chuckle.