The voice was familiar and, when he took off his sunglasses, there he was: Steve Austin (The Six Million Dollar Man), Colt Seavers (The Fall Guy) and Heath Barkley (The Big Valley). And yes, he looks very good for his age (75).
Majors has spent this summer, rather quietly, mind you, in Boise. He's co-starring in a new romantic comedy drama ("Please don't call it a dramedy," said writer-director-actor and Boise native William von Tagen), entitled The Other Side of September. Majors, et al. have been filming at Zoo Boise, The Record Exchange, The Owyhee, Tenth Street Station and the Plantation Place Retirement Home, where Majors was playing a retiree who gives plenty of romantic advice to the lead character, played by von Tagen.
As the film was wrapping up principal shooting, Majors sat down with Boise Weekly to talk about his career and drop more than a few famous names.
Had you spent any time in Idaho before this summer?
Steve McQueen was a very good friend of mine. He was building a cabin over in Ketchum and I would fly in to visit him there. The last time I was here was to spend Thanksgiving with his wife, Barbara, and son, Chad, after Steve had passed. He was quite a man. I admired him very much.
What year is on your Screen Actors Guild card?
1963, my very first film. I played Joan Crawford's husband in a picture called Straight Jacket. Everybody from my hometown of Middlesboro, Ky., came to see it. But she chopped my head off before the opening credits. So all my friends wasted 25 cents.
We Baby Boomers remember your early days in TV Westerns, like The Big Valley and The Virginian.
Wow, that's when I worked with Barbara Stanwyck. She was tough, but she took me under her wing and taught me to be on time, learn all your lines and keep your mouth shut. There were only three TV channels back then, so we had some pretty huge audiences.
Did you do your own stunts?
More than 80 percent, over the years.
Did you suffer serious injuries?
I'm looking at a left knee replacement. Let's put it this way: If somebody yelled "Fire" right now, I would be the last one out the door. You know, I'm 57 years old... (long pause and smile), but I'm at an age where I can flip those numbers around.
Many of us grew up seeing you on lunchboxes and action figures from The Six Million Dollar Man.
And they're still selling big on eBay.
Did you ever get a piece of the merchandise royalties?
Not a penny. I had a contract with Universal Pictures that said I should have 8 percent of the merchandise. But Universal kept saying they were in the red.
I don't believe for a second that they lost money. Studios were notorious for mysterious bookkeeping.
The last time I tried to fight them was years ago. I gave up. A lot of that Six Million Dollar Man stuff came out long after the series went off the air. Do you remember the doll? When it first came out, it was about a foot tall; then it was about 6 inches, and then the other day I saw this tiny little thing.
Didn't The Six Million Dollar Man start out as a TV movie?
I got a script called Cyborg. The first script was pretty campy, like Batman, and I had no desire for that. Eventually it was a lot like James Bond: flashy with a lot of girls. We ended up making three different movies; by the third one, it was a lot smarter. But by the time the series was on for three years, I was a little tired of looking at hairy legged guys on the crew. So, they wrote me a love interest. That was Lindsay Wagner. She was the Bionic Woman. I remember I even wrote a song and sang it in that episode that introduced her.
Tell me about your singing career.
I don't have a singing career.
But you sang the theme from The Fall Guy, and that's one of the all-time great TV songs.
That song was No. 1 in Germany.
Sorry, but David Hasselhoff was No. 1 in Germany, too.
Exactly. That means nothing.
Were those good years?
Great fun. I was also the producer of The Fall Guy and we had amazing cameos: everyone from Richard Burton to Roy Rogers. I would do every stunt except the large truck jumps. But I think I still hired every stunt man in Hollywood. Even when I did the stunts, we made sure that they all got paid.
Tell us about your latest acting assignment in The Other Side of September.
I play Chet; he's a pretty classy guy living in a Boise retirement community. He and a friend try to help out a young man with his love life.
Did you enjoy your time at the Plantation Place Retirement Home?
Loved it. I'm going back there, when we're done shooting, to spend some time with the folks there. I want to have some one-on-one time, pose for pictures, sign some autographs.
What kind of work do you look for at this stage in your career?
It's all about the script. This movie could turn out to be a good little film. Lately, I'm more on board with smaller, independent projects.
I must say that you're looking pretty good for 75. You must come from amazing stock.
Well, my mom and dad died in separate accidents when I was very little. I really don't know my true stock, but I've seen pictures and they were very good looking people. As for me, I was an athlete. I played a lot of football, ran most of my life and maybe those stunts were good for me.
Do you still love show business?
Let me tell you, this has been a very pleasant shoot and I loved being in Boise.