Gavin MacLeod’s new autobiography recounts childhood poverty and loss, but the man and the book emerge as determinedly upbeat.
“Grateful” is employed frequently in conversation as the affable MacLeod reflects on life, his born-again Christian faith and the long acting career that included the major TV hits “Mary Tyler Moore” and “The Love Boat.”
“That’s a big word in my life,” said MacLeod who, at 82, has endured two heart attacks yet still looks and sounds energetic enough to set sail.
“This is Your Captain Speaking,” with a cover photo of MacLeod as Capt. Merrill Stubing in his sparkling white “Love Boat” uniform, is a candid look at his ups and downs, including his unexpected jump from second banana to leading man.
He is almost invariably kind to the many stars he worked with over the years in film and TV, including Cary Grant and Robert Redford, and the parade of previous-generation performers who came aboard “The Love Boat,” including Helen Hayes, Ethel Merman and Cab Calloway.
“The big stars are the best. I pinched myself every single day” heading to work on “Love Boat,” MacLeod said, anticipating who would be on set.
MacLeod, born Allan See in 1931, was raised in the town of Pleasantville, N.Y. His Depression Era-childhood included poverty and a household roiled by his father’s bouts of drinking and then death at age 39 from cancer.
MacLeod was 13, and the loss hit him hard.
“I could have closed up into a ball right there,” he writes. “Could have turned into a ‘bad kid.’ … But instead, I did the opposite.”
Acting proved his passion and he pursued it in school and New York, where he had to cover his prematurely balding head with a toupee — secondhand, but once worn by a celebrity — to get work.
His book details other challenges, including his divorce from his first wife and marriage, divorce and remarriage to actress-dancer Patti Steele. It was she who brought MacLeod, raised a Catholic, to their shared born-again faith.
The longtime spokesman for Princess Cruises said he considers his Hollywood acting career over and will appear only in Christian-themed projects such as the 2008 movie “The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry.”