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Life not all smooth sailing for ‘Love Boat’ star MacLeod

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Saturday, October 19, 2013 - 12:01 am

LOS ANGELES – Gavin MacLeod's new autobiography recounts childhood poverty and loss, alcohol abuse and a brush with suicide, 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. “I'm just so grateful I've had another day, another day, another day, and that my kids are doing so well.”

“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 in love and as an actor. But he is almost invariably kind to the many stars he worked with over the years in film and TV, and to the parade of previous-generation performers who came aboard “The Love Boat.”

MacLeod, born Allan See in 1931, was raised in the town of Pleasantville, N.Y. His childhood included poverty and a household roiled by his father's bouts of drinking and then death at age 39 from cancer.

Acting proved his passion and he pursued it in school and then in New York. He made it to Broadway with a well-regarded performance as a junkie in “A Hatful of Rain,” but couldn't get an agent.

That prompted him to make the jump to Hollywood in the late 1950s, where he found a representative and work.

Then a career slump forced MacLeod to take a part in the sitcom “McHale's Navy” that was so minor that a friend chided him: “How can you do this, man? You're a glorified extra!”

His sense of failure led to heavy drinking and, one night, a close encounter with death when he nearly drove off a cliff in despair, MacLeod recounted. He ended up quitting the series, getting his career back on track and eventually giving up alcohol in 1973.

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 Carnival Cruises said he considers his Hollywood acting career over and will appear only in Christian-themed projects.