Telly Savalas & Kojak

I had the opportunity to write for the TV show Kojak, back when the dawn of uber-detective TV was popular. In those days as a freelance writer, I was never allowed on the set. We were hired hands, and once we turned in a final version of our scripts, that was it until the next assignment.

On Kojak (which I loved writing for) there were even more restrictions. One of the characters, Telly, created his own quirks to draw attention, with the use of lollipops and the line “Who loves ya baby.” As writers, we were never supposed to include them in our scripts.

One day I got him in a round about way. I created a boxing gym scene and placed the action close to a punching bag. I knew what would happen, and I was right. To button the scene, Telly smacked the bag, uttering his usual line “Who loves ya baby.”

I was never able to insert lollipops into scenes. I tried once using them as an important clue in a murder. The clue was changed to a different confectionary–salt water taffy.

Although I never met Telly Savalas, I learned quite a bit about him while writing for the series.  I knew he loved gambling, could toss a few with the rest of them, was super proud of his Greek heritage, and faced death like a man.

When he discovered he had incurable prostate cancer, he moved to The Sheraton in Studio City and held court in the bar that bore his name. I was told he was always gracious. He laughed and joked and gave autographs to everybody who asked, and definitely did not play the movie star.

Though I never met him—I’m proud he said my words.  And I’m glad I put in the punching bag.

A word about myself:  I am a cantankerous, old guy who had a lot of fights during my show biz career, but none of them took place on Kojak. I had fun there. It was a happy period and I will be blogging about some of the people who made Kojak such a great experience on my site, My site contains a variety of items. There’s a novel, podcasts, and blogs that are inflammatory and XXX rated.  But everything I have written is how I saw and see American Life.

I hope you take the time to browse the site and let me know your reaction.

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