George Maharis Death, Obituary – George Maharis, the ruggedly handsome New York-born stage actor who went on to become a 1960s television heartthrob as a star of the series “Route 66,” died on Wednesday at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 94. His longtime friend and caretaker, Marc Bahan, confirmed the death. Mr. Maharis’s greatest fame arose from the role of Buz Murdock, one of two young men who traveled the country in a Corvette convertible finding a new adventure and drama (and usually a new young woman) each week on CBS’s “Route 66.”
“Route 66” began in 1960, and Mr. Maharis left the show in 1963. His co-star, Martin Milner, got a new partner, played by Glenn Corbett, and the series continued for one more season. Mr. Maharis attributed his departure to health reasons (he was suffering from hepatitis), but Karen Blocher, an author and blogger who interviewed him and other principal figures on the show, wrote in 2006 that the story was more complex.
Herbert B. Leonard, the show’s executive producer, “thought he’d hired a young hunk for the show, a hip, sexy man and good actor that all the girls would go for,” Ms. Blocher wrote. “This was all true of Maharis,” she went on, “but not the whole story, as Leonard discovered to his anger and dismay. George was gay, it turned out.”
Ms. Blocher attributed Mr. Maharis’s departure to a number of factors. “The producers felt betrayed and duped when they learned of Maharis’s sexual orientation, and never trusted him again,” she wrote, adding, “Maharis, for his part, started to feel that he was carrying the show and going unappreciated.” Mr. Maharis was arrested in 1967 on charges of “lewd conduct” and in 1974 on charges of “sex perversion” for cruising in men’s bathrooms. He did not discuss his sexuality in interviews, but he proudly described being the July 1973 nude centerfold in Playgirl magazine in an interview with Esquire in 2017.
“A lot of guys came up to me and asked me to sign it for their ‘wives,’” he said. Mr. Maharis had done well-received work in theater before becoming a television star. In 1958 he played a killer in an Off Broadway production of Jean Genet’s “Deathwatch.” Writing in The Times, Louis Calta described Mr. Maharis’s performance as “correctly volatile, harsh, soft and cunning.”
Two years later, he appeared in Edward Albee’s “Zoo Story” in its Off Broadway production at the Provincetown Playhouse. That year he was one of 12 young actors given the Theater World Award. The other winners included Warren Beatty, Jane Fonda, Patty Duke and Carol Burnett. In 1962, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for his work on “Route 66.”
Mr. Maharis told a writer for The Times in 1963 that he treated the TV series like a job in summer stock theater. “The series taught me how to maintain my integrity and not be sucked in by compromise,” he said. rGeorge Maharis was born in the Astoria section of Queens on Sept. 1, 1928, the son of a Greek restaurateur. He attended Flushing High School and later served in the Marines.