Last Updated on September 1, 2002
After attending Indiana University for 2 years Lee transferred to Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky. According to one interview, Lee says he was booted out of IU after getting into a fight at a fraternity house. Around this same time Lee severely injured his back while playing football, and his football career was pretty much over. There are reports that Lee was paralyzed from the waist down for about 2 weeks after this injury. Lee finished up his college education at EKU in 1962 with a degree in both History and in Physical Education and was a qualified teacher. While at EKU, Lee met and married his first wife Kathy Robinson in 1961, and had a son Lee ll born in 1962. Also in the summer of 1962, Lee decided to go in a new direction, and won a role in a play called 7 Husbands with his wife Kathy at the Pioneer Playhouse in Danville, KY.
After graduating from college, Lee received an offer from the St. Louis Cardinal football team for a tryout, but decided against it since he now had a family to support. In 1963, he decided to move the family to Los Angeles where he received a job offer from the Los Angeles Park & Recreation Department to become the Recreation Director for North Hollywood Park. While working at the park, Lee met many people in the acting and entertainment community, including Dick Clayton who had been the agent for the late James Dean. The various actors he met at the park told Lee that he should give acting a try, and he decided why not. Dick Clayton enrolled Lee at MGM's drama school, and he also started studying with Estelle Harmon who was a highly respected drama coach. After about a year of studying, Lee wanted to get some acting jobs and Dick Clayton agreed to help. In 1964 Lee got his first role in the movie Strait-Jacket starring Joan Crawford. Although his part was very small (he got killed in the first 5 minutes) it started his career. Next came parts in the Alfred Hitchcock Hour (Monkey's Paw) and Gunsmoke. Unfortunately about this same time his marriage to Kathy ended, and she moved back to Kentucky with their son.
He 1964 Lee got the break of a lifetime when he auditioned along with hundreds of others (including Burt Reynolds) for the role of Heath Barkley in The Big Valley which was a new western series starring Barbara Stanwyck. Lee won the role of Heath, the illegitimate son of Tom Barkley and there was no looking back. However, Lee continued working at the park right up to the time that shooting began and even stayed on their inactive list for another 2 years just in case the series didn't work out. The cast of The Big Valley also included Richard Long as oldest son Jarrod, Peter Breck as middle son Nick, and Linda Evans as Audra. Naturally, Lee was very nervous to be working with an actress of the stature of Barbara Stanwyck, however Barbara took him under her wing and became his mentor. The series ran from 1965 to 1969 and Lee credits Stanwyck with teaching him how to be a professional.
In 1968 Lee got his first big movie role as Blue in Will Penny starring Charlton Heston. Before the shooting started, Heston was not eager to work with a "television actor", but soon came to like and respect Lee. Will Penny did not do very well at the box office, but was critically acclaimed and is one of Heston's favorite films. In 1968 Lee also met a beautiful blond from Texas named Farrah Fawcett. Farrah had just arrived from Texas 2 weeks earlier when Lee saw her picture at his agents' office and decided to ask her out. She was not a home when he called, so he left a message saying that "Lee Majors will be by to pick Miss Fawcett up for dinner at 7:30". Needless to say Farrah was not happy with this brash message, however she decided to go out on the date after Lee called back and apologized. For the first 10 minutes of the drive to the restaurant, neither said a word. Lee finally mumbled "you're the most beautiful girl I've ever seen" but Farrah didn't understand him. After arriving at the restaurant, Farrah ordered a drink and then went to the lady's room for the next half hour feeling ill. The next morning Lee sent Farrah a dozen yellow roses and they decided to give it another try. Lee and Farrah soon became an item, and Lee began to help her in getting her acting career started. Farrah soon became a very popular model and commercial spokeswomen and won parts in various television series.
After Big Valley ended in 1969, Lee won the role of Roy Tate, a mysterious ranch hand with a dark past in The Men from Shiloh. The Men from Shiloh was a revised version of the Virginian staring James Drury and Doug McClure. Also added to the cast was Stuwart Granger. The Men from Shiloh only lasted a year and Lee was again looking for another series.
In 1971 Lee won the role of Jess Brandon in Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law starring Arthur Hill. Lee played a young lawyer working for Arthur Hill's Owen Marshall. This show was compared with Marcus Welby, MD, with Lee playing the James Brolin role as the young partner learning the trade from the older and wiser partner. The two shows even shared a story line with the actors appearing in each other shows. This was a different kind of role for Lee who up until now had only played cowboy parts. Lee was not comfortable being in a suit and tie locked up in a courtroom all day. His idea of fun was being outdoors hunting, fishing or golfing, not inside a studio. Also, it was Arthur Hills' show and Lee didn't have a lot to do besides sitting around the lawyers' table. Lee joked that all the free time made him a great golfer. Also around this time Lee joined a flag football league, which included many former professional football players, and things could get a little rough. Over the years Lee has separated his shoulder, had to have knee surgery and broke his nose several times. He continued playing in the league until the late 1970's when he retired.
In 1973 things got busy for Lee when he received a script for a movie of the week called The Six Million Dollar Man. The idea for The Six Million Dollar Man came from the book "Cyborg" written by Martin Caidin. The story revolved around an astronaut/test pilot by the name of Steve Austin who crashed while testing an experimental aircraft. The doctors had to amputate both of Steve's legs, right arm and he also lost the vision in his left eye. Dr. Rudy Wells who was a friend of Steves was working on a secret project called bionics and was asked by the government to fit Steve with new bionic legs, arm and eye at a cost of six million Dollars. These new "parts" would give Steve enormous strength, speed and vision. In return, Steve would become an agent for the government going on dangerous missions which mere mortals could not do. Originally, Caidin wanted Monte Markham to play the part of Steve, but the studio wanted Lee who by this time had become well known and popular with the television audience. Markham eventually played the part of Barney Hiller, the Seven Million Dollar man in 2 episodes of the series. The 2 hour movie of week premiered on ABC March 7, 1973 and to everyone's surprise was a huge ratings success, even beating out a Bob Hope Special. ABC ordered 2 more movies of the week, which would become part of their Suspense Movie package. In January 1974 a weekly spot on the ABC schedule opened up and The Six Million Dollar Man became a weekly series. Also included in the cast was Steve's government boss Oscar Goldman, played by Richard Anderson. Richard first worked with Lee on the Big Valley and they soon became friends. Also in the cast was Martin E. Brooks who played Dr. Rudy Wells. There were actually 2 other actors who played the role of Rudy in the pilot and first 2 years of the series, but Brooks became best known in the role. Lee still was appearing in Owen Marshall during this time, but finally left that series when The Six Million Dollar Man became a regular on the schedule. Lee is quoted as saying "I started out as 4th or 5th banana in The Big Valley, 3rd banana in The Men from Shiloh and 2nd banana in Owen Marshall. Now I'm the top banana in my own series, and I couldn't be happier." The series quickly became a big hit, especially with children who loved the special effects. Kids everywhere were seen running around in slow motion and trying to make the "bionic sound". Six Million Dollar Man lunch boxes, dolls, games and other toys became a huge business.
But 1973 was a big year for Lee for another reason. On July 28, 1973, Lee & Farrah Fawcett got married on the 5th anniversary of their first date. Farrahs career had not really taken off yet by this time with the majority of her acting consisting of guest starring roles in Lee's shows, Owen Marshall and in four episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man. However in 1975 her career took off with a role in the movie Logan's Run and a reoccurring role in David Janssens' series Harry-O. In 1976 she won one of the starring roles in the new ABC police show Charlies Angels and also poised for a poster which went on to sell millions of copies. Her poster and hair do became an international craze and soon she became more popular then her Six Million Dollar Man husband. Lee & Farrah were on the covers of hundreds, even thousands of magazines and became the object of various rumors. They could not go anywhere without being mobbed. Lee even put out an ad in one of the Hollywood trade papers trying to stop these rumors. He was actually advertising his directorial debut in the "One of our Running Backs is Missing" episode of the Six Million Dollar Man and added a P.S. saying that he & Farrah were happier then ever. After only one year on Charlie's Angels, Farrah announced she was quitting the show to pursue a movie career, and was promptly sued by producer Arron Spelling. This led to a legal battle and still more rumors regarding their marriage. Farrah eventually was let out of her contract after agreeing to come back for 3 guest star spots on Charlie's Angels. However after this legal battle, Farrah found it very difficult getting work for many years.
Meanwhile, Lee's show was more popular then ever. In 1975 the producers decided to give Steve a love interest, Jamie Sommers played by Lindsay Wagner. From that point on, Lee & Lindsay Wagner would forever be linked bionically. The network wanted a "Love Story" type of show in which Steve & Jaime rekindle a romance and then tragedy strikes. Jamie is critically injured in a skydiving accident and is bionically rebuilt just like Steve, except with an ear instead of an eye. After recovering from the accident, Steve & Jamie get engaged, but Jamie starts rejecting her bionics and dies. The network received thousands of letters from angry fans, and decided to bring Jamie back from the dead to star in her own show, The Bionic Woman. Both Lee & Lindsay appeared in each other's shows, but the romance of the characters was over since Jamie lost her memory of Steve. Both shows remained in the top 10 for the next 2 years, (with the Bionic Women moving over to NBC) but all good things must come to and end with the last Six Million Dollar Man airing on March 6, 1978 and The Bionic Woman a few months later.
However, the fans would not let them ride off into the sunset just yet. Three Bionic Reunion Movies have been made over the years. The first in 1987, second in 1989 and the last in 1994, and all were rating winners. In the last movie, Bionic Ever After?, Steve and Jamie finally got married. I think this movie was a thank you from both Lee & Lindsay to their fans for remaining loyal for all those years.
After The Six Million Dollar Man ended in 1978, Lee decided to try his luck in the movies. Lee always felt that the movies where the "Big Time" and always wanted his career to head in that direction. He made The Norsemen, Steel, Killer Fish, Agency and The Last Chase all in the next 3 years. None of these movies did very well in the box office, and Lee's marriage to Farrah also soon appeared to be on shaky ground. In July of 1979, six years after they married, Farrah announced they had separated. The reason for the separation depends on whom you listen to. Farrah said that she was not the same girl that Lee married, that she had become more independent and wanted to make her own decisions but Lee just couldn't understand that. Lee has said the reason for the break-up was because of long separations due to their work schedules. The separation became even harder on Lee when Farrah started dating his best friend Ryan O'Neil that fall. Lee was on his way to Toronto to film Agency and Ryan asked Lee to keep an eye on his daughter Tatum who also was in Toronto filming a movie. Lee said he would be more then happy to look in on Tatum, if Ryan would do him a favor. Lee thought that Farrah would be lonely and could use some company since he would be in Toronto, so Lee asked Ryan to keep an eye on Farrah. Ryan & Farrah began a 17 year affair which deeply hurt and angered Lee. Although they did not officially divorce until 1982, the marriage was over.
After it was clear that a movie career was not going to happen, Lee decided to go back to what he did best, television. In 1981 he began filming his next series, The Fall Guy. The story was about a Hollywood Stuntman and bounty hunter Colt Seavers (Lee) and his partners Howie (Doug Barr) and Jody (Heather Thomas). The show was an immediate success and once again Lee's career was on a roll. One of the fun aspects of the show was that Lee asked a lot of his friends to do guest spots or cameos. This list included: Richard Burton, Milton Berle, Robert Wagner, and Roy Rogers to name a few. Also included were many of Lee's former series co-stars. Peter Breck, Linda Evans, Doug McClure, James Drury, Stuwart Granger, Richard Anderson, Jennifer Darling and Lindsay Wagner all showed up for the fun. The show had a very successful run and eventually ended in 1986.
Around this time Lee's son from his first marriage decided to move out to California and try his hand at acting. He has appeared with his father in The Fall Guy, Tour of Duty, Raven and all 3 Bionic Reunion Movies. He has also appeared on his own in 3 different movies.
In 1984 Lee's personal life once again started looking up when he met the 1985 Playmate of the Year, Karen Velez. They had a daughter Nikki Loren in February 1988 and married in the fall of that year. In October of 1992, Lee & Karen became the parents of twin boys, Dane Luke and Trey Kulley. Before the twins were born, Lee and Karen decided to sell their Malibu home and move to Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. to raise their children away from the Hollywood glitz and glamour. Sadly, their marriage ended in 1994. Lee's girlfriend since 1995 has been Faith Noell and they live together in Ft. Lauderdale. Lee and Faith got engaged in January 2000 during the Super Bowl, no wedding date has been announced.
Since The Fall Guy ended in 1986, Lee has been involved with 2 series. In 1990 in appeared in 5 episodes of the Viet Nam War drama, Tour of Duty. In 1991/1992, he starred with Jeffrey Meek in Raven as Herman Jablonski or "Ski". This was an action show filmed in Hawaii with Lee acting as the comedy relief. This was a totally different character for Lee, showing a funny side of his personality which was only partially revealed in the past. The show lasted only one year and Lee has not been associated with a series since then.
This is not to say that Lee has not done anything else over the years since The Fall Guy ended. He has made 3 series pilots, Harris Down Under in 1988, Roadshow in 1989, and Daytona Beach in 1996. He also has appeared in episodes of Lonesome Dove, Promised Land, and Walker, Texas Ranger. Lee has also done quite a few TV movies and theatrical movies. Most recently, in 1997 he appeared in The Lost Treasure of Dos Santos for TV, and also filmed Musketeers Forever in Canada. In 1998 he filmed New Jersey Turnpikes, which is due for release early in 1999. There are also rumors of a Big Valley Reunion television movie and a Six Million Dollar Man Theatrical Movie to be made in 1999. The year 2000 has also been a very busy one for Lee. Lee will be staring in a British Sitcom titled "Too Much Sun" and will co-star with stuntman Spanky Spangler in a new US series called "Hollywood Stunts.
Lee continues to work and 2001 & 2002 certainly have been busy ones. He has filmed a number of movies including Out Cold and Big Fat Liar which had their theatrical releases and have met with sucess. Out Cold is already out on DVD and Big Fat Liar will be released shortly. Recently completed movies include Waitin to Live, Strike the Tent and Saguaro Ranch Summer all of which are waiting to be realeased. Lee also has received critical praise and awards for his performance in the short film Here. Lee has also done quite a bid of television work including Forbidden Secrets, Hard Knox, Crash Landings, the recent A&E Biography and the British tv movie Hotel.
Sources for this bio include: