Mickey Hargitay, the 1955 Mr. Universe and father – with late sex symbol Jayne Mansfield – of actress Mariska Hargitay, died of multiple myeloma Thursday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Ellen, his wife of 38 years, tells the Los Angeles Times. He was 80.
“Words cannot express how saddened we are by the loss of Mickey,” his family said in a statement, the Associated Press reports. “At the same time, we are so grateful for who he was and is to all of us, and for the love he gave us in our lives. He will continue to be our source of inspiration and strength.”
Born Miklos Hargitay in Hungary, he emigrated to the United States after World War II. His bodybuilding – he was named Mr. Universe, Mr. America and Mr. Olympia in 1955 – helped popularize the sport and landed him a role in Mae West’s Las Vegas revue.
Mansfield saw the show in 1956, and reportedly said when asked what she’d like for her meal, “I’ll have a steak and the man on the left!”
The two wed in 1958, and while Hargitay made a few Hercules-style movies, he later said of his film career, “I never wanted to be any more than what I was, and I had fun doing it,” according to the L.A. Times.
“My dad’s a bit of a superhero,” Mariska Hargitay said last year on National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air.”
Mansfield and Hargitay – who lived in a pink Beverly Hills mansion with a heart-shaped pool – had three children together, including Mariska, before they divorced in 1964. Mansfield died in a 1967 auto crash.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who played Hargitay to Loni Anderson’s Mansfield in the 1982 TV movie The Jayne Mansfield Story, extended his condolences, calling Hargitay “a magnificent individual,” the AP reports.
“Mickey was such an inspiration and always had such a positive attitude,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “He was a role model of mine for being a successful immigrant who came to this country and pursued his dreams.”
In addition to his wife and daughter Mariska, Hargitay is survived by daughter Tina West, stepdaughter Jayne Fenley, sons Mickey Jr. and Zoltan, a brother, a sister, 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.