The handsome TV star who played Dr. Joe Gannon in the '70s was 75

By Stephen M. Silverman
July 25, 2012 08:00 AM
Hulton Archive/Getty

Chad Everett, the classically handsome actor remembered for playing thoracic surgeon Dr. Joe Gannon on the 11969-76 CBS drama Medical Center, died Tuesday at his Los Angeles home, reports the Los Angeles Times.

He was 75 and had battled lung cancer the past year and a half, one of his daughters told the Associated Press.

Though the surgeon’s scrubs fit him like a glove, Everett also had TV roles on The Love Boat, Murder, She Wrote, Melrose Place, Cold Case, Supernatural and, most recently, the series Castle. His movies included The Singing Nun, Return of the Gunfighter, Airplane II: The Sequel, Mulholland Drive and the remake of Psycho, as the businessman whose money is stolen by the ill-fated Marion.

A Midwesterner born Raymon Lee Cramton, the 6’2″ hunk became interested in acting in high school and moved to Hollywood, where he was signed as a Warner Bros. TV contract player. The agent Henry Willson, known for shaping the career of Rock Hudson, renamed him Chad Everett, and the young actor’s first major role was on the TV detective drama Surfside 6.

But it was Medical Center that made him a star and a sex symbol. That image was tarnished in 1972 when he infuriated Lily Tomlin on the Dick Cavett talk show by referring to his wife, the actress Shelby Grant, as his “property.” Tomlin walked off the show.

When Medical Center expired, the actor’s career went on life support, PEOPLE reported in 1994. The fact Everett owned 15 percent of the show provided a comfortable income, but as he said at the time, “Maybe I was a little too comfortable.” Alcohol took over his life.

“Finally I said, ‘I am really in trouble.’ I stepped outside, and I looked up and I said, ‘Father, you take it. I can’t handle it anymore,’ ” he told PEOPLE. The next morning he called his two daughters, Katherine and Shannon, into his bedroom. “I am addicted to alcohol, and I am not going away to detox,” he told them. “I am going to do it here so that you can see what happens to someone if you let a substance take control of you.”

With the help of Alcoholics Anonymous and his strong religious faith, he continued to battle his problem. Even when he was in the depths of alcoholism, Everett told PEOPLE that his wife (since 1966) “never threatened to leave. She would tell me that she was there for me. If not for my family, I would have been in big trouble.”

Grant died last year. Everett’s daughters survive him.