COLUMN: A Senior Moment with Barry ZeVan: George Maharis

Created: 02/11/2013 9:46 AM KSTP.com By: Barry ZeVan

I’m Barry ZeVan, age 75, having another Senior Moment, and here it is:

Just after submitting my most recent Senior Moment column a few days ago, lamenting about the correct pronunciation of the word route, r.o.u.t.e., I reminded myself about the 1960s CBS television series, “Route 66”.

The series starred George Maharis and Martin Milner. That reminded me of the three years George and I made the audition rounds together during my high school years in New York, and his post-high school years there.

Even though some of us were lucky enough to have existing television or stage acting jobs, all hung-out to get messages from casting agents to get more parts at a place called The Hayes Registry, on West 46th Street. 

Aside from Maharis and me, other actors named John Cassavetes, Martin Landau and Peter Breck were those who waited patiently with us and other actors and actresses in those Spartan surroundings for the casting messages to arrive. In those days, Peter Breck called himself “Buddy” Breck.

Peter later became most well-known portraying Nick Barkley on ABC-TV’S “The Big Valley,” which starred Barbara Stanwyck. Peter’s family was the Breck shampoo family, and he told us all the girls…known as the Breck girls…who were illustrated on the Breck shampoo and hair-coloring boxes were all members of the Breck family.

But back to George Maharis and then an unknown actor named James Dean. One late afternoon, George invited me to have coffee with him and another two actors at a little coffee shop named Al-Jo’s, a few doors away from The Hayes Registry. I was a few minutes late, but I saw George and joined him and the other two. One of them was James Dean, who I hadn’t met previously, and another actor whose name I can’t remember.

When I arrived, George was swearing like a drill sergeant, saying he was going to give up acting entirely because this little guy sitting across from us in the booth was leaving for Hollywood the next day to act in a movie called “East of Eden”.

Dean very quietly said some encouraging words to George to not give up acting, but George kept swearing and bad-mouthing the business. During the next five or ten minutes, Dean and I spoke maybe two or three words…he was very pleasant and quiet…I wished him good luck in Hollywood, said goodbye to George and the other actor, and that was that. Fast forwarding to the early 1960s, when I was working for a CBS affiliate in Idaho Falls, Idaho, I saw the first promo for the show, “Route 66”, and was happy to see George had changed his mind about giving up acting.

Thanks for reading, thinking and sharing in this Senior Moment. Was I supposed to say all that? Senior Moment! Oh, just kidding, just kidding. See you next time.

Barry ZeVan is a columnist for KSTP.com.