HomeEntertainment‘Kojak’: When and How Did Theo Kojak Actor Telly Savalas Die?

‘Kojak’: When and How Did Theo Kojak Actor Telly Savalas Die?

by Joe Rutland
(Photo by Photoshot/Getty Images)

“Who loves ya, baby?” Well, actor Telly Savalas said this often as Theo Kojak on the CBS cop show “Kojak.” When did Savalas die?

Savalas, who played Lt. Kojak for five seasons, died on Jan. 22, 1994, at 72 years old. He died from cancer of the bladder and prostate in Los Angeles. Savalas was the son of Greek parents and the second of five children, according to an article from The New York Times.

What a career, though, for Savalas. Let’s look at the number of movies he starred in throughout his career. Check these titles out. Savalas starred next to Burt Lancaster in “Birdman of Alcatraz.” For his work, Savalas was nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award. He did not win.

He played in “The Dirty Dozen” next to Ernest Borgnine, Donald Sutherland, Jim Brown, and Charles Bronson.

Telly Savalas Plays ‘Kojak’ For Five Seasons Before Show Was Canceled

Other movies included a role as Pontius Pilate in “The Greatest Story Ever Told” and the 1970 all-star cast “Kelly’s Heroes.”

But Savalas earned worldwide fame for “Kojak.” The New York Police Department detective dealt with all types of criminal miscreants during the series’ five-season run on CBS. Even though “Kojak” got canceled, Savalas played the savvy, lollipop-sucking detective in a series of TV movies.

He earned an Emmy Award and two Golden Glove Awards for playing Kojak. How much of an impact did Savalas have in his career? Savalas received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1983. “TV Guide” named him on their “50 Greatest TV Stars of All-Time” list in 1999.

Classic TV Show Star Earned Purple Heart During Military Service

Another thing about Savalas is he served in the United States Army between 1941-43. Savalas earned five medals, including a Purple Heart, for his military service in the 4th Medical Training Regiment.

After being discharged, Savalas spent a year recovering from injuries suffered in an auto accident. He would eventually go on and work for ABC’s New York affiliate WABC as a senior news director. Savalas became an executive producer of “Gillette Cavalcade of Sports” and gave Howard Cosell his first job on TV.

Who would’ve thought that Savalas and Cosell would ever be mentioned in the same story. But there you go.

Savalas was born in Garden City, N.Y., on Jan. 22, 1922. He reportedly was quite philanthropic in his lifetime, giving to the Greek Orthodox cathedrals in Los Angeles.

Prior to getting his star role on “Kojak,” Savalas appeared on other TV shows like “The Fugitive,” “Bonanza,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” and “The Twilight Zone.”

His career spanned many areas, including as a singer. But people will remember Telly Savalas for playing Lt. Theo Kojak.