Telly Savalas Bio, Movies, Spouse, Children, Brother, Kojak

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Telly Savalas Bio

Aristotelis Telly Savalas was a Greek American film and television actor and singer whose career spanned four decades. Noted for his resonant, deep voice and bald head, Telly Savalas is perhaps best known for his role as Lt. Theo Kojak in the police-drama series, Kojak from 1973 to 1978. 

Telly Savalas


He also released the one-hit-wonder song “If”, which became a UK number-one single in 1975. Savalas’ movie roles include Birdman of Alcatraz in 1962 ,where he was nominated for the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Battle of the Bulge both in 1965, The Dirty Dozen in 1967, as supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969, Kelly’s Heroes in 1970 and Escape to Athena in 1979.

Telly Savalas Age

Telly Savalas

The second of five children, Telly Savalas was born Aristotelis Savalas on January 21, 1922, in Garden City, New York, to Greek American parents Christina, a New York City artist who was a native of Sparta, and Nick Savalas, a Greek restaurant owner. One set of grandparents originated from Ierakas, Greece, in the Peloponnese. Savalas and his brother Gus sold newspapers and shined shoes to help support the family.

Savalas initially only spoke Greek when he entered grade school but learned English. He attended Cobbett Junior High School in Lynn, Massachusetts. He won a spelling bee there in 1934, though through an oversight he did not receive his prize until 1991 when the Boston Herald newspaper and local school principal decided to award it to him.

Savalas entered Sewanhaka High School in Floral Park, New York, and graduated in 1940. After graduation from high school he worked as a lifeguard, but on one occasion was unsuccessful at rescuing a man from drowning, an event that would haunt Savalas for the remainder of his life. When he entered Columbia University School of General Studies, Savalas took courses including English language, radio, and psychology, graduating in 1946.

Telly entered Columbia College but was drafted. Upon returning, the college would not take him back because he was too old. So he had to graduate from the adult college, General Studies. He was playfully populist about this, claiming to be a “Columbia College dropout”. Savalas also served three years from 1943 to 1946 in the U.S. Army during World War II, in which he received a Purple Heart.


Get his Hellenic Times interview during the Dukakis campaign, when Savalas helped organize the Pan-Gregorians to help Dukakis as a Diner co-op. He said he majored in psychology and participated in a church play as a bald judge, from where Hollywood recruited him. He said State Dept, didn’t mention VOA.

Telly Savalas died of complications of cancer of the bladder and prostate on January 22 1994, a day after he had just 72 years old.

Telly Savalas Spouse|Children

Telly Savalas was married three times. In 1948 after his father’s death from bladder cancer, Savalas married his college sweetheart, Katherine Nicolaides. They had a daughter Christina, named after his mother. She was born in 1950. In 1957 Katherine filed for divorce. She urged him to move back to his mother’s house during that same year.

While Savalas was going broke, he founded the Garden City Theater Center in his native Garden City. While working there he met Marilyn Gardner, a theater teacher. They married in 1960. Marilyn gave birth to daughter Penelope in 1961. A second daughter, Candace, was born in 1963. They divorced in 1974, after a long separation.

In January 1969, while working on the movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Savalas met actress Sally Adams, a small-time actress 25 years his junior whose daughter from a previous relationship is Nicollette Sheridan.

Savalas later moved in with Sally, who gave birth to their son Nicholas Savalas on February 24, 1973. Although Savalas and Sally Adams never legally married, she went by the name of Sally Savalas. They stopped living together in December 1978; she filed a palimony lawsuit against him in 1980, demanding support not only for herself and their son but also for Nicollette.

In 1977, during the last season of Kojak, Savalas met Julie Hovland, a travel agent from Minnesota. The couple were married from 1984 until his death and had two children: Christian, an entrepreneur, singer and songwriter, and Ariana, an actress and singer/songwriter. Savalas was close friends with actor John Aniston and was godfather to his daughter Jennifer, a successful TV and film actress.

Telly Savalas Brother

Telly Savala’s younger brother George Savalas played the regular role of Detective Stavros, a sensitive, wild-haired, quiet, comedic foil to Kojak’s street-wise humor in an otherwise dark dramatic TV series.

Telly Savalas Movies

» The Dirty Dozen
» Kely’s Heroes
» Birdman of Alcatraz
» Escape to Athena

» On Her Majesty Secret Service
» Capricorn one
» Battle of the Bulge
» The Greatest Story Ever Told

» The Scalphunters
» Mackenna’s Gold
» The Young savages
» Pretty Maids All in a Row

» Horror Express
» The Marcus-Nelson Murders
» Beyond The Poseidon Adventure
» Cape Fear

» The Slender Thread
» The Dirty Dozen
» The Assassination Bureau
» The Muppet Movie

» Killer Force
» Lisa and The Devil
» A reason To Live, a Reason to Die
» Pancho Villa

» Good Evening Ms. Campbell
» Crime Boss
» Genghis Khan
» A town Called Bastard

» Land Raiders
» Border Cop
» Inside Out
» The Interns

» Kojak The Price of Justice
» Fake-Out
» Beyond Reason

Telly Savalas Finger

Savalas had a minor physical handicap in that his left index finger was deformed. This deformed digit was often indicated on-screen; the Kojak episode “Conspiracy of Fear” in which a close-up of Savalas holding his chin in his hand clearly shows the permanently bent finger.

Telly Savalas Kojak

Savalas’s best-known role was as the star of the television series Kojak. The series originated with the TV movie pilot The Marcus-Nelson Murders (CBS, 1973), which was based on the real-life Career Girls Murder case. Savalas’s character was named Theo “Kojack” in his first appearance.

Lt. Theodore “Theo” Kojak was a bald New York City detective with a fondness for lollipops and whose tagline was Who loves ya, baby? He also liked to say, Everybody should have a little Greek in them. Although the lollipop gimmick was added in order to indulge his sweet tooth, Savalas also smoked heavily onscreen – cigarettes, cigarillos, and cigars, throughout the first season’s episodes.

The lollipops, which Savalas later admitted. had given him three cavities, were also part of an unsuccessful effort by Kojak and Savalas himself to curb his smoking. The critic Clive James explained the lead actor’s appeal as Kojak: “Telly Savalas can make bad slang sound like good slang and good slang sound like lyric poetry. It isn’t what he is, so much as the way he talks, that gets you tuning in.”

Telly was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series two years in succession, winning the Emmy in 1974. He was also nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a TV Drama Series from 1975 to 1978, winning twice, in 1975 and 1976.

Kevin Dobson played the role of Kojak’s trusted young partner, Det. Bobby Crocker. The on-screen chemistry of Savalas and Dobson was a success story of 1970s television. After the show’s cancellation, Dobson went on to further fame in the popular prime-time 1980s soap opera Knots Landing.

As a result, he did not appear in a majority of Kojak TV movies. Savalas and Dobson were reunited on-screen for one last time when they appeared together in the 1990 TV movie Kojak: It’s Always Something, where Dobson’s character was a lawyer – similar to his role on Knots Landing – instead of a police officer.

Crocker, specifically, was a prosecutor in the storyline; his police experience had evidently given him a rich background from which he could draw when he studied for his law degree.

Kevin Dobson said of his first meeting with Telly Savalas: “The moment I met Telly Savalas, we shook hands and our eyes met and locked and the chemistry was there.” He also added: “The lollipop started in the 5th show. We were in Kojak’s office and Telly said, ‘Hey Kevin, I need somethin’ here.’

George handed Telly an apple and I said, ‘no,’ and a stagehand was standing off to the side half asleep with a lollipop jammed into his shirt pocket, along with cigs, pens, toothbrush, etc., and I said, ‘Yo, the lollipop’, as I motioned with my fingers (gimme the tootsie pop), and then said, ‘Telly, here yah go!’

Thus, the beginning of the ‘lollipop cop.’” He also said about Telly Savalas’s new determination off- the Kojak set: “He wanted to stop smoking. A friend of mine on the set had a lollipop in his shirt pocket, so I flipped it to him. … That started the lollipop cop.”

In 1978, after five seasons and 118 episodes, CBS canceled the show because of lowered ratings. Savalas was unhappy about the show’s demise, but he got the chance to reprise the Kojak persona in several television films.

Telly Savalas Death

Telly Savalas died on January 22, 1994, just one day after his 72nd birthday, of complications of cancer of the bladder and prostate at the Sheraton-Universal Hotel in Universal City, California.

The funeral, held in the Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Church, was attended by his third wife, Julie, and his brother Gus. His first two wives, Katherine and Marilyn, also attended with their own children.

The mourners included Angie Dickinson, Nicollette Sheridan, Jennifer Aniston, his goddaughter, Kevin Sorbo, Sally Adams, Frank Sinatra, Don Rickles, and several of Savalas’ Kojak co-stars – Kevin Dobson, Dan Frazer, and Vince Conti.