EXPIRED: 03/24/10 – Robert Culp, 79, was a hardworking actor that everyone seems to think only played a secret agent alongside a very young Bill Cosby in I-Spy – the first TV show that had a male lead of color (not Culp) of any merit.
But he was so much more than that.
Does anyone recall the racy movie about wife-swapping swingers that was really about 60’s over-the-hill-angst? Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice was a provocative hit in 1969, and a real risky role for Culp at the time.
Another risky role was in The Greatest American Hero were he played an FBI Agent who teams up with a special ed teacher who gets superpowers from extraterrestrials. The show was so coltishly weird that he reprised the role in voice-over in the stop-motion sketch comedy Robot Chicken.
In ‘87, when his star had faded but former co-star Cosby’s was shining bright, the two reunited on The Cosby Show, with Culp playing Dr. Cliff Huxtable’s old friend Scott Kelly. The name was a combination of their I Spy characters’ names.
And more recently Culp played a recurring role on Everybody Loves Raymond as Ray’s uptight father-in-law. His timing was impeccable.
There were disappointments too. In 1973 Culp aggressively auditioned for the male lead for Space: 1999. The part went to Martin Landau.
And let’s not forget the failed I-Spy remake Culp and Cosby did in 1994.
Culp was found by a jogger on a street near his house. It seems he had a heart attack while talking a walk, fell and hit his head on the pavement. Given the circumstances, not a bad way to go. It was over quick – and with a long and varied career – he led quite a life.