Today, January 21st, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia remember television and film superstar Telly Savalas, who was born on this day in 1922.
Telly or Aristoteles, as his mother called him, played one of the more loathsome TZ characters: stepfather Erich Streator in "Living Doll." Erich doesn't like the fact that his wife Annabelle (sweet Mary LaRoche) buys spontaneous gifts for his stepdaughter Christie (Tracy Stratford), and really doesn't like her latest purchase: the new Talky Tina doll. However, the doll is no ordinary doll, especially when it looks Erich straight in the eye and says, "My name is Talky Tina and I'm going to kill you."
Telly Savalas (1922-1994) was quite a force in Hollywood. I first remember him as Burt Lancaster's cell neighbor in The Birdman of Alcatraz. He's also terrific as Big Joe, opposite Clint Eastwood and Donald Sutherland, in the classic World War II caper film Kelly's Heroes.
My dad and I also enjoyed watching Kojak on Sunday nights for five years. Who could forget the resourceful New York police detective with the perpetual Tootsie pop in his mouth?
And, of course, he was a muscular Ernst Stavro Blofeld in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (chasing Bond down a Swiss ski slope, he tells his henchmen, "We'll head him off at the precipice." Only Telly could get away with a line like that).
It's a little unsettling watching him play Streator in TZ. There's nothing to like – he's just a mean, unhappy bully. Why, oh why, did Annabelle marry this guy? And if I were Talky Tina and Erich picked me up, I would have said the same things.
So let's hoist a Tootsie Roll Pop to a true legend of Hollywood, an actor who brought heavyweight skills to any set he stepped on and forever carved a spot in the dark corner of Twilight Zone villainy.