Route 66 Star, George Maharis, Lives A Quiet Life After Gay Stigma Damaged His Career
American actor George Maharis, 92, rose to prominence in the early 1960s after he starred in the first three seasons of the popular TV series Route 66.
But his rise was short-lived, as he stopped getting casting calls and received very few opportunities after his series departure. The reason for that was an incident that disclosed his concealed sexuality.
Read on to know more about how his sexuality ended his career.
George Maharis' Men Room Gay-Romance Revealed His Sexuality To The Public
The world was only beginning to be accommodating of gay rights back in the 1960s and 70s. Even the American Psychiatric Association had removed homosexuality from its list of psychiatric disorders only in 1973. During such inhospitable times, the actor, understandably, remained secretive about his sexuality during the outset of his acting career. But two instances revealed his sexual orientation to the general public.
In 1974, The Astoria-born actor was arrested for having sex with a 33-year-old hairdresser named Perfecto Telles in the men's room of a Los Angeles gas station. Since homosexuality was still considered an offense under sexual perversion charges, the Route 66 actor was charged with Lewd Act but was later released on $500 bail.
A newspaper cut of George Maharis' men's room case report. (Photo: Imgur)
Even before the 1974 incident, the actor was involved in a similar incident in 1967. He had made a pass at a vice officer in the men's room of a Hollywood restaurant which then led to his arrest. But the charge against him was dropped after he pleaded guilty to one count of "disturbing the peace" and paid a $50 fine.
His Sexuality [Not Health] Was The Reason For His Exit From 'Route 66'
When the CBS series Route 66 first premiered in 1960, the actor played a significant role of Buz Murdock, a streetwise drifter. In the series, he partnered with Tod Stiles (played by Martin Milner) to travel throughout the USA searching for adventure in a Corvette car.
But when the series was on its rise and the actor was just gaining steady TV stardom, he left the show almost near the end of its third season.
According to the actor, being diagnosed with infectious hepatitis had posed a problem for him during filming. Concerned about his health, George had asked the producers for a lighter shooting schedule. But on the contrary, the star was dealt with even tougher conditions. The hepatitis patient reportedly had to film a taxing rescue scene in an unheated pool. Also, in a rather grueling experience, the 60s heartthrob was forced to spend several hours submerged in cold water on Catalina Island.
In an article titled Fairness To George, author Karen Flunk Blocher writes about how the show producer Herbert B. Leonard knew about George's sexuality and didn't trust him following the documentation of his arrests in 1967 and 1974. The author also writes that the producers didn't make any attempt to address the actor's health issue. This then left the actor disgruntled and he finally left the show at the end of the third season.
Maharis Hasn't Done Anything Significant Since His Exit From 'Route 66'
After quitting the series, the actor showed up in very few acting projects. Since this was before the Stonewall uprising that sparked the gay-rights movement, the actor's sexuality didn't land him any better roles. As a result, he had to retire from acting very soon.
According to IMDb, George's last few acting projects were in the early 1990s, including the movie Doppelganger (1993) and the T.V. series Murder, She Wrote (1990). Since retirement, the former star lives in Beverly Hills, overseeing his investments and creating impressionistic oil paintings. His paintings can be seen at the Elizabeth Collection in Rochester, N.Y.
Today, Maharis has no social media and keeps himself away from the camera.