TV star Chad Everett dies at 75; best known for role in ‘Medical Center’

Chad Everett, a ruggedly handsome actor who starred in the long-running television medical drama “Medical Center,” died July 24 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 75.

A daughter, Katherine Thorp, told the Associated Press that he had lung cancer.

(The Washington Post/File) - Chad Everett, star of the TV series “Medical Center,” died July 24, 2012, at his home in Los Angeles.

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Mr. Everett was a journeyman Hollywood actor before he took on the lead role in “Medical Center” in 1969 as Dr. Joe Gannon, a surgeon at a university medical center.

The tall, square-jawed Mr. Everett was economical with his words yet sensitive in his bedside manner as a doctor who solved medical mysteries and soothed the broken hearts and personal problems of his patients and staff.

When the show premiered, Washington Post television writer Lawrence Laurent called it “a certain winner in the new season,” with “the proper blend of medical tension, attractive performers and what passes on television for painstaking production.”

Medical Center” aired on CBS from 1969 to 1976 and was the longest-running TV medical drama until it was surpassed by “ER,” which starred another handsome leading man playing a doctor, George Clooney.

Mr. Everett said he insisted that all the procedures depicted on “Medical Center” be performed as authentically as possible.

“I needed to know we were doing things right,” he told the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times in 1994. “We always had one, sometimes two or three, technical advisers on the set.”

In the same interview, Mr. Everett pointed out that the show addressed many subjects that were considered controversial at the time.

“We took on unfair insurance and employment practices,” he said, “and we did shows on alcoholism, transsexualism and homosexuality, among others.”

Mr. Everett was also reportedly the first actor to address the American Medical Association.

Raymon Lee Cramton was born June 11, 1937, in South Bend, Ind. His father was a mechanic and race-car driver.

Many reference sources list Mr. Everett’s date of birth as 1936, but legal records indicate he was born one year later. He routinely gave his age as consistent with a birth date in 1937.

In high school in Dearborn, Mich., the 6-foot-2 Mr. Everett — then known as Ray Cramton — was a star football quarterback. He began acting on a dare from a fellow football player and later graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit.

“I went into acting because I’m easily bored,” Mr. Everett once said. “Acting seemed to give vent to a lot of different feelings.”

After appearing in commercials, he moved to Hollywood, where an agent renamed him Chad Everett. (Mr. Everett said he welcomed the change because he grew tired of explaining that his name was “Raymon, no ‘d,’ Cramton, no ‘p.’ ”)

Early in his career, he appeared in dozens of television shows and movies, including “The Singing Nun” (1966) and “Return of the Gunfighter” (1967).

His 15 percent ownership stake in “Medical Center” made him wealthy, and he owned a horse ranch in Virginia. But he never gave up acting and later starred in several TV pilots and one-season series that never caught on, including “Hagen” (1980), “McKenna” (1994) and “Manhattan, AZ” (2000).

Other projects included roles in the film comedy “Airplane II: The Sequel” (1982), the remake of “Psycho” (1998) and the David Lynch-directed “Mulholland Dr.” (2001).

Mr. Everett was married for 45 years to actress Shelby Grant, who died in 2011. Survivors include two daughters and six grandchildren.

Mr. Everett was long identified as a conservative Republican. In 1972, during an appearance on “The Dick Cavett Show,” he was enumerating his “personal property,” including horses, dogs — and “a wife.” Comedian Lily Tomlin walked off the show in anger.

In the 1970s, Mr. Everett was the target of three unsuccessful paternity suits by a woman who claimed he was the father of her son, born in 1973. In 1991, the same woman pleaded guilty to leaving more than 100 messages on Mr. Everett’s answering machine, including death threats against him and his wife.

In 1994, Mr. Everett went public with his struggles with alcohol and said he had been sober since the mid-1980s. He was also a major fundraiser for children’s charities and was a co-host with Jerry Lewis of the annual telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

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