Actor Ross Martin, best known for his role as Artemus Gordon, the master of disguise in the "Wild, Wild West" television series, has died of an apparent heart attack.
Martin, who was 61, collapsed Friday while playing tennis in 100-degree heat at his tennis condominium near San Diego. Although a doctor who was playing on the next court was able to revive Martin using cardiopulmonary resuscitation, he later died at Pomerado Hospital in nearby Poway, a spokesman said.
Martin took a roundabout way to Hollywood.
Born Martin Rosenblatt in Poland, he moved with his family to New York's lower East Side when he was six months old and lived in a tenement district, where he learned to speak four languages.
He was graduated cum laude from the City College of New York and studied for his law degree at the National University School of Law, now part of George Washington University, in Washington.
He worked as a law clerk, a teacher, a testing psychologist, a buyer and a public relations man for a national distillery before choosing the actor's life.
He once said of his background, "I learned a lot about people in different walks of life -- a kind of kaleidoscope of humanity, which I couldn't organize and make sense of. And all that time, burning to act professionally, it was just stored away."
His varied experiences, he said, helped him play the role of Gordon, a government agent, from 1965-69, creating different characters in disguise in every show, from a 90-year-old preacher to a Mexican gunfighter.
Robert Conrad, who starred as James T. West in the series and two subsequent movie specials based on it, said of Martin, "He was a man of culture, very articulate, multilingual and an attorney. I was not from that background. I taught him maneuverability in the streets, and he taught me about a lot of other (cultural) things."
Conrad said Martin was to star as a corporate board chairman in a television series Conrad is producing, scheduled to air in January.
Martin also starred in the television series "Stump the Stars" (1961-64) and "Mr. Lucky" (1959-60). He played the role of Nathan Detroit while touring with "Guys and Dolls" in 1955, and appeared on Broadway in "Hazel Flagg" in 1952 and "Shinbone Alley" in 1957.
Martin played the psychopathic killer in the 1961 suspense film, "Experiment in Terror," and the rogue in Blake Edwards' 1964 comedy, "The Great Race."
In recent years, Martin made guest appearances on "Fantasy Island," "Love Boat" and "Charlie's Angels," and appeared on stage in community theaters.
Martin is survived by his wife of 14 years, Olavee, two daughters and a son.