R.I.P. Kevin Dobson, star of Kojak and Knots Landing
He served in the army and worked as a railroad conductor before becoming an actor.
Image: The Everett Collection
Born to a homemaker mother and a school janitor father, future TV star Kevin Dobson grew up in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens in New York City.
As a young man, he served in the Army and eventually got a job with the Long Island Rail Road. While working as a train conductor, he decided to start auditioning for acting work.
After landing a role in a commercial, he joined the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) while still employed by the railroad. In a 2016 interview he said, "I went to the SAG office and they let me join. I was punching [train] tickets with a SAG card in my wallet."
Dobson's earliest roles came on the soap opera The Doctors, sometimes as a policeman. It was a fitting way to start his career on television.
In 1971, Dobson moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting full time. He made a small, uncredited appearance in the Jane Fonda–Donald Sutherland detective film Klute and acted in an episode of The Mod Squad with Desi Arnaz, Jr.
After gigs on Seventies shows like Ironside, Emergency! and Cannon, Dobson won his breakout role as Bobby Crocker alongside Telly Savalas as the titular character in the detective series Kojak. Dobson auditioned three times before he was cast. He credits his experience in the Army with helping him land the role.
"I was a military policeman in the Army, so I knew how to hold a gun and throw somebody against a wall. I got a call asking if I’d sign a contract," he explained.
During and after Kojak, Dobson starred in many TV movies and a few theatrical ones. He played Ensign George Gay in the 1976 WWII thriller Midway and Barbara Streisand's husband in All Night Long.
After leading his own short-lived detective show, Shannon, Dobson was cast as Patrick "Mack" Mackenzie in the primetime soap Knot’s Landing. He was on the Dallas spinoff from season four through the series finale in 1993.
Outside of acting, Dobson frequently visited VA facilities and was the chairman of the United Veterans Council of San Joaquin County. He even hosted the Veterans Inaugural Balls for Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Kevin Dobson passed away Sunday at the age of 77.