Robert Conrad — tough-guy star of The Wild Wild West, Baa Baa Black Sheep, and battery commercials — has a landmark birthday today. We’re just not sure which one it is. We think Robert Conrad is turning 75, but it turns out he may be 80.
Here’s the story: We noticed that he looks a little off-kilter in recent years, as in this photo from a Writer’s Guild party in 2006:
That’s his wife, LaVelda Fann Conrad, at center. She turns 50 this year — there seems to be no dispute about that. The IMDB claims she was born in 1960 and says, “She married Robert Conrad in 1977, when she was 17 and Robert was 46.”
Here’s Conrad on how they met:
We did a television show together. She was the reigning Miss National Teenager and was giving up her crown and she was one of the co-hosts of the show. And I saw this beautiful, beautiful young girl and that was how we met. And two years later we were married.
Did he have a stroke or some other medical disaster? Well, not exactly. Turns out he had an accident while driving drunk in 2003, one that left him a) on probation for 5 years, and 2) partly paralyzed. Hence the off-kilter look.
Which brings us back to the original question. Buried at the bottom of that 2003 Associated Press story is this line:
Lavelda Conrad said her husband is 68, but court records indicate he is 73.
“Court records,” eh? We’re inclined to take the AP’s word for it, but we haven’t been able (yet) to find any proof beyond that. Wikipedia claims he was born in 1930 but offers no citation. The IMDB claims 1929.
On the other hand, here’s an (also unsourced) claim that Robert Conrad really was born in 1935, but lied about his age to join the Marines at age 15 during the Korean War. The Korean War started in 1950, so that checks out.
Conrad also has often said that he eloped with his first wife at age 17 in 1952, which matches a 1935 birth — although any actor worth his salt would be perfectly capable of lying about such a thing. But he does claim 1935 consistently, as in this martial arts interview where he says he was 29 when he tried out for The Wild Wild West, which went on the air in 1965.
(We’re not sure whether marrying *another* 17-year-old in 1977 makes his 1952 story more likely or less likely. But somewhere President Tyler is smiling.)
The Library of Congress also has Robert Conrad born in 1935, and they’re often a reliable source.
So, bottom line: We’re intrigued by the AP’s “court records” claim, but we’re sticking with 1935 until we find sturdy proof one way or the other. We’ll keep looking.
And happy birthday, Mr. Conrad, however old you are!
(Photos: George Brandon / WENN.com)