Aaron Spelling, 83, a onetime movie bit
Aaron Spelling, 83, a onetime movie bit player who created a number of hit series, including the vintage Charlie's Angels and Dynasty, as well as Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place, died yesterday at his home in Los Angeles after suffering a stroke June 18, according to publicist Kevin Sasaki.
Mr. Spelling's other hit series included Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Burke's Law, The Mod Squad, Starsky and Hutch, T.J. Hooker, Matt Houston, Hart to Hart and Hotel. He kept his hand in 21st-century TV with series including 7th Heaven and Summerland.
He also produced more than 140 television movies. Among the most notable: Death Sentence (1974), Nick Nolte's first starring role; The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (1976), John Travolta's first dramatic role; and The Best Little Girl in the World (1981), which starred Jennifer Jason Leigh.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Mr. Spelling provided series and movies exclusively for ABC and is credited for the network's rise to major status. Jokesters referred to it as the "Aaron Broadcasting Company."
Success was not without its thorns. TV critics denounced Mr. Spelling for fostering fluff and nighttime soap operas. He called his shows "mind candy;" critics referred to them as "mindless candy."
"The knocks by the critics bother you," he acknowledged in a 1986 interview with the Associated Press.
"But you have a choice of proving yourself to 300 critics or 30 million fans. You have to make a choice. I think you're also categorized by the critics. If you do something good, they almost don't want to like it."
He liked to point to some of his more creditable achievements, such as Family (1976-1980), a drama about a middle-class family, and The Best Little Girl in the World.
Among his prestige films for TV: Day One (1988), about an atomic blast in middle America; And the Band Played On (1992), based on Randy Shilts' book about the AIDS crisis.
Mr. Spelling arrived in Hollywood virtually penniless in the early 1950s. By the 1980s, Forbes magazine estimated his wealth at $300 million. He enjoyed his status, working in a Hollywood office larger than those of golden-era moguls ("I'm slightly claustrophpobic," he explained.) He gave his second wife, Candy, a 40-carat diamond ring.
The Spellings' most publicized extravagance was their 56,500-square-foot French chateau in Holmby Hills.
The couple bought the former Bing Crosby estate for $10 million. It was leveled, along with two other houses. Construction cost was estimated at $12 million.
Mr. Spelling grew up in a small frame house on Browder Street in Dallas "on the wrong side of the tracks," he wrote in his 1996 autobiography. He was the fourth son of immigrant Jews, his father from Poland, mother from Russia. His father's name, Spurling, was simplified to Spelling by an Ellis Island official.
Mr. Spelling enlisted in the Army Air Forces after graduating from high school in 1942.
After combat and organizing entertainment in Europe during the war, Mr. Spelling returned to Texas and enrolled at Southern Methodist University, where he wrote and directed plays. He continued working in local theatrics after graduating.
Finding no work in New York, Mr. Spelling moved to Los Angeles, where he staged plays and acted in more than 40 TV shows and 12 movies. His skinny frame suited him for the role of a ragged beggar in the MGM musical Kismet. He worked for three weeks, repeating his one line: "Alms for the love of Allah."
E. Pierce Marshall, 67, who feuded for years with former Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith over his father's oil fortune, has died, his spokesman said yesterday.
Mr. Marshall died unexpectedly Tuesday evening in the Dallas area of a brief and extremely aggressive infection, the family said.