Kicking off today’s list of classic TV birthdays is Barbi Benton. The one-time girlfriend of Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner had multiple guest appearances on 70s’ staples Fantasy Island and The Love Boat, and also headlined short-lived sitcom Sugar Time! Benton turns 64 today.
Other January 28 birthdays include Susan Howard (70), who guested on dozens of classic shows, and was later a regular on Petrocelli and Dallas). John Beck (71) appeared on shows like Bonanza, I Dream of Jeannie and The Mod Squad. He was a regular on James Garner’s quickly- cancelled western Nichols, later he was seen on primetime soaps Dallas and Flamingo Road.
One more “major” birthday, or should we say Captain…as in Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce. Actor Alan Alda played that role on the long-running comedy-drama M*A*S*H and turns 78 today. Alda guested on 1960s classics Naked City and Route 66, then followed M*A*S*H with a hosting role on the PBS series Scientific American Frontiers. He also had a major role on The West Wing.
Classic TV stars also sharing a January 28 birthday but since passed: John Banner (guested on classics including The Lone Ranger, Mister Ed and The Partridge Family, regular on Hogan’s Heroes), Joel Crothers (Dark Shadows, later on Santa Barbara), Maurice Gosfield (The Phil Silvers Show, Top Cat) and Arnold Moss (guested on Bonanza, The Rifleman, Star Trek.)
A number of classic TV favorites passed on this day, including the aforementioned John Banner. The actor who played Sergeant Schultz (I know nothing! I see nothing! I hear nothing!) on Hogan’s Heroes died on his 63rd birthday. Henry McGee was an announcer and cast member of the British comedy-variety series The Benny Hill Show.
Another January 28 passing was character actor Hal Smith. The versatile Smith had an impressive 6 decade career, including guest appearances on The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, The Brady Bunch, Green Acres and I Married Joan. He also did extensive cartoon voiceovers on Clutch Cargo, The Flintstones and Space Angel.
Hal Smith was the voice of Goliath on the Christian stop-motion animated series Davey and Goliath too. His best known role? Many would say Otis Campbell, the town drunk on The Andy Griffith Show.