Aaron Spelling, a onetime movie bit player who turned to television production to create a massive number of hit series from the vintage "Charlie's Angels," "Dynasty," "Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island" to "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Melrose Place," has died, his publicist said. He was 83.
Spelling died Friday at his home in Los Angeles after suffering a stroke on June 18, according to publicist Kevin Sasaki.
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. The father's name, Spurling, was simplified to Spelling by an Ellis Island official.
"I grew up thinking 'Jew boy' was one word," the producer wrote in his memoir, "Aaron Spelling: A Prime-Time Life." He was considered strange by his Dallas schoolmates because his parents spoke Yiddish. He was subjected to anti-Semitic taunts and beatings on his way home from school.
Spelling's other hit series included "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, as a boy born without immunities whose life is spent in isolation; "The Best Little Girl in the World" (1981), which starred Jennifer Jason Leigh as a teenage anorexic.
During the 1970s and 1980s, 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."
After ABC cancelled "Dynasty" in 1989 and his contract with the network had ended, Spelling found himself without a show on the air for the first time since 1960.
"I was so depressed, I would have quit, but I like TV too much," Spelling wrote in his memoir. Besides, his company had started issuing stock in 1986, and he had an obligation to his investors. After a year's respite, he returned with "Beverly Hills 90210," which helped launch the fledgling Fox Network into the bigtime. "Melrose Place" gave Fox another hit.
Throughout his career, Spelling maintained the same image: the skinny frame, slightly hawkish face. He usually posed with a pipe in his mouth, a custom he adopted early after seeing stars with pipes in fan magazine photos.
Spelling and his second wife, Candy, had two children, Tori (for Victoria), who became a star on the two Fox serials ("Now I'm known as Tori Spelling's father," he said in mock lament), and Randy, who appeared in the short-lived "Malibu Shores."
Spelling set a record of producing more than 3,000 TV shows. Besides the TV movies, he produced 10 theatrical films including "California Split," "Mr. Mom." "'night, Mother," "Loose Cannons" and "Soapdish.