Lee Majors – The Six Million Dollar Man Who Proved to Be Priceless

Duh-nuh-nuh-nuh! Cue some slow-motion running, some sha-ta-ta-ta-ta sound effects, finish it off with an incredible, six-million-dollar leap, and there you have it – you’ve just created a scene that pretty much every ’70s kids aspired to recreate. And the man responsible for playing it out all too perfectly was the iconic and bionic superhero – Lee Majors.

A portrait of Lee Majors when he was young / Lee majors and Farrah Fawcett hugging and smiling / Lee and Faith Majors when they are older hugging and smiling

Source: Shutterstock / Photo by Kobal, Shutterstock / Moviestore, Shutterstock / Moviestore, Shutterstock

Despite not having survived a six million dollar crash, Lee’s personal life proved to be just as turbulent…well, almost. From uncovering a dark, childhood secret to marrying numerous wives to missing out on an Oscar-nominated role, his life deserves a series of its own. Let’s take a closer look at the man who simply wanted to become a football coach but ended up in a fight with Bigfoot.

A Dramatic Beginning

Lee’s childhood is something out of a movie. He was born on April 23, 1939, in Wyandotte, Michigan, where he was raised by two people he thought were his parents. But after he found a pile of old articles describing two horrific accidents, he realized that both of his parents were, in fact, dead.

A portrait of Lee Majors when he was young

Photo by Kobal/Shutterstock

His dad had died in a steel mill accident a little before he was born, and his mom died after she was hit by a drunk driver on her way to work. So, at one year old, Lee Majors was already an orphan. He was overwhelmed to discover that the man and woman who took him in were actually his aunt and uncle. Instead of falling into despair, Majors claimed, “I made up my mind right then, that my stepparents would never regret having adopted me.”

One Accident Changed the Course of His Life

Before any wild cowboy stunts, Majors was on the football field slamming touchdowns. He was set on becoming a successful football player and was even granted a scholarship to pursue his athletic dream in college. The future seemed bright enough for young Majors, but then tragedy struck. During one of his games, he was involved in an accident that changed the course of his life.

Young Lee Majors with hands in his pockets smiling

Source: Pinterest

He suffered a painful blow to his back that left him paralyzed for a couple of weeks. Although he recovered, the experience was so startling that Lee decided to reconsider his athletic ambitions. He finished school with a degree in history and physical education, but his mind was already set on something else – acting.

The New James Dean

Lee moved to Los Angeles and became friends with many influential people, including actors and producers. He was encouraged to take up acting and decided to enroll himself in school. After one quick year, Lee felt ready enough to throw himself into the game. He landed small roles here and there, and the word around town was that he was the “new James Dean.”

Lee Majors in a policeman uniform

Photo by Moviestore/Shutterstock

His first serious gig was in 1965 when he played on The Big Valley, and it was a huge deal. He was picked out of over 400 young actors, and he beat some well-known figures like actor Burt Reynolds. The show ran for four seasons, and by the end of it, Majors was famous.

Becoming the World’s Bionic Hero

The Six Million Dollar Man began as a TV movie on ABC, and it became such a hit that fans begged for more. Their prayers were answered, and producers turned the film into a series that ran from 1974-1978. Lee played the role of Steve Austin, an ex-astronaut whose body had to be rebuilt with bionics after surviving a crash. Reborn as a cyborg, Lee’s character became a special agent with $6 million worth of metals to sustain his body.

Lee Majors in front of a helicopter

Photo by Moviestore/Shutterstock

Lee was gaining major recognition due to the show, but controversy began in 1977 when he believed that his contract should be renegotiated. Rumors spread that Lee was demanding more money, but his manager denied them and claimed that he just wanted to involve his production company, Fawcett Majors Productions, in future seasons. Either way, ratings began to decline, and in 1978, the show was taken off the air.

Lee Thought The Six Million Dollar Man Was “Too Cutesy”

With his athletic build and fierce stare, Lee Majors was the ultimate bionic hero. It’s hard to imagine anyone else flying over fences and throwing high kicks like that. But Lee wasn’t enthusiastic about the role at first. “It was too cutesy,” he confessed, ““I mean, they had a theme song with Dusty Springfield singing ‘The Six Million Dollar Man,’ you know? It was all jazzed up.”

Lee Major jumping over a haystack

Photo by Abc-Tv/Kobal/Shutterstock

Lee didn’t want to play the role of some hybrid version of James Bond and Batman, but producers promised him it wouldn’t be that way, so he agreed. Still, throughout his $6 million career, the actor occasionally nudged the network to tone down the whole bionic craze. We’re just glad Lee agreed to the part, and we have a feeling that so is he.

Lee Didn’t Enjoy Flaunting His Body

When it comes to the silver screen or any screen for that matter, we all know what sells. This isn’t to say that talent isn’t something viewers appreciate, but the director of Six Million Dollar Man knew what he was doing when he urged Lee to show off his chest a bit more. He would say, “Come on, Lee. Just two more buttons. Do it for the ladies.”

Lindsay Wagner and Lee Majors sitting in a car and holding hands

Lindsay Wagner and Lee Majors 1974. Photo by Moviestore/Shutterstock

Being a sensible man, Lee always felt ridiculous in those moments because he knew that there was no logical reason to take off his shirt. But he was professional about it and understood that there were certain things beyond his control. He admits that he grew a newfound appreciation and respect for what women go through in the industry.

A Steady Career

The end of the hit show was far from being the end of Lee’s career. He went on to play in another action-packed series, The Fall Guy, that ran between 1981-1986. Unlike The Six Million Dollar Man, Lee was a lot more involved in this show’s production, and when it ended in 1986, the actor had officially made a name for himself as a talented creator in show business.

Doug Barr and Lee Majors wearing Hawaiian shirts

Doug Barr and Lee Majors. Photo by Abc-Tv/Kobal/Shutterstock

Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, he appeared steadily on both big and small screens. He reunited with his Six Million Dollar role for three bionic TV movies and even entered the world of comedy when he was asked to play himself in the 1988 holiday movie, Scrooged. He has been in the industry for over 50 years and is truly one of the most impressive and professional actors out there.

Lee’s College Sweetheart

Lee married his college sweetheart, Kathy Robinson, in 1961, a few years before he became a huge star. A year later, the couple welcomed their son Lee Jr., and shortly thereafter, made the decision to move from Kentucky to Los Angeles. It wasn’t a smooth transition. According to Lee, money was tight, and he became depressed.

Lee Jr sitting in his father’s lap

Lee Majors with his son Lee Jr. Source: Pinterest

Clearly, moving to the City of Angels wasn’t a good idea for their relationship. Lee was struggling to find a job and Kathy worked as a bank teller. They barely saw each other, and communication between the two was practically nonexistent towards the end. In 1964, they called it quits and the family broke up. Kathy and her son left Los Angeles and Lee was on his own.

The Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie of Their Time

Farrah Fawcett was new to Los Angeles when Lee’s agent laid eyes on her. He scurried to the actor to let him know that a youthful blonde had arrived in town, and Lee instantly took action. He left her a message: “Tell Farrah Fawcett that Lee Majors called and will pick her up at 7:30 for dinner.”

Farrah Fawcett and Lee majors standing in a convertible car

Photo by Mediapunch/Shutterstock

Farrah wasn’t a fan of his pretentious tone, and Lee quickly apologized and rephrased his invitation. They went out, bonded over some scotch and a coke, and well, the rest is history. People were obsessed with this new fascinating couple. They were both young, attractive, and in the prime of their careers. People were hooked.

Lee Chose Farrah’s Infamous Poster

Remember that poster that was probably on every teenager’s wall in the ’80s? Farrah’s bouncy blonde hair spilling over a tiny red swimsuit as she flashed that perfectly carved out smile of hers? Well, you can thank Lee for that. Out of all of the pictures from that photo shoot, Lee knew which one would drive the world absolutely mad.

Farrah Fawcett wearing a red shirt standing in a field

Photo by Kobal/Shutterstock

Lee enthusiastically informed People Magazine, “I picked out the poster, the famous one! I picked out the picture. You probably don’t know why! That’s the biggest selling poster ever.” While the rest of us had to suffice with a poster on a wall, Lee was lucky enough to see that smile right up close. Oh well, better than nothing.

Paparazzi Made It Hard for the Couple to Get Around

Both Lee and Farrah were just at the beginning of their careers when they tied the knot in 1973. Young and in love, they had no idea of the hardships they were about to endure in the face of Hollywood’s relentless media. In an interview for People, Lee recalled that the paparazzi were the worst and that it was “hard to get around.”

Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett

Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett sighted on February 1, 1976, at Le Ristorante in Beverly Hills, California. Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

The couple’s tight schedules made things even harder. Lee recalled a full year where they only saw each other for two short weeks. Naturally, a large and irreversible gap began to form between them. What began as a homey routine of eating dinner together digressed into an estranged and sad heartache. The couple divorced in 1982.

Majors Was Jealous of Farrah’s Success

If there’s anything that fascinates people more than a good love story – it’s a good breakup. The A-listers’ separation was all over the news, and rumors swarmed one after the other. One claim for their divorce was that Majors couldn’t handle his wife’s success. She was no longer at home cooking compliantly waiting for him to return from work.

Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett wearing white and dancing

Photo by Globe Photos/Shutterstock

Lee strongly rejected that rumor, and we obviously don’t know if there’s really any truth to it. But an interview that Farrah did with People Magazine in 1979 seemed to hint that it was not completely false. Farrah stated, “When Lee married me, he married a very compliant person who just wanted to cook his meals, clean his house and be dependent. I still like to cook his meals and clean his house, but I’m not dependent anymore.”

An Emotional Farewell

After their split, Farrah and Lee became practically strangers, and each moved on with their lives. 23 years later, in 2009, tragedy brought them back together, but only for a 40-minute conversation on the phone. It was the actress’s 62nd birthday, and her life was in turmoil as she was battling cancer. Lee dialed her number and waited for his long-lost love to pick up.

Farrah Fawcett being transported in a wheelchair

Farrah Fawcett arriving at a clinic in Germany 2009. Photo by Willi Schneider/Shutterstock

The conversation was an emotional closure full of memories, jokes, and sincere words. A source let US Weekly know that the actor had been looking to talk to his ex-wife for a long time, “He didn’t feel like he could reach out to her himself — it had just been too long, but he still cared about her deeply. He would send funny messages to her through friends, and she would do the same, and it was very sweet.” A few months after the call, in June, Farrah passed away.

A Full Time Dad

Lee’s third marriage was to Puerto Rican model and Playboy’s playmate of the year, Karen Velez. The two married in 1988 and moved to Florida, where they had three children, twins Dane and Trey, and daughter Nikki. It seemed like Lee, who was in his 50s at the time, was finally settling into family life.

Lee Majors and Karen Velez standing holding wine glasses

Lee Majors and Karen Velez. Photo by Bei/Shutterstock

But in 1994, after six years of marriage, the couple called it quits. Lee has never parted from fatherhood, though, and he remains a dedicated dad to his kids. One of his sons, Dane Luke, has caught the acting bug himself and is slowly building his portfolio. He has already appeared in the thriller Alone and has recently finished working on another horror film, Severed Road.

Meeting His Rock

Lee was going through a difficult time before he met his fourth wife, Faith Cross, whom he refers to as “his rock.” He confessed, “When Faith met me, I’m an old man with a limp. I’m paralyzed, very unhappy, and drinking a little too much vodka. She turned me into standing straight and proud!”

Lee and Faith Major on the red carpet

Lee and Faith Major at the Academy Awards 2006. Photo by Jim Smeal/BEI/Shutterstock

Their first date was at the Superbowl in 1995, and Lee surely felt like his young self again. He was out on the football field again (in the crowd, but still), with a woman 35 years younger on his arm. But don’t be mistaken, the bionic man didn’t rush into this marriage carelessly. With three failed marriages behind him, he claimed that he was very hesitant at first with his newfound love.

Fourth Time’s a Charm

Lee took a leap of “faith” (wink wink) when he decided to wed his beautiful new lover in 2002. But the couple’s evident age gap caused a lot of people to raise their eyebrows and whisper pernicious rumors. Faith was 27 at the time, and Lee was 62. Sounds like a classic case of a woman who is craving the life of the rich and the famous.

Lee and Faith Major hugging and smiling

Photo by Jim Smeal/BEI/Shutterstock

But Lee was right to call Faith his “rock.” She still stands strong beside her man and hasn’t let the gossip interfere with her authentic feelings. They’ve been married for almost 20 years and look blissfully in love. On the day of their marriage, Lee vowed, “I do – and it’ll be forever.” Looks like he’s keeping his promise.

His Favorite Role Hits Close to Home

From cyborg agent to Barkley cowboy to Hollywood stuntman, Lee played some memorable roles throughout his career. He dedicated himself completely to each one and wasn’t afraid to speak up when he didn’t like what scriptwriters were making of his character. So which role is Lee’s favorite? Surprisingly, it isn’t Colonel Steve Austin.

Lee r Majors sitting in a director's chair looking at the valley

Lee Majors sitting in the director’s chair on the set of the film “The Big Valley.” Photo by Mediapunch/Shutterstock

It’s Heath Barkley from The Big Valley. Lee stated, “This one was a character that hit home with me,” He then added, “To this day, Six Mill was the hottest series I did, even though, for me, it’s Big Valley I liked very much.” Like his character, Lee’s family ties are complicated as well, and he is forever grateful for the people who took him in.

His Hidden Skill

This heroic stuntman looks like he can pretty much do it all. But there’s one thing he enjoys doing that might come as a surprise. Devoted fans might know this, but for those of you who don’t, Lee is the voice behind the theme song, Unknown Stuntman, for the TV series he starred in, The Fall Guy.

Lee Majors holding Heather Thomas, who wears a helmet

Lee Majors and Heather Thomas in the series “The Fall Guy.” Photo by Moviestore/Shutterstock

He also sang “Sweet Jaime” in Six Million Dollar Man. While his skills are debatable, there’s one die-hard fan that can’t get enough of his voice: his faithful wife, Faith. In an interview, Lee was asked what his hidden skills are, and he admitted, “My wife Faith says I’m a comedian and that I can sing.” Adorable.

A Child-Free Marriage

Faith might have been Lee’s fourth wife, but she was still a young woman in her 20s when they got married. Many assumed that she would be interested in expanding the family, but after 18 years together, it’s evident that the couple isn’t heading in that direction.

Lee and Faith Major laughing to each other

Photo by Joanne Davidson/Shutterstock

Maybe being kid-free is the key to a long-lasting marriage? It certainly is for Lee. The couple hasn’t spoken out about their reasons, but they seem incredibly content with their relationship and that’s the most important thing.

How Rich Is the Bionic Man?

Lee Majors has earned a lot more than $6 million in his long and steady career. After 50 plus years in the business, how much is he actually worth? We’re assuming that there were moments when his net was way higher, but at present, he is worth around $15 million (still an outrageous amount).

A portrait of Lee majors

Lee Majors 2020. Photo by MediaPunch/Shutterstock

This bionic hero is able to live perfectly well with what he’s got and knows when to stop if he’s feeling exhausted, even if that means giving up a tempting sum of money. He explained in an interview with CBR, “After five years of doing “Fall Guy,” I had really burnt out, physically, mentally and everything. They wanted a sixth year, and I just said, ‘No, I can’t do it.’ I turned down $24 million – and my agent and business manager have been crying ever since!”

He Turned Down an Oscar-Nominated Role

Generally speaking, Lee Majors has no regrets about his career, and he’s never explicitly said he regrets this choice either. But we can’t help but think that in retrospect, he might have regretted this decision, especially considering that the person who got the role instead of him landed an Oscar nomination.

Jon Voight dressing as a cowboy

Jon Voight at the film “Midnight Cowboy.” Photo by Moviestore/Shutterstock

We’re talking about the role of Joe Buck in the 1969 film Midnight Cowboy. It was originally offered to Majors – who could have done an outstanding job as a Texan hustler – but because he was committed at the time to The Big Valley, the role was given to rising star Jon Voight.

Lee and Farrah Inspired “A Midnight Train to Georgia”

“L.A. proved too much for the man, he’s taking a midnight train to Georgia…” Except it wasn’t actually a train, it was a plane, and instead of Georgia, it was Houston. But the song is still great, and we have Lee and Farrah to thank for it. Country songwriter Jim Weatherly spoke with Farrah on the phone, and one sentence caught his attention in particular.

Jim Weatherly sitting leaning on his fist

Country songwriter Jim Weatherly. Source: Pinterest

He originally called their house to speak to Lee, but Farrah answered and told him he had taken a midnight plane to Houston. Those words caught the songwriter’s attention, but when it was recorded in 1973, soul singer Cissy Houston (Whitney’s mom) decided to switch it up a bit – her people were from Georgia and didn’t travel by plane.

What He Really Thinks of Max the Bionic Dog

There are so many spin-offs to Six Million Dollar Man, and Lee has stated quite a few times that he finds the whole bionic craze to be a bit ridiculous. When producers informed Lee that they wanted to add a German shepherd named Max on the show, he laughed.

Lee Majors trying to tie a tiger with a rope

Lee majors in the series “The Six Million Dollar.” Photo by Abc-Tv/Kobal/Shutterstock

“I said, “No way. You can’t put a Bionic Dog on my show, you can put it on The Bionic Woman show, she loves dogs.” Lee added, “They did a Bionic Boy too. Y’know, when networks find a hit show they, well, it’s like instead of giving you one scoop of ice cream, they wanna sell you pints of ice cream, different colors. It’s the same ice cream! Anything that was Bionic, they tried to sell it.”

He’s the Leader of the Vice City Bikers

Well, only in the fictional world of Vice City. If you’ve ever played the 2002 version of Grand Theft Auto, you might recognize Mitch Baker’s voice. The man behind, “This whole damn country needs a kick in the ass, and we’re the ones to deliver it,” is none other than the Six-Million-Dollar man himself.

A man playing the computer game Grand Theft Auto

Photo by Digital Beach Media/Shutterstock

The game is set in 1986, and the creators made sure to bring in famous voices from that era to play the parts. Burt Reynolds, Debby Harry, Philip Michael Thomas, and Gary Busey have also granted their voices to create the Miami inspired city. Whether on the silver screen or in video games, Lee is one tough guy.

He Suffered Some Serious Injuries

Lee admitted that he suffered quite a few injuries while filming The Six Million Dollar Man. In an interview at MCM’s Birmingham show, he stated, “I had my ribs broken twice, both times on horses. One time, I broke my nose on set.” But being the professional that he is, Lee remembers saying, “Let’s hurry and get the close-ups done before it swells up!”

Lee Major fighting a bear

Photo by Abc-Tv/Kobal/Shutterstock

Lee wishes he had asked his stunt man to do some more of the work instead of him, like running and jumping off buildings. After more than 50 years in the business, he feels like he should have taken better care of his body. In that same interview, Lee joked, “I feel like I need bionic knees now.”

A Man of Faith

When Lee appeared in the Christian drama, Do You Believe, fans wondered whether he related to this project on a personal level. In an interview with Den of Geek, Lee stated that he agreed to the role because he liked that the film was family-oriented. He didn’t want any bloodshed or action, just some good-ole gestures of faith.

Mira Sorvino and Lee Majors standing smiling

Mira Sorvino and Lee Majors in the film premiere of “Do You Believe” 2015. Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Shutterstock

He added, “I was raised going to church in Kentucky, that’s just the way we were brought up. Had to go to church on Sunday.” Lee feels that the theological film is just what America needs and doesn’t know why Hollywood isn’t producing more of these. Well, not everyone agrees. The movie got some mixed reviews, some people loved it while others called it “Christian trash.”

Lee Enjoyed Pranking Others on Set

Filming The Six Million Dollar Man was not only an exciting experience filled with stunts and crazy scenes, but it was also pretty hysterical. Apart from playing the lead character, Lee was apparently the lead prankster on set as well. He loved to joke around and would come up with all sorts of mischievous plans.

Lee Major as Colonel Steve Austin smiling

Photo by Abc-Tv/Kobal/Shutterstock

A source who previously worked with the actor recalled that Lee once glued someone’s boots to the floor, and when the person realized he was stuck, Lee hurriedly threw ice cubes at his feet and ran off laughing. Life can get pretty tense when you’re working as a special agent, and we don’t blame the guy for wanting a little something to break the ice.

His Name Reflects His Love of Football

Changing one’s name is a lot more common than most people think, especially among celebrities, whose names appear on magazines, billboards, and the silver screen. Elton John used to be Reginald, Vin Deisel is actually Mark Sinclair and Lee Majors? Harvey Lee Yeary.

Lee majors wearing a cowboy hat

Photo by Kobal/Shutterstock

We think he nailed it. Lee Majors definitely rolls off your tongue better than Harvey Yeary. So how did Lee come up with the name? We all know how much he loves his football, so it’s no surprise he took his name from the legendary player Johnny Majors.

Forever Running in Hollywood’s Museum

In 2019, life-sized mannequins of Lee and his bionic partner, Lindsay Wagner, were placed in the Hollywood Museum. The presentation ceremony was an emotional evening for Lee, who was extremely touched by this sudden tribute. Los Angeles Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell stated, “Lee Majors is more than the Six Million Dollar Man — I would call him priceless.”

Lee Majors and Lindsay Wagner combining hands and smiling

Lee Majors and Lindsay Wagner at the Rome Fiction Fest photocall 2008. Photo by Luigi Narici/Shutterstock

Humbled and flattered, Lee responded with, “Most of all, I thank the good Lord above for giving me the opportunity to entertain millions and millions of people around the world. For the past fifty-six years, I always ends every job I’ve got with a ‘Thank you, Father.’” We’re sure the viewers who grew up with this bionic hero are forever thankful as well.

© 2021 living magazine all rights reserved

Design and Code by elevate