Where Are They Now (Biography Magazine, 2002)

When Robert Stack was presented with the Hollywood Legend Award last year, he accepted graciously but bristled a little at the title be-stowed upon him.

"I'm no legend," he maintains. "When I hear the word legend, I think about the guys I knew and respected mightily when I grew up: Clark Gable, who was basically my surrogate father after my dad died when I was 9, and Gary Cooper and Spencer Tracy. These guys were legends."

Stack might protest, but he's a legend too.

The man perhaps best known as TV's Eliot Ness began his acting career more than 60 years ago opposite Deanna Durbin in First Love (1939). He earned an Oscar nomination for Written on the Wind (1956), won an Emmy in 1960 as Ness in "The Untouchables" (1959-63), and served as host of TV's "Unsolved Mysteries" for an entire decade (1988-99). He also poked fun at his straight arrow image in the 1980 film spoof Airplane!

To this day, Stack is recognized the world over as Ness. Once, mobster Sam Giancana even mistook Stack for his real-life counterpart and hid from him. "If you play a character long enough, you become that character in the eyes of viewers," Stack says. "But here's Public Enemy No. 1, head of Murder, Inc., and he thinks I'm the real Eliot Ness! It can't get any goofier."

Stack-who lives in Los Angeles with his wife of 45 years, former actress Rosemarie Bowe-next appears in A View From the Top, a movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow. His role, he notes, is just a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo. "But it was fun." There's also the possibility he will host a TV project profiling WWII heroes.

Now 83, the former world-class athlete (he was a champion skeet shooter at 16) is still in terrific shape. "I've gotten into the old gentlemen's game of golf. And I go to the gym three times a week. I still shoot and I'm on the U.S. Olympic committee. These are the things that keep me off the streets."

2002, Biography Magazine.

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