Jun 7, 2013

Don Stroud: Robert Conrad's Buddy

My church taught that going to a movie was the worst sin imaginable -- God would strike you dead if you even set foot in a theater.  So my brother and I saw almost none during our childhood, only when an oblivious babysitting uncle took us or when a sleepover involved a movie as entertainment.  In high school, my friend Darry and I occasionally took the bus downtown to "study at the library," and went to a matinee at the Fort Armstrong Theater.

We always looked for "good" movies.  We couldn't exactly articulate what "good" meant, but posters with two guys together always caught our eye.  Especially if the two guys were muscular and shirtless.  A surprising number starred Don Stroud:

1975: Murf the Surf.  A surfer (Don) and his buddy Allan (real life buddy Robert Conrad) plot a jewel heist. They like girls, but they also like each other.  A lot

1977: Sudden Death, with Robert Conrad.  Buddies who like girls go to the Philippines to investigate a series of murders by an evil sugar company, and end up rescuing each other with their shirts off.  This is the first R-rated movie I ever saw.

1978: The Buddy Holly Story.  The rock and roll legend (Gary Busey) and his gay-vague best buddy, drummer Jesse (Don).

1979: Search and Destroy, with Perry King (then known for playing gay and gay-vague characters).  Buddies investigate a murder.

Don Stroud got his start as a world-class surfer hired as Troy Donahue's stunt double on Hawaiian Eye; he would return to surfing later as the Big Kahuna in the recasts of the Gidget series (1985, 1988).

During the 1980s and 1990s he moved into television, appearing in over 175 episodes of a huge number of tv series, including Chips, Knight Rider, The Powers of Matthew Star, and The A-Team.  Most recently he played the evil sheriff  most recently in Django Unchained (2012).

Always a beefcake star, Don took off his shirt in most performances, and appeared nude in Playgirl in 1973.

He had many gay friends and moved in the same circles as Robert Conrad, Robert Wagner, and Nick Adams, yet oddly he was never the subject of any gay rumors.

Married three times, he has retired to his native Hawaii.

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