Lee Majors looks back on the bionic man, Bigfoot and Farrah Fawcett

Nov. 29, 2010 | 11:15 a.m.
six million dollar man Lee Majors looks back on the bionic man, Bigfoot and Farrah Fawcett

Lee Majors as Steve Austin on "The Six Million Dollar Man" (ABC)

Almost 40 years ago, when he was considering the starring role in a television movie about a “bionic man,” Lee Majors had one major worry: “The big hits at the time were, like, Batman, you know how campy that was,”  Majors recalled. “I said, ‘If you’re thinking about making this a camp character, I don’t want to do it.'”

“The Six Million Dollar Man” wasn’t camp at all, and that choice proved to be right on the money for the landmark sci-fi adventure series. But now, in a wry twist of fate, Majors is working with SyFy on a comedy spoof  in which he is the bionic mentor to a younger hero. “Hey, what goes around comes around,” joked the easy-going Majors, who starred in eight television series — three of them big hits — and always looked so serene as he ran in slow motion through 1970s pop culture.

bigfoot and bionic man Lee Majors looks back on the bionic man, Bigfoot and Farrah Fawcett

Andre the Giant and Lee Majors (ABC)

The signature success of his career is now getting its due with the elaborate 40-disc boxed set “The Six Million Dollar Man: The Complete Collection” ($239.95; TimeLife, available only at TimeLife’s website for a limited time and then later going on sale everywhere). Inside are all five seasons (1974 to 1978) packaged in individual boxes, along with the six original made-for-TV movies (three of them reunion projects in 1987, 1988 and 1994), all the crossover episodes with spin-off series “The Bionic Woman” and hours of interviews and commentary tracks.

It’s a bit staggering as a massive television time capsule,  but Majors said he won’t be seeing a big check in the mail after the holiday shopping season. “If I see any money from it, it’ll be very little,” the 71-year-old said affably, adding that he enjoyed his peak fame long before anyone knew to ask for a cut of syndication and boxed-set sales. “But it’s a good excuse to get out and talk to people.”

Majors is absolutely in public-engagement mode these days. For the first time in his life, Majors has begun to attend conventions, where he gets to see old friends like Richard Anderson and even Lindsay Wagner, not to mention fans clutching all sorts of toys. “It was amazing what people would bring in for me to sign,” says Majors, who also starred in “The Big Valley” and “The Fall Guy.” “There’s so much memorabilia I’ve never seen before. Board games, albums, comic books and all kinds of limbs from my body.”

lee majors and producer kenneth johnson1 Lee Majors looks back on the bionic man, Bigfoot and Farrah Fawcett

The real Majors had open-heart surgery in 2003, but the work has been steady in recent years, such as playing God on “According To Jim” and fun turns on the subversive Showtime hit “Weeds,” the NBC sitcom “Community” and the Fox action series “Human Target,” which is a contemporary counterpart in spirit to the bionic hit of the 1970s. The new work is what keeps Majors running, but he knows the boxed set will spark even more interest in his days as the machine man of the ABC network.

The show, based on the 1972 novel “Cyborg” by the late Martin Caidin, had plenty of touchstones, and the boxed collection runs with them.  The set’s front features a 3D lenticular image of Majors in the role of Steve Austin, the astronaut who suffered massive injuries in a terrible crash but was implanted with cutting-edge technology that gave him superhuman speed, superhuman strength (in one arm) and superhuman telescopic vision (in one eye). Tilt the box back and forth and Austin starts running. You have to provide your own metallic-echo sound effect the way kids have done in schoolyard exploits for decades, but open the lid and you hear Anderson’s voice-over intro to the series (“Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology…”).

Majors has listened to fans recite that opening for decades. They also routinely mention two elements of the show: the Bionic Woman (for which Wagner won an Emmy) and Bigfoot, the hirsute giant that gave Austin his most sizable challenge and, through the performance by 7-foot-4 wrestler Andre the Giant, an unforgettable image for fans of the show.

“We just got so much tremendous response from them,” Majors said about the multi-episode appearance of the creature. “Everybody loved them.  People now believe there still is a Bigfoot. People go out there searching for this thing…. Andre was so big. We had this scene, we were out in the woods and he throws me about 10 yards and then he’s supposed to take a big run and jump up and land right on top of me. He throws me and I’m laying there and it’s a sunny day and the sun is in my eyes. All of a sudden, this dark cloud appears and he blocks the sun. I’m closing my eyes and waiting to be pancaked. And he did not even touch me. That’s how good he was. Those professional wrestlers are something else. That was one time I really thought I was going to get it.”

Majors knows about getting walloped. The Detroit native played football at Eastern Kentucky University but a severe back injury during a game left him incapacitated and unsure if he’d ever walk again. “I was in the hospital for two days, but it seemed more like two weeks,” Majors said. That ended his college career, and he headed to Los Angeles to take acting classes and work a job in the city parks system — a job he held even after landing the pilot for the western “The Big Valley,” starring Barbara Stanwyck. Aware of how fickle TV can be, Majors took a leave of absence on his city job rather than quitting outright. The skepticism lasted even after the series was picked up, and Majors only officially left his job a few years later.

lee majors and farrah fawcett Lee Majors looks back on the bionic man, Bigfoot and Farrah Fawcett

Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett from third season of "The Six Million Dollar Man" (Universal Television/ABC)

The role of Heath Barkley on the show gave him a catch phrase – “Boy howdy!” – which might have been a lesser man’s only claim to fame. Indeed, when the show was unexpectedly picked up for a final season, Majors had to turn down a role in “Midnight Cowboy.” Jon Voight famously went on wear the cowboy hat in that film, which won the Oscar for best picture of 1969. (On a positive note, a feature-film version of “The Big Valley” — with Majors now playing the father of Heath — is tantalizingly close to happening.)

More TV work followed “Big Valley,” and Majors worked with talent like producer Aaron Spelling on an early TV movie about Vietnam vets and director Steven Spielberg in one of the wunderkind’s first assignments at Universal. Then came “The Six Million Dollar Man.” Like “The A-Team” in the 1980s, it was a bloodless action show, one reason Majors believes it proved such a hit for families.

“We never killed anybody,” says Majors. “We’d walk away [after a fight] and you’d see them getting up or rolling around. You knew they were alive. We didn’t use a lot of blood. It was basically a father-son, father-daughter show. A lot of kids watched it and they emulated it. I hope I wasn’t responsible for any broken bones.”

Majors insists that even though it and “The Bionic Woman” were in the Top 10, the impact the show had never really sank in. “When I was not working, I had a little place up in Arizona where I would spend my off time,” Majors said.“I didn’t have a television or a phone. I just fished and would grow a beard and hide out. I knew it was a big show and in the Top 10 but I never thought about how big it really was.”

But surely the tabloid madness surrounding him and then-wife Farrah Fawcett couldn’t be ignored?

“Well, we did have a problem then because she was doing ‘Charlie’s Angels,'” Majors says, moving on to discuss their divorce. “I saw her two weeks in one year, so that’s what happened to that. It wasn’t anything other than we didn’t have time to see each other.”

The 1980s brought the hit series “The Fall Guy,” which gave the guy’s-guy actor a chance to work with practically every stuntman in Hollywood. He hoped it would separate his career from his bionic days, and it did — to a degree. “I jumped at ‘The Fall Guy’ when it came along because I thought it might help me get rid of the Steve Austin image,” Majors said. “It didn’t, really. Everywhere you go that’s the one they remember. It doesn’t matter because I can say I’ve done eight other series and I’m still working. I can say I wanna be just like Ernie Borgnine when I grow up – 93 and still working.”

— Michael Giltz


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55 Responses to Lee Majors looks back on the bionic man, Bigfoot and Farrah Fawcett

  1. JackT. says:

    Lee Majors is absolutely the coolest guy on the planet! I have loved him from day one and will continue to follow his work and admire him as an actor. I wish him only the best and continued success in life, he truly deserves it, what a humble human being for all that he has done! Amazing!!

    • Scott J Curtis says:

      Lee Majors was a natural for the role of Steve Austin. I don't believe anyone can be right for the role of the Bionic man, like Malors. Thank you, again Mr.Majors. Always admired you as an actor.

      Scott J Curtis

  2. sam says:

    how do these guys still look so good?

  3. tammy music says:

    lee majors is the sexiest man i adore him i have several of his items from the show he will always be my favorite actor.

  4. tammy music says:

    i love lee majors he is so hot and always will be may he continue great success in life.

  5. amigo de tong says:

    he's also an awesome professional scuba diver, as seems as a frequent guest on 1980s Scuba World television series…

  6. Guest says:

    very cool actor. very cool article.

  7. drx1 says:

    Never knew Andre the Giant played Big Foot… kinda cool. That chick – in the USA jumpsuit looks really familiar (next to the USSR chick). I'm thinking Sandra Bullock?

    Yeah, even in this day and age, there are no real bionics – though maybe in the next 10 to 20 years we will have something close to a real "bionic" man…. or woman.

    • Angie says:

      Yes, that was Sandra's first breakout role. She played the first bionic girl and can run, jump, and had more strength than the bionic man or woman.

    • joe says:

      Yes.there are real bionics.no you can't lift a car or jump from the ground to a second story window.but what we do have now is impressive.

  8. carolyn says:

    I absolutely adored lee majors and lindsay wagner:):) they amused me through a difficult childhood….I will forever be grateful for that, I have the Six Million Dollar Man series and will continue to buy Bionic Woman as it is released. I LOVE THEM BOTH!!!

  9. Nadeem Raza says:

    I wish I could ever have a pic with Lee Majors, the Six Million Dollar Man.

  10. Sherlene krigbaum says:

    I love Lee Majors he is true one of kind a real man and is my hero forever never will he b a zero ur so sexy so hotttt love ur looks the way u walk t

    he way u talk everything about you love always Sherlene Krigbaum

  11. Sherlene krigbaum says:

    I watch u yesterday on the big valley u have so much respect care love for others and yes six million dollar man fall guy I love them shows ur simply the very best in everything u do ur bleesed man ur awsome not enough text paper pen to go on about u ur it in everyway

  12. heini says:

    Lee is a true legend! Even today. I would love to see a remake of the bionic man. That would really be awsome!!! With him in a major role of course. Lee you’re the man

  13. heini says:

    He was a big hit!hope to see a new series sbout steve austin again soon!!!

  14. Sydney says:

    So HAPPY when "The Six Million Dollar Man" was FINALLY released …uh, outside of the Time Life offer which I just couldn't afford. Steve Austin was a great asset to me as a child growing up in an extremely dysfunctional and abusive home environment. I used to fantasize that I had his powers and / or that Steve would come and save me. All these years later it's like watching the show for the first time – i.e. I was so young when it originally aired and to the best of my knowledge it hasn't been syndicated. Now it's my FAVORITE SHOW (just as it was when I was a kid) and I'm eagerly looking forward to the release of seasons 3 – 5. Now if I can only meet Lee some day to thank him in person ….

  15. tom distassio says:

    when i was a boy i couldnt wait for the night the six million dollar man came on ,lee majors one of a kind then came the fall guy and he was so right with the part he played

    • Ryan Carroll says:

      Lee is a really modest person with a lot of accomplishments who obviously never bought into the lala land (as I’ve seen him call it )ego I grew up on those Larson shows with The Fall Guy being my favorite my two young children and I still love that family oriented program that shows Lee doing what he does best

      Be a real hero

  16. Betty Franceschetti says:

    I love Lee Majors, watched all his episodes as well as movies, love the Six Million Dollar Man, I also love Richard Anderson, Lee and Richard made the show awsome, I have the first season of their show, wish I could get the rest, love it so much. My husband and I can watch the show over and over, love when Lynsay Wagner came in as his love and the Bionic Woman, that made the show more famous. love it. i hope Lee, Robert Wagner as well as Willian Shatner do make the movie Actionhero's it would be awsome to see. Love all you guy's. Miss all your acting.

  17. Deana Burgardt says:

    I fell in love with Heath Barkley all those years ago and am still a fan. I love to catch Big Valley reruns when I can. Lee will always be a hero in my book.

  18. Linda achristensen says:

    Lee Majors was a strong willed and independant man. He fought for what he believed in, He never went Hollywood. I love all his shows but most of all I love the kind of man he was.

    • naddue says:

      I love Lee Majors, he was a wonderful actor, ahead of his times both as an actor and as a hollywood actor, he never went hollywood…very sweet….

  19. SANDRA Marquez says:

    I fell in love with Heath Barley too as a very young girl. My type of cowboy. The Big Valley was my favorite western and still is. Than the Six million Dollar Man , Col. Steve Austin "What a man". Lee Majors you are so fine.

  20. Michael McDuffie says:

    Are u saved lee majors ??? Are u serving Christ ????I feel ur ….u represent a tremendous man of God ?

  21. Sydney says:

    I loved the Six Million Dollar Man when I was a young child, and I still love it now. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it just may have been the most FUN t.v. series ever!!!! So glad they decided to release the seasons one by one — i.e. so much more affordable for most of us. As I'm watching the 3 seasons that have already been released I'm thinking "why didn't this show last 10 seasons?" To this very day, it's better than most of what is currently airing on t.v. Love you Lee and will continue watching as long as you continue working ……

  22. I love the six million dollar man and the. Way he ran was so cool to me. What I loved about Steve Austin is that with all of his bionic powers he still followed his hearth. I think that you lee majors are the coolest man alive. May god be with you and bless you the rest of your life. Looking at the DVDs bring back such happy memories.

  23. linda christensen says:

    I have loved Lee since I saw the Big Valley and right through today. Belong to a Big Valley forum where many of his fans reside and he continues to make new fans.

  24. Jeff says:

    Being a sci-fi enthusiast, one of my favorites of the '70's was The Six Million Dollar Man. I was a young teenager at the time and the show was inspirational and Steve Austin's character provided a very positive role model. I found the concept of bionics rather fascinating, as I'm sure many others did as well ! Steve Austin was a man not afraid to stand up for what he believed in and inspired true strength in the face of adversity….both admirable qualities. I can only hope that when modern science does actually perfect " bionics ", the powers that be will be wise enough to chose a man of Steve Austin's integrity to attach them to. With such strength comes great responsibility. It was excellent entertainment !!

  25. Deniece Franklin says:

    This is how i wind down after a long days work or if i'm feeling down i turn on the Six Million Dollar man,because He's my man,he knows how to make me laugh and overall he is so good to look at,that sexy walk of his is no joke,love you Lee Majors!!!

  26. Deniece Franklin says:

    Lee Majors,was the man in my house back in the 70's,his sexy walk was a signature that this was one cool white man,being from the midwest i knew he had to have some black friends that taught him that walk,i can wind down after a long days work just watching the Six Million Dollar Man,or the Big Valley ,The Fall Guy was good too.You go Lee!!!At 74 you still look good to me.

  27. WILLIAM BROWN says:


  28. Kenny says:

    Lee, your a class act! I love the fact you didn’t talk smack about Farah and just said you guys didn’t have time for each other because of work! I wish you could have worked it out. Thanks for all the good memories!!

  29. Paul Throop says:


  30. Monica Lee says:

    Last thing… I neglected to mention that I stopped the bionic episode I was watching so that I could search for your home town. That led me here. I was wondering why you didn’t use “Lee Harvey” instead of Majors for your acting name. Then, I remembered Lee Harvey Oswald… Okay, I gotta watch Steve get taken apart on his friends ranch in Utah. Steve is digging himself out of concrete. He did it! Go, Steve!

  31. guest says:

    dear mr majors how did they did the powers or your part when you played steve Austin ? thank you

  32. solomon says:

    I watched every episode of all of the shows you were on, Lee Majors. I enjoyed being taken away by your coolness, handsomeness and most of all by your strength as a bionic man! I watched and read everything about you and Farrah. I have always wished the best for you in everything you do and continue to do so. You are the BEST!

  33. bruce says:

    Big talent from 60's hollywood and he knew the business,and he had a very stunning woman named Farrah !!!!

  34. Dixie Durcan says:

    Lee Majors is Awesome as Heath Barkley, I watch The Big Valley everyday at 3p.m. on Me TV.

  35. Curtis Lee says:

    Lee Majors. The Best television action hero of all TIME. From Big Valley , to Six Million Dollar Man, to Fall Guy all of those shows will have a special place in my heart. Six Million Dollar Man especially gave me hope that I could be super human in normal life. Along with his Bionic Woman Lindsay Wagner , best television couple EVER. Not just about just their super human abilities, but being good human beings. Love both you guys. God speed. P.S. Had such a crush on Lindsay Wagner. Please bring both characters to big screen.

  36. John.F.B.Anderson.Sr says:

    The Six million dollar man was my all time favorite show.I use to watch all the shows from the first to the three tv made movies.Me and my mother use to watch his show all the time.It was a show that had morals and kindness and goodness.Mr majors was and still is Part of the American way that things use to be.And what it could still be.I wish him much good health and wellness,for many of the actors that he had worked with on that series have past,It is good to see that he is one form my childhood that is still here with us.God Bless you Mr Majors and keep on keeping on.

  37. John.F.B.Anderson.Sr says:

    The Six million dollar man was my all time show.It had all the good things that made a show be very good.Mr Majors was a head of his time.The show was ahead of it's time.Mr Majors showed us what it was like to be a real man in the times that was the 70s.I hope that he will be well and be a well actor for years to come.

  38. Kathy-Anne says:

    There will never be another LEE Majors…He is soooo awesome…

  39. jade says:

    I too loved and still love The Big Valley. What an awsome cast of actors. I always wished I was a Barkley, with the exception of me being in love with all the Barkley men. When I first saw Big Valley and my eyes first layed eyes on Heath, my heart skipped many beats.

  40. Jen Patalsky says:

    Thanks Mr. Majors, for showing a little girl in the 70s what a real man was! Love you in everything you have done and continue to do.

  41. Steven says:

    Was the best show when i was young, lee majors perfect for the role, and lindsey wagner bionic woman, still lovely to this day.

  42. donnieclark says:

    The fall guy was the best tv show a person could watch STEVE.Austin you were s good guy thanks for making your 2 greatest TV.shows

    I miss them and I miss wacthing them.have a great day

    Bionic man Steve Austin.your number one fan donnieclark ilive in summersville Kentucky 42782 :-) :-). See ya my friend.

  43. Christine says:

    I absolutely love Lee Majors!! That man is so very sexy! Even the way he ran is sexy. He would slow down and come to a stop kind of turning sideways..my god!!! So So Sexy!

  44. Wayne says:

    I met Lee Majors at a convention a few years back, and to say the least I was in awe at the fact that I was actually Talking to my boyhood HERO! He is incredibly polite and and even talked with me for what seemed like an hour! (5 mins) being able to see and have a conversation with him was a true highlight in my life. Today's children unfortunately don't get the opportunity to have such a Hero!
    Charachter of fiction yes, but a real human being of flesh n blood, not some video game!
    I wish Lee the very best in all that he chooses to do! Might have only been 5 seasons of SMDM, but memories last a life time!

  45. Tanveer says:

    Only character which I wish to be real.I could not have forgotten him despite of so much time. I would love to see him again in the same character perhaps with his grand sons.

  46. Brie Ella says:

    I am 15 and absolutley LOVE the Six Million Dollar Man, The Big Valley and The Fall Guy. Lee Majors is my favorite actor and role model. His shows always have good morals and values which is almost impossible to find in shows now days. He is such a fantastic role model of honesty, respect, strength and hard work. All of my friends love his show too. The Six Million Dollar man is a show that teenagers can still relate to and love.

  47. Kent donnelly says:

    Thanks for all you have done. My little boy watches you with the same wide-eyed look I had. You are a hero to both of us.

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