This article was originally published on my other website at JustOneOpinion.com on March 28, 2010. I wanted to share this story of my family’s brief encounter with Mr. Culp back in 1968.
Actor Robert Culp died of a heart attack outside his home in Los Angeles last week. Culp was best known for co-starring with Bill Cosby in the ground-breaking television series “I Spy” during the 1960s, Culp was 79 years old at the time of his passing on March 24.
“I Spy” was a groundbreaking first for TV, teaming Culp and Cosby as two buddies that traveled the world as spies – but posing as tournament tennis competitors. The first of many TV and movie interracial pairings, such as “Miami Vice” and many cops and robbers “buddy movies,” “I Spy” began during a period when racial equality was still just a dream and real racial and sexual diversity on TV was still at least fifteen years away. Black faces on TV were still very much a rarity in the mid to late 1960s.
In later years, Culp played presidents, cops, senators, devious businessmen, occasional villains, and more recently, a repeating role as Ray Romano’s father-in-law in the sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
“I Spy” came along when fictional secret agents were very popular on both big and small screens, riding on the success of the James Bond movies starring Sean Connery and TV’s “Secret Agent,” Patrick McGoohan. Culp and Cosby played their roles with humor and occasional horseplay, rather than the brutality and violence that were central to the themes of their competitors.