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'I Spy' actor Robert Culp dies at the age 79

March 24, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Actor Robert Culp, best known for his role as an international tennis star and globe-trotting secret agent in the hit 1960s television series "I Spy," died Wednesday morning. According to the actor's agent, Culp collapsed on a sidewalk, hitting his head, outside his home. The 79-year-old was found by a jogger who called 911.

He was rushed to Queen of Angels Hospital shortly after 11 a.m. where he was pronounced dead.

A preliminary investigation found "that his death is accidental and there appears to be no sign of foul play," said LAPD Lt. Bob Binder.

Culp was best known for his role opposite Bill Cosby on TV's "I Spy." He played international tennis star Kelly Robinson, who also happened to be a globe-trotting secret agent.

The show, which ran for three seasons, broke the TV color barrier, becoming the first dramatic series to star an African-American actor. Culp and Cosby reunited in 1997 for an "I Spy" movie on CBS.

Culp's long resume included lots of TV and film work. He was also featured on TV's "The Greatest American Hero."

In 1999, he showed a different side of himself, performing in the music video, "Guilty Conscience," with Dr. Dre and Eminem.

More recently, in 2007, he fought to stop the construction of a $42 million elephant exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo.

Culp was married five times and had five children. Before his last marriage, he had a two-and-a-half year relationship with songwriter Carol Connors.

She told me Wednesday afternoon that Culp was the inspiration for one of the great love songs of our time. With Culp in mind, Connors co-wrote the Billy Preston and Syreeta Wright song, "With You I'm Born Again."

He would have been 80 in August.


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