Gary Collins, actor and TV host, dies at 74

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Collins

Gary Collins, an actor who was the longtime host of the syndicated TV show “Hour Magazine” and a former master of ceremonies for the Miss America Pageant, died early Saturday in Biloxi, Miss. He was 74.

Collins died of natural causes soon after arriving at Biloxi Regional Medical Center, Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove told the Associated Press.

In 2011 Collins moved to Mississippi, the home state of his wife, Mary Ann Mobley, an actress and Miss America 1959. He had been arrested and fined last year for leaving a Biloxi restaurant without paying his dinner tab; in 2007 and 2009 he was convicted in separate DUI cases in California.

From 1980 to 1988, Collins served as host of the TV talk show “Hour Magazine,” a gentler version of the genre that avoided some of the controversial topics tackled by Phil Donahue, Geraldo Rivera and other tabloid programs.

“It seems that the viewing public and producers of those programs have tapped into this insatiable desire for stronger formats, stronger issues, stronger confrontations, a stronger examination of subject matter and reality subject matter. And that was never ‘Hour Magazine,’ “ Collins told the Los Angeles Times in 1989 soon after the show was canceled.

Describing himself as “inquisitive, sensitive, caring, likable, nonconfrontational,” Collins added, “I don’t think all television has to be on that hard edge.… That’s basically not a part of my character.”

Collins had also been emcee of the Miss America Pageant in the 1980s and hosted other televised variety programs.

Born April 30, 1938, in Venice, Collins enrolled in Santa Monica City College before joining the Army. He became an announcer and disc jockey for Armed Forces Radio and began acting. After his military service ended he landed a starring role in the 1965 sitcom “The Wackiest Ship in the Army” and followed with regular roles in the TV series “Iron Horse,” “The Sixth Sense” and “Born Free.” He also had a string of guest star appearances in popular prime-time programs.

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