Vintage Hunk: Van Williams
Of all the TV stars of the 1960s, Van Williams was one of the hottest males on the little screen. His one season run as The Green Hornet, plus his earlier series Bourbon Street Beat and Surfside 6, made Van one of the sexiest stars of his era.
Van Williams (born in Texas as Van Zandt Williams) was a diving instructor in Hawaii where Mike Todd discovered him in 1957. Mike Todd— Elizabeth Taylor's 3rd husband who died in a plane crash in 1958— advised Williams to come to Hollywood. Van Williams did and was signed by Warner Brothers who cast him in the series Bourbon Street Blues. Van later co-starred with Troy Donahue in the sexy series Surfside 6.
Van Williams' contract at Warner Brothers ended and he was at loose ends when ABC revived the famous radio character The Green Hornet. Produced by 20th Century Fox, Williams was signed to the dual role of the mysterious masked hero and the newspaper editor Britt Reid. His co-star was the martial arts icon Bruce Lee. The budgets for this series were so high that only 26 episodes were actually filmed, but The Green Hornet became a cult favorite due to its quality, its leading man Van Williams, and the death of Bruce Lee. It is still run on cable TV.
Van Williams' career faded after this and he basically retired from acting. But due to his shrewd business sense, he had enough money to retire with his wife and children (5 children total from two marriages).
Today Van Williams lives in Ketchum, Idaho, and occasionally appears at nostalgia conventions with his close friend and Ketchum neighbor Adam West, who played Batman.
The upcoming feature film The Green Hornet is stirring up a lot of comment but not much of it good. Casting the shall-we-say “plump” Seth Rogen in the part once associated with the gorgeous Mr. Williams does not bode well.
For gays of a certain age Van Williams was a beautiful hunk who sizzled on the small screen in three very entertaining series. He was not only a good actor but a gorgeous man. And the one year of The Green Hornet is still one of the highlights of 1960s series television.