It’s been more than four decades since the famous TV series The Love Boat hit the air, but the beloved cast has maintained the unbreakable bond they formed on set. While their paths have taken them all different places, the show’s stars have remained close “pretty much the whole gamut of life,” Lauren Tewes exclusively tells Closer Weekly.
“Over the 40-plus years, we have been through marriages, deaths, divorces,” Lauren, 67, says of her costars Ted Lange, Fred Grandy, Jill Whelan, Bernie Kopell and late Gavin MacLeod in Closer’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “We’ve always backed each other up when we could.”
Despite countless amazing times, it wasn’t always smooth sailing on The Love Boat. On a 1979 cruise to Alaska, the ship the series was filmed on encountered rough seas off the coast of Washington. When a stanchion fell and almost hit a guest, the real-life captain ordered everyone to their cabins. “He said, ‘Please go back and reacquaint yourself with your life vest,'” recalls Bernie, who played Doc. “Everyone was sick — they never showed that on TV!”
Over nine seasons and five TV specials, The Love Boat cast — led by Gavin, who died at age 90 on May 29 — enjoyed fun, adventure and lasting friendships on the high seas. Recently, the surviving actors, Lauren, Ted, 73, Fred, 72, Jill, 54, and Bernie, 87, reunited to reminisce about their longtime bond and talk about the best parts of the job, which included traveling.
“We went everywhere!” says Fred, who got laughs as the ship’s lovable purser, Gopher. “It doesn’t seem like a big deal now, but in 1984 we were one of the first shows to actually shoot in China.”
Hong Kong was the site of some mischief too. Ted, who charmed as bartender Isaac, recalls partying with Lee Majors. “He offered me directing gigs on The Fall Guy. I didn’t know if it was because he was drunk or because I was a good director!” he jokes with Closer. On the same trip, Ted and Fred “kidnapped” guest star Brenda Vaccaro. “We went all over Hong Kong. [Afterward], every time we saw her, she would say, ‘Best damn car ride I ever had.'”
Friendships happened naturally on the show. “When you travel in small quarters for six weeks at a time, you weed out things that you don’t like,” says Jill, who was just 11 when she became a series regular as Captain Stubing’s daughter, Vicki. Although she was young, it didn’t stop her from becoming pals with guest star Vincent Price. “He was such a gentleman,” she gushes. “He had culture, he knew art, and he talked to me — a young actor! We both loved to cook.”
There were also difficult times. Looking back, Lauren and Jill wish they had fought more to assert themselves. “There were things we felt icky about because no one ever talked about it,” says Lauren, who credits the #metoo movement for telling women it’s OK to speak up. “I spent years trying to please a producer, writer or husband — anybody instead of myself.”
Ted, meanwhile, felt the weight of being one of the few Black actors on TV. “I got a letter from a kid in Georgia,” he recalls. “He said, ‘I saw you with Fred — that’s the friendship I want to have.’ He had a Black friend, and he asked for an autographed photo. It shows that you don’t know what kind of an influence you are.”
Critics were never kind to The Love Boat, but while it sailed, it proved that friendship, laughter and love can conquer all. “I don’t care if it reflects life or not,” Gavin, who played the ship’s captain, once said. “I love happy endings.”