Lyle Waggoner, best known to genre fans as Major Steve Trevor in the 1970s series ‘Wonder Woman,’ has passed away. He was 84.
According to his son, Jason, the former actor died Tuesday morning after battling a long illness.
Following a stint in the Army and working as a door-to-door salesman in Kansas, Waggoner’s rugged good looks didn’t go unnoticed and he was encouraged to head to Hollywood. While he made his TV debut on an episode of ‘Gunsmoke,’ it was a role that he didn’t get that would surprise comic fans.
Waggoner actually auditioned for the role of the Caped Crusader himself, Batman, and he was on the top of the studios’ list of actors even going so far as to film a screen test with Peter Deyell as Dick Grayson/Robin. Of course, it would be Adam West, whose deadpan ability to make even the most absurd believable, who would finally nab the role.
Stardom would not elude him for too long as in 1967, Waggoner landed at ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ as an announcer and straight man to Carol Burnett. Soon, however, his comedic ability emerged and he was featured in many comedy skits throughout the show. In the hopes of advancing his career as a lead actor, Waggoner walked away from the series in 1974.
A year later, he was cast as Major Steve Trevor opposite Linda Carter in the series ‘Wonder Woman.’ “He was a real gung-ho kind of guy,” Waggoner said about his role a 2011 interview with SciFi and TV Talk. “Steve tried his best, but he always seemed to get himself into hot water. Of course, he pretty much had to because it was Wonder Woman’s job to rescue him. If there was a scene where he got the drop on the bad guys, sure enough, someone would end up slapping the gun out of his hand and turning the tables on him.”
While the first 2 seasons took place during WWII, the series became too expensive to produce and in 1977, the show’s setting was reset to modern times with Waggoner playing his son, IADC Agent Steve Trevor Jr. At first, Waggoner was skeptical saying:
“I thought the show’s World War II venue was interesting and a lot of fun as well as more in keeping with the comic book. The Powers That Be wanted to make the show into something more serious like Police Woman, but it was a comic strip, so trying to turn Wonder Woman into a real dramatic piece was pretty much unrealistic. I also couldn’t believe that they wanted me to play my own son. I figured, ‘Well, they’re professionals. They must know what it is they’re doing but this doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense to me.’
The show was renamed ‘The New Adventures of Wonder Woman’ and lasted for another season. All in all, he filmed 60 episodes for the series.
It was during his time on ‘Wonder Woman’ that Waggoner got the idea for his now industry famous business Star Waggons which rents motor homes for film and TV cast and crew to use on sets.
“When I was on Wonder Woman, [the producers] gave me a very nice motor home they had rented from some private owner in the Valley,” he said in an interview with Los Angeles magazine. “I said, ‘Well, if I had a motor home, would you rent it from me?’ I was always entrepreneurial-oriented, trying to find a business to get into. So I went out and bought a motor home and rented it to the production company for the three years that I was on that show.”
Star Waggons now has over 800 trailers and boasts an annual revenue in the millions.
Waggoner’s final acting credit was in 2005 on the Fox sitcom ‘The War at Home.’
Although he had been out of the limelight for some time, Waggoner will forever be remembered especially by comic book fans the world over.
RIP Lyle Waggoner.