The classic TV show The Love Boat, which ran for 10 seasons from 1977 to 1986, was known for featuring a delightful array of guest stars and pairings of unlikely couples. Where else could you find Gene Kelly, Lana Turner, Michael J. Fox, Tom Hanks, The Osmonds, Janet Jackson and many, many more setting sail together? Such a diverse roster of stars, from established icons to the soon-to-be-famous, set The Love Boat cast apart, but let’s not forget the regular lineup of quirky characters. Here’s a nostalgic look back at the boat’s beloved crew, fun facts and updates on what they did once the show ended.
The Love Boat cast
Gavin MacLeod as Merrill Stubing
What would a ship be without a captain? Gavin MacLeod played Captain Merrill Stubing for the entire run of The Love Boat. While MacLeod might always be remembered as the Captain, when he was cast he had just wrapped up seven years on The Mary Tyler Moore Show as news writer Murray Slaughter.
MacLeod was born Allan George See in Mount Kisco, New York, and took the name “Gavin” from a character in the TV show Climax and “MacLeod” from Beatrice MacLeod, his drama teacher at Ithaca College. “I felt my name was getting in the way of my success,” he told Parade. “Allan just wasn’t strong enough and See was too confusing.”
The name Gavin MacLeod served him well, and he began acting in films and TV shows in the late ’50s. His first regular TV role came in 1962, when he started appearing in McHale’s Navy. Appearances in classic shows like The Munsters, The Andy Griffith Show, My Favorite Martian and Hogan’s Heroes followed.
Once The Love Boat ended in 1986, MacLeod became global ambassador for Princess Cruises, playing a role in ceremonies launching many of the line’s new ships. He also served as the Honorary Mayor of Pacific Palisades, California from 2006 to 2011. MacLeod passed away in 2021 at the age of 90.
For MacLeod’s 80th birthday, friends and family presented him with a 5 foot long cake replica of the Pacific Princess, the original “Love Boat.”
Bernie Kopell as Adam “Doc” Bricker
Like Gavin MacLeod, Bernie Kopell was also a TV veteran when he joined The Love Boat. Kopell played the ship’s doctor, Adam “Doc” Bricker. Prior to The Love Boat, Kopell had memorable roles in classic ’60s shows, playing Maxwell Smart’s Russian nemesis, Siegfried, in Get Smart and Ann Marie’s neighbor, Jerry Bauman, in That Girl. (Read more about That Girl star Marlo Thomas here!)
“Doc” became Kopell’s best-known part, and he’d parody it in guest appearances on shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Charmed and Scrubs. And Kopell doesn’t just act: He also co-wrote several Love Boat story segments with his co-star, Fred Grandy. Today, Kopell is still going strong at age 90 — he even appeared on episodes of The Lincoln Lawyer and Grey’s Anatomy in 2022!
Before his career took off, Kopell sold Kirby vacuum cleaners and drove a taxi to make ends meet before being cast in a minor role on the daytime soap opera, The Brighter Day.
Fred Grandy as Burl “Gopher” Smith
Fred Grandy began acting in the early ’70s, and had guest roles in Maude, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Welcome Back Kotter before he snagged the role of Yeoman Purser Burl “Gopher” Smith. After the Love Boat set sail for the last time, Grandy became a member of the United States House of Representatives from the state of Iowa, his home state, from 1987 to 1995. He also had his own political radio talk show. Now 75, he’s appeared in shows like The Mindy Project and General Hospital in recent years.
Grandy’s college roommate was David Eisenhower, grandson of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Grandy served as best man in David’s wedding to Julie Nixon in 1968.
Ted Lange as Isaac Washington
Before Ted Lange became known as Isaac Washington, the best bartender on the seas, he was active on the theater scene, making his Broadway debut in the musical Hair. Before being cast in The Love Boat, Lange starred in the sitcom That’s My Mama from 1974 to 1975. Playing a friendly bartender instantly made him a fan favorite, and he’s often said that bartenders used to offer him their favorite drinks in the hopes that he’d use them on the show.
Lange is also quite the renaissance man. He’s written and directed movies and TV shows (including episodes of The Love Boat) and even wrote a sex and lifestyle advice column for FHM magazine. And at 75, he’s still keeping busy with directing and occasional TV appearances.
Lange said his favorite guest star was Diahann Carroll. He got to kiss the legendary actress, and recalled, “I messed up about 15 times before she realized I was doing it on purpose.”
Lauren Tewes as Julie McCoy
Lauren Tewes had quite the competition for the role of Cruise Director Julie McCoy. She was eventually chosen out of a pool of 100 other actresses. Tewes began acting in 1976 and became a sought-after TV guest star with appearances in Starsky & Hutch, Charlie’s Angels and Fantasy Island.
Unfortunately, the fame and fortune took its toll and Tewes developed a cocaine addiction. She was replaced by Pat Klous as Julie’s younger sister, Judy, in 1984. Tewes ultimately overcame her addiction and reprised her role as a guest in a 1985 episode. Now 69, she plays Maxine Murdoch in the Imagination Theatre radio series, Murder and The Murdochs, and most recently returned to TV in a small part in an episode of the 2017 Twin Peaks revival.
(See Lauren in this list of our favorite 80s TV show stars, then and now!)
Tewes attended culinary school to become a cheese specialist and works as a sous-chef in Seattle when not acting.
Jill Whelan as Vicki Stubing
Jill Whelan wasn’t even a teenager when she joined the Love Boat cast. At age 11, she began playing Captain Stubing’s young daughter, Vicki Stubing. The role changed her life — she became pen pals with Ethel Merman and got to dance with Ginger Rogers. During the early ’80s, Whelan served as a national spokeswoman for First Lady Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign. She also made appearances in shows like Fantasy Island, Trapper John, MD and The Young and the Restless as well as the classic slapstick comedy movie Airplane!
In 1999, she left acting and dabbled in reporting, producing and hosting radio shows. Now 57, she’s since returned to occasional screen roles in shows like Criminal Minds and The Bold and the Beautiful and gotten into the world of podcasts.
In 2008, she made her New York City cabaret debut with the one-woman show Jill Whelan: An Evening in Dry Dock.
Read on for more classic TV!