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The heavily-bearded Dan Haggerty would forever be in the hearts of lovers of the 1974 television film “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams” whose success spawned a short-lived series that ran on NBC from 1977 to 1978.
The actor passed away in early 2016 after a brief bout with spinal cancer. With a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Haggerty’s legacy lives on. Follow us as we take you through how Dan spent his 73 years on planet earth.
Dan Haggerty Biography/Wiki – Early Life
Daniel Francis Haggerty was born on November 19, 1942, in Los Angeles California, however, other sources claim his birthplace was Pound, Wisconsin. His parents separated when he was three years old, but remained active in his life. They had wanted him to become a priest and sent him to Franciscan seminary in Culver City, California, but Dan had other plans up his sleeves.
After refusing to train as a priest, his dad who was a union official of the film technicians then sent him to a military school, but the wildly-behaved Dan escaped several times.
Contrary to popular belief, Dan’s parents never owned and operated a wild animal attraction. His relationship with animals began when he got a job on a ranch in the San Fernando Valley that trained animals for movies, thereby becoming an animal handler. Additionally, Dan tried his hands on other crafts, becoming an ironworker, and a leather craftsman.
While working on the ranch, Dan became acquainted with some film producers, and soon began appearing in films as an animal handler. Dan also trained as a stuntman and had stuntman credits in the 1966 TV series Tarzan.
Though working with animals was what exposed him to the film industry, it was Dan’s athletic build that got him his first acting role, albeit a nonspeaking one in Muscle Beach Party and the Girl Happy, both 1964 films.
Dan soon found a new interest in bikes which led to him appearing in a number of biker films including Easy Rider (1969), Angels Die Hard (1970) and many others, later in his career.
His skill as an animal handler came in handy in “When the North Wind Blows” shot in Canada where Dan was required to train a wild boar, white tigers, and wolverines.
While working on that film, Dan was required to chase a tiger across a frozen lake. Luckily for him, a colleague on set recorded the episode and that clip would land Dan the titular role of Grizzly Adams in The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams which was based on a novel by Charles E Seller and loosely based on the real-life experiences of a Californian trapper named James Capen Adams.
The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams became a big box office hit, propelling Dan to stardom. He then appeared in a number of other animal-friendly films and reprised his role as Adams on the sequels The Capture of Grizzly Adams (1982), Grizzly Mountain (1995) and Escape to Grizzly Mountain (2000).
In the later years of his career, Dan appeared in Big Stan (2007), The Book of Ruth: Journey of Faith (2009), and Casa de Mi Padre (2012).
In addition to acting, Dan tried his hands on other ventures like the restaurant business. He also shilled for Cajun barbecue sauce.
While Dan was doing well in Hollywood, his personal life wasn’t without troubles. In 1977, Dan’s bushy beards caught fire after a careless patron carrying a cocktail flame walk past him. As a result, he sustained third-degree burns which he survived.
His first run-in with the law as a star was in 1985 when he sold cocaine to some police officers operating undercover. Dan was sentenced to 90 days behind bars and 3 years of probation.
He then suffered serious injuries after a motorbike accident. Again in 1991, Dan suffered another gruesome motorbike accident that left him in a coma. He broke his pelvis and required about 200 stitches to fix the injury on his forehead. Ultimately, he survived. Perhaps, to thank in part, was a reply he got from a letter he wrote to Pope John Paul II about his health.
After surviving two fatal motorbike accidents, one could be forced to think that Dan Haggerty was invincible. However, cancer became his undoing. In August 2015, after undergoing a back surgery, Dan was diagnosed with spinal cancer, about five months later, in January 2016, Dan succumbed to the disease and died surrounded by his family in Burbank, California.
Dan was married twice. His first wife, Diane Rooker, he married when he was 17 years old, much to the disapproval of his father. Their marriage lasted for 25 years from 1959 to 1984. With Diane, Dan had three children; a son named Don and two daughters named Tracey and Tammy.
In 1984, the same year he finalized his divorce from Diane, Dan married Samantha Hilton and with her, he had two sons Dylan and Cody and a daughter, Megan, bringing the number of Dan’s kids to 6.
Unfortunately, Dan lost his wife Samantha to a motorbike accident on August 10, 2008. Dan never remarried, remaining a single man to his death.