In addition to film roles where he was often cast as the tough guy, Telly Savalas made his mark playing television police detective Kojak for the CBS network during the '70s. His portrayal left audiences with a lasting image of him as the bald cop from New York who each week delivered the same line in a suave and masculine purr, saying, "Who loves ya, baby?"
Savalas' smooth delivery wasn't quite as successful when he tried to transfer the macho appeal to recordings he made for MCA. In 1974, the label released the album Telly, with Who Loves Ya Baby following a year later. Despite the fact that the albums were issued during the height of his Kojak fame, they did not lead to a lasting recording career. Today the releases are considered more of a celebrity oddity, similar to those of other recording artists who were primarily actors, including Star Trek star William Shatner. While Savalas' recordings never garnered much praise, his acting was an entirely different story. He received an Academy Award nomination for the supporting role of Feto Gomez in the 1962 Burt Lancaster film The Birdman of Alcatraz. His Kojak role also snagged an Emmy Award.
Savalas was married three times. He and first wife Katherine Nicolaides tied the knot in 1948. The marriage produced one daughter and ended in divorce in 1957. Second wife Marilyn Gardner wed the actor in 1960. The union produced two daughters and ended in divorce in 1974. His third marriage, to Julie Hovland, occurred in 1984. The couple raised two children and remained together until his death in 1994 from prostate cancer. Savalas' goddaughter is actress Jennifer Aniston of the sitcom Friends.
The actor's real name is Aristotle Savalas, and sometimes motion picture credits identified him as Telly Aristoteles Savalas. He was born to Greek immigrant parents in New York. During World War II he was awarded a Purple Heart. He first appeared on television in 1959.