Karen Funk Blocher, a published author, had done years of research during the 1980s about the “Route 66” television show. She was going to write a book about the ’60s show and its involvement with the true Mother Road, but the project was eventually abandoned.
One of the reasons the book was never finished was because Blocher said she was in a “moral quandary” about it over explaining co-star George Maharis‘ departure from the show. Blocher is coming clean about this on her Outpost Mavarin blog.
In essence, Maharis told her he had contracted hepatitis, and that the shoots were so grueling that to continue would risk his health. He wanted the producers to give him a less arduous schedule, but refused. So he left the show.
Producer Herbert B. Leonard provided a different story. According to Blocher, Leonard found out that Maharis was gay, and was having a hard time keeping his co-star’s sexual activities away from the press. Maharis also used the illness, Leonard said, as an excuse to break his contract so that he could get into movies. Co-star Martin Milner and a “Route 66” writer-producer also agreed with Leonard’s version.
Blocher suspects the truth is somewhere in the middle, and I concur. I admit this is the first time I’ve heard the homosexual angle regarding Maharis’ departure. I’ve seen Milner at least a couple times at Route 66 events, and he’s never mentioned this. But a Google search of “George Maharis” and “gay” will leave little doubt what his sexual orientation is, including documentation of sex-related arrests in 1967 and 1974.
I find it a little ironic that a socially progressive show like “Route 66,” which dealt with race and labor issues, didn’t take the high road with one of its co-stars. Then again, this was before the Stonewall uprising that sparked the gay-rights movement
Blocher promises to write more about this subject, as she closes her post with “To be continued.” So stay tuned.