The Official KRESKY Homepage

Richard Ward

Born: April 5, 1926; Norman, OK.

Best remembered for his indelible portrayal of Gage Weston, the Philadelphia Quaker turned reluctant gunslinger and eponymous hero of the beloved television western The Pacifist (1959-66), Richard Ward was nearly destroyed by the same role that made him a star. Ward started out as a disc jockey in Tulsa, Oklahoma, moved to New York to pursue a career in broadcasting and fell into acting when he reluctantly accepted the role of Bronce Patrick in the radio melodrama The Flowers of May. His deep, sensuous voice coupled with his sensitive matinee idol good looks ensured him a job when the show made the difficult transition to television. Flowers quickly wilted, but Ward's career was just beginning to blossom. After making an impression with a number of guest roles in popular westerns like Rawhide and West of Denver -- usually as the misunderstood Montgomery Clift-like outsider -- Universal offered Weston his own show, playing the tortured man of peace who discovers his unwanted talent for killing when he sets off in search of his family after their wagon train mysteriously disappears. So popular was he as Gage Weston, viewers found it impossible to imagine Ward as anyone else. When The Pacifist went off the air, Ward watched his career falter and die. Within months, the former star was reduced to doing demeaning public appearances and commercials to support himself. Slipping into despair, he turned to the bottle for comfort and drank himself out of what remained of his career.

It is said that most alcoholics must hit rock-bottom before they can work their way back to sobriety and Ward seems to be a living testament to the truth of that adage. On September 3, 1970, while driving west on a twisty section of Sunset Boulevard immortalized in the Jan and Dean hit Dead Man's Curve, Ward lost control of his car and collided with an automobile being driven by actor Peter Lawford. While Lawford emerged relatively unscathed, Ward had broken nearly every bone in his body and was lingering near death. It is rumored that the two actors had a combined blood alcohol level of nearly twelve times the legal limit.

Ward took his near brush with death as a wake-up call and emerged from his long and painful rehabilitation a new man. Determined to revive his career, he worked hard to salvage his damaged reputation and make a comeback. He toiled for several years in unrewarding guest roles in various series until producer Matt Jameson -- who remembered Ward from working as a grip on The Pacifist -- took a chance on the actor and cast him as the dour Commissioner Pratt on Kresky. No longer in possession of his youthful good looks -- the combined toll of age, alcohol abuse and the accident had turned his features gaunt and craggy -- he found this new role a perfect fit and a welcome change from the tormented do-gooder Gage Weston.

In addition to his new found respect for his addiction, Ward had gleaned a number of other lessons from his rapid descent in the Hollywood ranks and had no intention of making the same mistakes twice. He invested his comparatively modest income from Kresky wisely, creating a sizable safety net in case he should not be able to find work after the series ended. He needn't have worried. Hollywood loves a comeback story, and Ward had no problem getting roles after Kresky ended. Ward went on to guest spots on Fantasy Island, Kiss Me, I'm Irish, Simon & Simon and Paralegals. He also costarred as Director Hayward on the short-lived Jack Castle, A.T.F..

Emerging from the shadow of his troubled past, Ward stunned many of his long-time fans in 1987 when he confirmed what was already a well-known secret in the Hollywood underground: that he was gay.

Ward semi-retired from the business in 1991 and now lives in San Diego with Todd Avildsen, his companion of many years.

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"The Official Kresky Homepage" Timothy J. Madison 1997, 1999. All rights reserved.