The heavy bearded Dan Haggerty would remain forever in the hearts of the 1974 TV movie “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams”, whose success produced a short-lived series that ran on NBC from 1977 to 1978.
The actor died in early 2016 after a brief attack of spinal cancer. With a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Haggerty’s legacy lives on. Follow us as we show you 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 that his birthplace is Pound, Wisconsin. His parents separated when he was three years old, but remained active in his life. They wanted him to become a priest and sent him to the Franciscan seminary in Culver City, California, but Dan had other plans.
After refusing to be trained as a priest, his father, who was a union official for film technicians, sent him to a military school, but the wild Dan escaped several times.
Contrary to popular belief, Dan’s parents never owned or operated a wildlife attraction. His relationship with animals began when he got a job on a ranch in the San Fernando Valley, where he trained animals for movies and became an animal keeper. Dan also tried his hand at other trades, becoming an iron and leather craftsman.
While working at the ranch, Dan got to know some film producers and soon began appearing in movies as an animal keeper. Dan also trained as a stuntman and had stuntman credits in the 1966 television series Tarzan.
Although working with animals exposed him to the film industry, it was Dan’s athletic physique that earned him his first acting role, albeit a meaningless one in Muscle Beach Party and Girl Happy, both films made in 1964.
Dan soon found a new interest in bicycles, which led to him appearing in a number of biker movies, including Easy Rider (1969), Angels Die Hard (1970) and many others that appeared later in his career.
His animal care skills were put to good use in “When the North Wind Blows” in Canada, where Dan had to train a wild boar, white tigers, and wolverines.
While working on this film, Dan had to hunt a tiger across a frozen lake. Luckily, a colleague on set recorded the episode, and this clip gave Dan the title 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 California trapper named James Capen Adams.
The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams became a huge box office hit and drove Dan to fame. He then appeared in a number of other animal-friendly films and resumed his role as Adams in 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).
Besides acting, Dan also tried his hand at other ventures such as the restaurant business. He also dabbled in the Cajun barbecue sauce.
While Dan was doing well in Hollywood, his personal life was not without problems. In 1977, Dan’s bushy beards caught fire after a careless guest passed him with a cocktail flame. As a result, he suffered third-degree burns, which he survived.
His first encounter with the law as a star was in 1985 when he sold cocaine to some undercover cops. Dan was sentenced to 90 days behind bars and 3 years on probation.
Afterward, he suffered serious injuries after a motorcycle accident. Also in 1991, Dan suffered another cruel motorcycle accident in which he fell into a coma. He broke his pelvis and had to be stitched with about 200 stitches to repair the injury on his forehead. In the end, he survived. Perhaps, partly in thanks, he received a reply from a letter he wrote to Pope John Paul II about his state of health.
After surviving two fatal motorcycle accidents, one might be forced to believe that Dan Haggerty is invincible. But the cancer was his undoing. In August 2015, Dan was diagnosed with spinal cancer after back surgery. About five months later, in January 2016, Dan succumbed to the disease and died with his family in Burbank, California.
Dan was married twice. He married his first wife, Diane Rooker, when he was 17 years old, much to his father’s displeasure. Their marriage lasted 25 years, from 1959 to 1984. Dan had three children with Diane; a son named Don and two daughters named Tracey and Tammy.
In 1984, the same year he divorced Diane, Dan married Samantha Hilton and had two sons, Dylan and Cody, and one daughter, Megan, bringing the number of Dan’s children to 6.
Unfortunately, Dan lost his wife Samantha in a motorcycle accident on August 10, 2008. Dan never remarried and remained a single man until his death.