logo1Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

The Passing of Another Icon

There are certain things about most celebrities that we all know. But boomer writer Mike Petrie knows something the rest of us don’t know about a celebrity who was a big part of our early years watching TV. You didn’t read this in the obituaries for the Bachelor Father.

“Actor John Forsythe dies at age 92,” the headline reads.

Actor John Forsythe (L) with Mike Petrie in the early 80s

Baby Boomers may first remember Forsythe from the TV show Bachelor Father (1957-1962). But if thinking that far back is too much of a strain, Boomer yuppies will certainly remember John Forsythe for his role as the oil-rich patriarch Blake Carrington in the 1980s television soap opera Dynasty, and as the mysterious unseen millionaire-private-investigator Charles Townsend in Charlie’s Angels (1976–1981).

John Forsythe was a popular actor, well-known owner and breeder of thoroughbred race horses, and competitive tennis player. That’s what most of us know. What many may not know is that he was an avid sailor as well. That is how I came to know him.

The first time I met John Forsythe was in 1981, just prior to the airing of Dynasty. I had recently returned from an adventurous few years sailing Hawaii and the Pacific, and was living on my sailboat in Marina del Rey, California. A buddy of mine was dating Forsythe’s daughter and asked if I’d mind if John joined us for an afternoon sail. That turned out to be the first of several day-sails together. He turned out to be quite the sailor.

Actor John Forsythe

It was obvious that John Forsythe really enjoyed being out on a boat again. He was in his early sixties when I met him, but apparently used to sail quite a bit as a younger man, before work and other responsibilities pretty much edged out sailing. “Besides,” he told me, “my wife — whom I dearly love — does not much care for boats, so sailing would mean mostly going it solo.” I’d met Mrs. Forsythe on one occasion. A lovely lady, but she showed up at the dock wearing heels and white gloves. John’s point was well taken.

My boat was rigged with all lines leading aft into the cockpit, so all activity – like raising and lowering sails – could be handled single-handedly without leaving the cockpit. John really liked this, and I guess that is what led him, one sunny afternoon in Santa Monica Bay, to make me an offer I could not refuse.

“I like the fact that I could easily sail this boat all by myself, without any crew. Would you consider selling her to me?”

“John, this boat is my home. Lots of nautical miles logged here,” I responded, light-heartedly. But I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was quite serious.

“Name your price,” he said, smiling, wind in his hair, as the boat surfed down a wave. “I just completed a pretty good run with the Angels show and have begun a new television series … I’m flush.”

We all laughed, but a deal was made that afternoon out on the water for John to buy the boat. That’s how John Forsythe got back into the sport of sailing … and I’m glad I was able to play a part.

Rest in peace John Forsythe. Happy sailing in the hereafter.


  1. Dirissy says:

    One of the few truly handsome, debonair Hollywood hunks. So suave. Dynasty was a staple for me in the 1980s. John Forsythe got even more handsome as he got older. Not at all surprising that he enjoyed sailing. It fits. Thoroughbred horses, tennis … and yachting.

  2. DAVID says:

    I remember this. I was on a few of those sailing excursions with Mike Petrie and John Forsythe and others and suspect one of the reasons John came back to sailing was because, back in those days, Mike was the most enthusiastic sailor I’d ever met. His passion for sailing was contagious. That may be the real reason John wanted back in. Nice article and tribute to a fine actor-sailor who will be missed by all.

  3. todd says:

    great life! wish I’d just returned from sailing in Hawaii to go sailing with John Forsythe!!

  4. Jennifer says:

    Another great story, Mike.

  5. Boomer54 Mark says:

    When I read the news on Google, I was sadden, that another of the boomer TV fathers had passed. I DO remember him from Bachelor Father, Charlie’s Angels and of course Dynasty.

    He had something that few actors have “CLASS”.

    P.S. Also, he had a very funny cameo role with Bill Murray in the movie “Scrooged”.

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