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Actor Mickey Hargitay Dead At 80

Actor and world champion bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay, who was once married to 1950s sex siren Jayne Mansfield and whose daughter is Emmy-winning actress Mariska Hargitay, has died. He was 80.

Hargitay died Thursday in Los Angeles, according to a family statement issued Monday through publicist Gary Mantoosh. The cause of death was not released.

"Words cannot express how saddened we are by the loss of Mickey," the statement said. "At the same time, we are so grateful for who he was and is to all of us, and for the love he gave us in our lives. He will continue to be our source of inspiration and strength."

Born Miklos Hargitay in 1926, he emigrated from his native Hungary to the United States after World War II. He became interested in bodybuilding in the 1950s and was named Mr. Universe, Mr. America and Mr. Olympia in 1955.

"My dad's a bit of a superhero," Mariska Hargitay told the National Public Radio show "Fresh Air" last year.

He parlayed his perfect physique into a performing career when Mae West tapped him to be one of the musclemen in her stage show.

It was there that Hargitay met Mansfield, whom he married in 1957. That same year, he made his big-screen debut in "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue." He went on to star opposite his wife in three films: "The Loves of Hercules," "Promises! Promises!" and "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?"

The couple had three children together before divorcing in 1964. Mansfield died in a car crash in 1967.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who played Hargitay in the 1982 TV movie "The Jayne Mansfield Story," offered his condolences and called Hargitay "a magnificent individual."

"Mickey was such an inspiration and always had such a positive attitude," Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "He was a role model of mine for being a successful immigrant who came to this country and pursued his dreams."

Hargitay's career continued following his divorce with appearances in a half-dozen Italian films and horror movies. He even guest-starred in a 2003 episode of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," the show in which his daughter Mariska plays a leading role.

When she won an Emmy for her work last month, Mariska tearfully thanked her father, "because he is the reason I'm standing here today."

She paid a similar tribute to him at last year's Golden Globes, saying: "You are my hero. You've taught me not only by your word but by your example, Dad, and I love you." Mariska abruptly canceled an appearance on "The Tonight Show" in August to be with her father.

Besides Mariska, Hargitay is survived by his wife, Ellen, sons Mickey Jr. and Zoltan, and another daughter, Tina.

Mariska and her husband, actor Peter Hermann welcomed their first child, a son, August, on June 28, 2006, in Los Angeles. The couple wed in 2004.

A private service was held for the family.

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