Robert Urich Loses Cancer Fight

In this photo released by KTLA in Los Angeles, actor David Carradine, poses in California on May 22, 1979. In all, he appeared in more than 100 feature films with such directors as Martin Scorsese, Ingmar Bergman and Hal Ashby. One of his prominent early film roles was as singer Woody Guthrie in Ashby's 1976 biopic "Bound for Glory."
Robert Urich, an Emmy-winning actor best known for his starring roles in "Soap" and "Spenser: For Hire," has died after battling cancer. He was 55.

Urich died Tuesday morning at a hospital in Thousand Oaks surrounded by family members and friends, according to his spokeswoman, Cindy Guagenti.

Urich announced in 1996 that he was suffering from synovial cell sarcoma, a rare cancer that attacks the body's joints. The cancer went into remission after he underwent chemotherapy, radiation treatments and two operations.

Urich earned his first television role in the 1973 comedy series "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice." He also appeared in the TV series "S.W.A.T" before being cast as Peter Campbell in "Soap."

One of Urich's most recognizable roles came as private detective Dan Tanna in "Vega$." He later starred in another detective series "Spenser: For Hire," which was based on Robert Parker's novels.

More recently, Urich appeared in "The Lazarus Man," and the brief NBC sitcom "Emeril."

Born in Toronto, Ohio, Urich won a football scholarship at Florida State University. He later earned a master's degree in broadcast research and management from Michigan State University.

Urich briefly worked in Chicago as a radio sales agent and a television meteorologist. Burt Reynolds helped Urich land his first major role, co-starring as his younger brother in a stage production of "The Rainmaker."

Urich appeared in several television miniseries and cable specials. He won an Emmy for his narration of the cable documentary "U-Boats: Terror on Our Shores." He also won a Cable ACE award as host of the National Geographic series "On Assignment."

Urich spent his latter years devoted to cancer research and education. He and his wife, Heather Menzies, established the Heather and Robert Urich Fund for Sarcoma Research at the University of Michigan to accelerate the pace of research into sarcoma.

He is survived by his wife; three children, Allison, Ryan and Emily; two brothers; a sister; and his mother.

A memorial service is scheduled for Friday in Los Angeles.

By Greg Risling