LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Legendary television producer Aaron Spelling, who launched a string of star-making global hits such as Dynasty, Charlie's Angels and Beverly Hills, 90210, died Friday following a stroke. He was 83.
"Mr. Spelling died at 6:25 pm this afternoon, he was in his home in Beverly Hills with his wife Candy and son Randy at his bedside. I don't know if his daughter Tori was with him at this moment," his publicist Kevin Sasaki said.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Spelling was "the most prolific TV producer of all time," producing more than 5,000 hours of television programming, including more than 300 hours of made-for-television movies and at least a dozen films.
He produced some 200 television shows from the 1960s to date, also including The Mod Squad, Starsky and Hutch, The Love Boat, Vegas, Hart to Hart, T.J. Hooker, Fantasy Island, Hotel, Melrose Place, Seventh Heaven and Charmed, People magazine noted in its online edition.
Dynasty, the prime-time soap opera starring Joan Collins, Linda Evans and John Forsythe, which was shown round the world, became the most widely watched series in television history.
Spelling, Leonard Goldberg and Mike Nichols joined forces in 1976 to make the domestic drama Family, a rare critical success for Spelling, often blasted for making escapist television, short on substance and long on pretty locations and pretty people. Family won four Emmy Awards for acting.
Though he acknowledged that many of his productions were what he called "mind candy," he was reportedly proud of his production role in the HBO film on the
AIDS crisis in America, "And the Band Played On." It won an Emmy as well.
A Texan, Spelling went to New York to become an actor, and met and wed in 1953 actress Carolyn Jones, later famous as Morticia Addams on TV's The Addams Family.
The couple settled in California and divorced in 1964. By that time, Spelling had found success as a TV writer, and with TV star Danny Thomas launched Spelling's first hit, The Mod Squad, back in 1968.
Though he grew up poor in Dallas, a son of immigrant Jews, by the 1980s, Forbes magazine estimated his wealth at 300 million dollars. His 45-million-dollar home is believed to be the largest in California, a mansion with a floor of closets and a gift-wrapping room, built on rollers to make it through earthquakes unscathed.
"I grew up thinking 'Jew boy' was one word," the producer wrote in his memoir, "Aaron Spelling: A Prime-Time Life." Beaten and mocked by classmates, at eight, he said he suffered a sort of nervous breakdown, and spent a year in bed, reading and learning to love storytellers like O. Henry and Mark Twain.
Most of Spelling's shows were popular but few as much as Charlie's Angels, which debuted in 1976 and was broadcast in some 90 countries worldwide.
"I can't say this of every show I ever produced, but I loved Charlie's Angels," Spelling told People in 1988. "It put us over the top and made our company financially secure and incredibly desirable."
Spelling's first big hit, Mod Squad, broke barriers with an interracial kiss between actors Clarence Williams III and Peggy Lipton. He also picked Diahann Carroll for Dynasty, making her the first black regular in a prime-time soap. The show also made a mark by introducing a gay character in its first season. "I wish they would remember me for things like that," Spelling said in a 1989 interview with The Dallas Morning News.
Spelling wed his wife, Candy, 60, in 1968. They have two children, Tori Spelling, 33, who has starred in 90210 and her current reality-comedy So Notorious, and Randy Spelling, 27, who starred in Sunset Beach.