KRIKORIAN: Seagren owes a lot to his gold
By Doug Krikorian, Sports Columnist
Posted: 10/16/2010 10:11:09 PM PDTUpdated: 10/16/2010 11:50:41 PM PDT
When Bob Seagren was asked the other day what celebrities would be attending today's Long Beach International City Bank Marathon, the CEO of the company that stages the race, International City Racing, shrugged and said, "I don't know of any."
Well, I do.
Seagren himself certainly would qualify as one.
Why, if you go to the website FamousWhy.com, it portrays Seagren "as a famous actor."
And here I always figured Seagren's fame came from his exploits in track and field as a world record-setting pole vaulter in which he won a gold medal in the event at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968 and a silver medal at the Munich Olympics in 1972.
And, although Seagren never came close to winning an Emmy, he did appear in a lot of TV shows including "The Love Boat," "Wonder Woman," "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," "The Fantastic Seven," "Valentine Magic on Love Island."
He also appeared in the controversial sitcom "Soap," in which he played a gay football player named Dennis Phillips who had a relationship with Billy Crystal's character Jodie Dallas.
"I never really liked acting," says Seagren, who has lived the past 10 years on a 65-foot, four-stateroom yacht moored on the Alamitos Bay channel near PCH. "There were too many ups and downs in it. Sometimes you'd get a lot of work, and then things would dry up and you remain idle for too long a time. I did seven TV pilots, and none of them made it into a series. It was a very frustrating business."
He also, for six years, was the co-host of PM Magazine, which was sort of a precursor Entertainment Tonight.
"We did a local show in Los Angeles, and we also did a syndicated show that was seen on 54 stations around the country," Seagren says.
Despite his considerable work in front of TV cameras, Seagren never took it seriously and always understood that the only reason he wound up with so many opportunities was because of his athletic endeavors.
"That gold medal I won in Mexico City was my springboard into the entertainment field," he says "Sure, I took advantage of it. Why not? I was young, and there was good money to be made in the television business."
Seagren in those long ago days even was involved in a glamorous marriage, as his wife for a 12-year period was Kam Nelson, the stunning dancer on the hit TV series "Groovy" and "Boss City."
"We were together between 1970 and 1982, and had a daughter," he says. "She's now 36 and just got married last year."
Seagren also has 13-year-
old twins - a boy and girl - from a later marriage, and can be found most weekends entertaining his children on his large vessel.
A Pomona native who didn't exactly grow up yearning to become a seafarer, Seagren says economics dictated his decision to reside on water rather than land.
"After going through a second divorce, I just didn't have the money to go out and buy a house," he says. "And I wound up getting a good deal on the boat. Now I'm used to living on it. I've come to enjoy it. There's a privacy about it that you don't get living in a house."
When he arrived in Long Beach a decade ago, he got involved with the Long Beach Marathon with a couple of fellows named Blair Cohn, now the director of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association, and John Goldman, now the Cerritos College cross country coach.
The trio worked together several years, and Seagren remained with International City Racing after the departures of Cohn and Goldman.
"I love my job," he says. "It allows me to still be involved in athletics."
While Seagren was a long-time jogger - "can't do it any longer because of bum knees" - he etched quite a legacy for himself on the sporting landscape with his skill as a pole vaulter.
While at USC, he won four NCAA titles.
He also was the national AAU champion on six occasions, and set four world records in his specialty during a six-year span, with the last one coming in the Olympic Trials at Eugene, Ore., in 1972 when he catapulted 18 feet, 7 inches.
He was expected to win his second goal medal in Munich, but on the eve of the Olympics the banana-style pole that he and most of the other vaulters were using was banned - and an East German named Wolfgang Nordwig won it.
"If I hadn't won that gold in '68, I'm not sure I'd have ever left Munich because I was so mad about their altering the rules on us at the last minute," he says.
The 64-year-old, 6-foot Seagren, who at 185 is only 10 pounds heavier than when he was competing, was quite an athlete during his prime, as he took first place in the inaugural American Superstars competition in 1973 and also won the first World Superstars in 1977.
He no longer exercises, and doesn't feel guilty about it.
"Listen, I've already worked out more in one lifetime than 10 people combined have in theirs," he says with a laugh.
Seagren is an affable, easy-going, self-effacing fellow who smiles readily and evinces an aura of contentment.
"I have a great life," he says. "I have three wonderful, healthy kids. I have a job I like. I live on a yacht. No complaints. I feel pretty blessed."