11 Things You Didn’t Know About the Man Behind ‘Grizzly Adams’

While many were saddened by the news this week that actor Dan Haggerty died, many others were wondering “who is Dan Haggerty?” and to tell them that he was the man who acted in the TV series, The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, didn’t help much. However, he was a lot more than a big friendly man with a beard.

He Wasn’t Born in Hollywood
While everyone gets the date of his birthday correct (November 19, 1941) some sources will claim that Haggerty was born Daniel Francis Haggerty and grew up in Hollywood. However, more agree, including IMDB, that Haggerty was actually born Gene Jajonkski and grew up Pound, Wisconsin.

He Was a Lover of Animals
One the best things about The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams was that the hero was friend to many animals and they in turn respected him. This wasn’t far from his real life. His family once owned and operated a wildlife attraction where he helped in raising wild animals. He even taught a black bear to do tricks for the audiences that came by. Years later in Hollywood, Haggerty served as animal trainer for Walt Disney Studios working on films such as Lt. Robin Crusoe (1966) and Monekys, Go Home (1967).

He Was a Bodybuilder
It wasn’t until after high school that Haggerty moved to Southern California and got involved in the muscle beach culture. His very first movie role was Biff, the muscle man in Muscle Beach Party (1964) and an uncredited bodybuilder in Elvis Presley’s Girl Happy (1965).

He Did His Own Stunts
Early in his career, Haggerty worked as a stuntman for the Tarzan TV series as well as numerous low-budget biker films of the 1970s.

He Built His Own Sets
In 1969, Haggerty built motorcycles for the film, Easy Rider, and appeared in it as well in an uncredited role. In 1981, Haggerty appeared in David Carradine’s Americana. In addition of playing the role of a dog trainer (he actually trained the dog himself) he also helped with set design which included restoring an old carousel for the film.

He was the Original Grizzly Adams
Haggerty was a natural for the role of Grizzly Adams and starred in the 1974 independent film. In 1976, he played a similar role in a film called Frontier Fremont. Then NBC came calling and offered him the Grizzly role for the TV series that ran from 1977-1978. He would return to the role at least three more times for TV. In 1997, he did yet another similar character playing Jeremiah in Grizzly Mountain and Escape to Grizzly Mountain in 2000.

He Had His Hollywood Star Removed
Haggerty’s first star was not his own. It was meant to honor the late Don Haggerty but was misspelled. There was even more confusion since Haggerty’s father was also known as Don. Eventually, he did receive his own star placed in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

He was Once Arrested for Selling Drugs
In 1985, the Los Angeles Times reported that Haggerty was sentenced to 90 days in county jail as well as three years’ probation for offering cocaine to undercover police officers. The reason that he was even dabbling in drugs was to raise money to pay for his wife’s cancer treatment.

He Had His Own Barbecue Sauce
In 1991, Haggerty opened his own restaurant called, fittingly enough, Haggerty’s Bistro, and he also sold the recipe for his own barbecue sauce.

He Sold Snake Oil
Haggerty once endorsed a faulty medical device, the Pap-Ion Magnetic Inductor or PAP-IMI that supposedly pulsed waves of electromagnetic energy to help relieve pain. Though he appeared in the infomercials for the product, he was most likely unaware of the legal and ethical problems and complaints of the product.

We Haven’t Seen the Last of Him
Haggerty is featured in two productions that are expected to come out this next year. In the Bible-themed 40 nights, he plays or possibly voices YahWeh (God) and he plays a role in the comedy, The Untold Story.

[Photo: Stephen Shugerman/Stringer/Getty Images]