If you were raised in the ’60s or ’70s – in that era of television series boom, chances are that you came across one or two of Vic Tayback’s works. Vic was a familiar face on TV in those decades, where he had numerous roles as a character actor. Tayback gained prominence for his role as the diner owner Mel Sharples in the comedy-drama film Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974) and also in the TV sitcom Alice (1976–1985). For his role in the series, he won two Golden Globe Awards out of three nominations and was also nominated for an Emmy Award.
Let’s delve into the life and times, career and family life of this larger than life actor, Vic Tayback.
Who Was Vic Tayback? Biography
Son of Syrian immigrants couple, Victor Tayback was born on the 6th of January, 1930 in Brooklyn, New York, U.S. His parents, Helen (née Hanood) and Najeeb James Tayback were originally from Aleppo, Syria. During his teenage, the Tayback’s were set to move again but this time it was to within the nation, Burbank, California. There, he completed his high school education at Burbank High School in 1949. He has one known sibling, a brother known as Joe, who had a career on radio. Joe was the owner of the KAZM, the only radio station in Sedona, Arizona for many years.
Surprisingly, Vic did not catch the migration bug like his parents. He lived in the Burbank area for almost all his life. He only moved to the south of Burbank, Glendale, California where he lived until his death.
Vic Tayback served in the military, the US Navy prior to embarking on an acting career. After his military discharge in his twenties, he decided to pursue a career in acting. He performed both on stage, in films, and on television. While working to get established in the industry, Tayback worked at various temporary jobs between acting gigs, including the Kelly Corporation.
Vic Tayback performed on several stage productions in California including Death of a Salesman and Brighton Beach Memoirs. In 1958, he guest-appeared on the anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Present as well as in the film, The Power of the Resurrection.
Then in the ’60s and ’70s, he appeared in numerous TV series mostly as a character actor. Some of the series he honored with his elite performances are The Patridge family, Griff, F Troop, Family Affair, 77 Sunset Strip, Hawaii Five-O, Columbo, The Mary Tyler Show, The Monkees, Rawhide, Barney Miller, Get Smart, Bonanza, Bewitched, Fantasy Island, and Emergency! Other notable roles include Archie’s old friend, Joe Tucker in the Et tu, Archie? episode of All in the Family (1974) and the 1920s-style gangster-boss Jojo Krako in the Star Trek: The Original Series (1968). His final TV appearance was in 1990, in MacGyver as George Henderson.
He also featured in such films as Five Minutes to Live (1961), Bullitt (1968), Blood and Lace (1971), Papillon (1973), The Don Is Dead (1973), The Gambler (1974), Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), No Deposit, No Return (1976), The Shaggy D.A. (1976), and The Cheap Detective (1978).
His career progressed into the ’80s with such work as Treasure Island (1985), Weekend Warriors (1986), The Underachievers (1987), Loverboy (1989), Beverly Hills Bodysnatchers (1989), and Horseplayer (1990) to his credit. In addition, he voiced Carface Caruthers in the animated musical action-adventure flick All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989).
Despite all these undertakings, Vic Tayback is best remembered as Mel Sharples, the diner owner in the film Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974) and it’s spinoff TV series Alice (1976–1985). Moreover, he was the only actor in the original film to reprise his role for the rest of the series, directing one of the episodes as well.
Vic Tayback founded the theatre group Company of Angels in Los Angeles, California along with actors Richard Chamberlain and Sally Kellerman. He was also a lifetime member of the Actors Studio.
Vic Tayback did not only build a successful career but maintained a successful family too. He was married to one wife for close to three decades until death set them apart in 1990. Tayback tied the knot with Sheila McKay Barnard in 1962 and together, they had one son named Christopher Tayback.
Christopher is a 1985 graduate of the University of Notre Dame and an alumnus of Harvard Law School (1989). Prior to attending law school, he acted briefly. He served as Deputy District Attorney in LA County from 1989-1991 and then as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Central District of California, Criminal Division. As of 2010, he was a trial lawyer with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP in Los Angeles.
When Did Vic Tayback Die?
The Alice actor met an unfortunate end on May 25, 1990, in Glendale, California. Aged 60, Vic Tayback died of an unexpected heart attack and was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles, with the inscription, “Beloved Husband and Father” on his tombstone.