'The Wild Wild West' star Robert Conrad dead at 84: US media

After working as a milkman and attempting to hit it big as a nightclub singer, Conrad's career took off in 1959

Robert Conrad, an American actor known for starring in the 1960s sci-fi western TV series "The Wild Wild West," died aged 84, US media reported Saturday.

"He lived a wonderfully long life and while the family is saddened by his passing, he will live forever in their hearts," Jeff Ballard, a spokesman for Conrad's family, told People magazine.

After working as a milkman and attempting to hit it big as a nightclub singer, Conrad's career took off in 1959 when he joined the cast of the TV show "Hawaiian Eye" after moving to Los Angeles, People reported.

Between 1965 and 1969, he was cast as Secret Service agent James T. West on "The Wild Wild West," in which he, along with his partner Artemus Gordon, explored the western United States during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant.

The series served as the basis for the 1999 film adaption "Wild Wild West", a critical flop among the most expensive movies ever made, in which Will Smith stars as West and Kevin Kline as both Gordon and Grant.

Conrad reportedly labelled the remake "pathetic" when he unexpectedly appeared at the 2000 Razzies -- an annual celebration of Hollywood's worst productions -- to accepted the Worst Picture award, according to The Hollywood Reporter (THR).

In the seventies, he went on to star in "Baa Baa Black Sheep", a World War Two drama, as real-life pilot Major Greg "Pappy" Boyington. He was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in 1978.

He was renowned for performing his own stunts, on one occasion falling 14 feet onto a cement floor while filming "The Wild Wild West".

Scared executives -- fearful of losing their star actor -- attempted unsuccessfully to ban him from performing his own stunts, THR said.

But in 2006 he explained to the Archive of American Television that performing stunts helped him get first roles in the industry.

"When there was a speaking role and a stunt associated with that speaking role, they'd hire me, because you got two for the price of one," he said.

Conrad appeared in other TV shows in his career, many of them short-lived, along with several movies, including "More Wild Wild West," a spinoff from the television series. He made his last film appearance in 2002.

"There are three cycles in showbiz," Conrad told People in a 1988 interview.

"They don't know you, then they love you, and then you've been around so long they hate you. Now I'm starting all over again."

Conrad is survived by his eight children and 18 grandchildren, People reported.

After working as a milkman and attempting to hit it big as a nightclub singer, Conrad's career took off in 1959