The Loss of Larry Breeding

We took the opportunity of the lock-down to binge watch old episodes of The Love Boat (in addition to about a hundred other shows). Its many pleasures include seeing late (often last) screen appearances by old time stars of years gone by, and also seeing early, almost anonymous appearances by people who would later be hugely famous. And a third pleasure is the recognition of blips — people who were famous for two seconds forty years ago and whom you haven’t seen since. Sometimes it’s because they weren’t very good, so they sank to bit player status or dropped out of show business altogether. And in a few heart-rending cases, it was because they died early and young.

Thus it was with Larry Breeding (Warrence Lawrence Breeding, 1946-82) whom we caught in two Love Boat guest shots and remembered right away — and I still can’t recall specifically where I remember him from. It might well have been these very Love Boat episodes, or it might have been certain shows he had guested on like Eight is Enough or Laverne and Shirley. He was an actor who, one feels, would NOT have been a blip had he lived longer. He was very funny and appealing and good looking in that Mediterranean way that was so favored during the 1970s.

And it’s plain that network producers and executives felt that way because Breeding was tried in SEVERAL series and pilots, all of which failed, but they kept trying, almost as though they just knew they were eventually going to hit it with him. It may well be one of these series that I remember him from, although none of them ring a bell. On the sit-com Who’s Watching the Kids? (1978-79) he played the babysitter of a couple of kids whose older sisters and guardians worked nights as Las Vegas show girls. On The Last Resort (1979-80) he played one of the wacky staff at a Catskills hotel. The Love Tapes (1980) was an all-star TV movie about a video dating service; this clearly could have become a series if it had struck a chord. This is Kate Bennett (1982) was a pilot that was not picked up. He was due to co-star with Gerald McRaney (Simon & Simon, Major Dad) in a sit-com called It’s Not Easy, when tragedy struck.

On September 28, 1982 (his 36th birthday) Breeding cracked up his sports car with fatal consequences. As it was a one car accident and he drove into a concrete post, one might be forgiven for wondering if he had been “celebrating”, but no whiff of that ever made the press.

Originally from Illinois, Breeding had been a New York stage actor and a performer in commercials prior to his being cast in television. His one Broadway appearance was in the 1974 Tom Stoppard show Jumpers with Jill Clayburgh and Eddie Mekka (Carmine from Laverne and Shirley). But if you chance to see any of his handful of performances, I bet you’ll concur with my assessment (and those of others), that this guy would have been a star — at least a TV star.