The Untimely Exits of the Rambo Twins

I know “the Rambo Twins” sounds like a high-concept movie where two clones of Sylvester Stallone go on a rampage after returning from Vietnam. Their first names (Dirk and Dack) remind me of the porn star Marky Mark plays in Boogie Nights. But the brothers in question predate those cinematic phenomena. In fact, had they lived to a ripe old age they would have been turning 80 years old today (they were both born on this day in 1941). Their real names were Orman Ray (“Dirk”) and Norman Jay (“Dack”).

The brothers were 21 years old when they were discovered by Loretta Young at an L.A. church and hired to be on The New Loretta Young Show. They became recurring characters, appearing in a couple of dozen episodes. Sadly, Dirk acquired only two additional credits, guest starring on episodes of The Virginian and Dragnet ’67, before being killed in a head-on automobile collision by fellow actor Kathleen Case, whose 40 screen credits include Running Wild (1955) with Mamie Van Doren, and The Eddie Cantor Story. Is L.A. a weird town? It’s a weird town. Dirk was 25 years old when he died in early 1967.

This left Dack Rambo to soldier on with an acting career sans the distinction of twindom to bolster him. He did surprisingly well. Both brothers had been extremely good looking, which is what Loretta Young had noticed about them in the first place. Not surprisingly, Dack is best known for his work is soaps of both the daytime and nightime variety. His most high profile role was that of Jack Ewing on Dallas (51 episodes, 1985-87), but he also appeared regularly on Never Too Young (16 episodes, 1966), All My Children (11 episodes, 1982-83), Paper Dolls (13 episodes, 1984), and Another World (40 episodes, 1979-1992). After this, Rambo’s most notable TV genre was westerns. He played Walter Brennan’s grandson on The Guns of Will Sonnett (1967-69), appearing in all 50 episodes. A role on a special two part episode of Gunsmoke in 1970, led to a lead role on its short-lived spinoff Dirty Mary (1974) with Jeanette Nolan. In 1978 and 1979 he was also the lead in the action series Sword of Justice, which only lasted 10 episodes. Put simply, this guy worked a LOT in television: 6 episodes of Fantasy Island, 3 of The Love Boat, 3 of Murder, She Wrote, and dozens of other programs. He seldom worked in theatrical films, but readers of this blog will be delighted to learn (or recall) that he was third billed in Which Way to the Front? (1970) behind Jerry Lewis and Jan Murray, and ahead of Steve Franken, Kaye Ballard, Paul Winchell, Kathleen Freeman, Neil Hamilton (Commissioner Gordon on Batman), Bobo Lewis, and Star Trek’s George Takei.

But as we mention in the title of this post, Dack didn’t live to old age either. A bisexual, he contracted AIDS in 1991, succumbing to complications a year later. No, young ‘uns, 50 is NOT an old age at which to die.