Clu Gulager was born William Martin Gulager in Holdenville, Hughes County, Oklahoma. His nickname was given to him by his father for the clu-clu birds (known in English as martins, like his middle name) that were nesting at the Gulager home at the time Clu was born. He grew up on his uncle’s ranch as a cowhand and when he was old enough he joined the United States Marine Corps for a stint from 1946-1948. He got the acting bug being in army plays so when he left he used the GI Bill of Rights to study acting. During this time he met his wife, actress Miriam Byrd Nethery. They had two children together –John, born in 1957, and Tom, born 1965. He was married over 50 years until his wife passed away in 2003 from cancer. Clu’s career started off as bit parts on popular western shows usually playing the heavy. Shows like Wanted Dead or Alive, Have Gun Will Travel, Laramie, Riverboat. He scored big with The Untouchables as Mad Dog Coll, which led to him being offered the role of Billy the Kid on The Tallman from 1960-1961, which also starred Barry Sullivan as Pat Garrett. The show was pulled after two seasons by Congress because they didn’t like the idea that kids were seeing the outlaw Billy the Kid as a hero. Clu’s next big break was playing Deputy Emmett Ryker on The Virginian from 1964-1968. During this time he also fared very well as Lee Marvin’s sidekick in the 1964 TV film The Killers, which was considered too violent for TV so it went to theaters. Having being burned out being a TV star he tried to break into films, mostly as a character actor. His stand out films were The Last Picture Show (1971, playing Ellen Burstyn’s lover), McQ (1974) with John Wayne and A Force of One (1979) with Chuck Norris, with whom he would work in the 1990’s on Walker, Texas Ranger. Clu was also cast in San Francisco International Airport, with Lloyd Bridges, which failed big time. Throughout the 70’s and 80’s he was in almost every show around, playing bit parts. Then the unthinkable happened: he found a second career as a horror film actor; he followed the footsteps of other TV actors who were stuck in TV hell, like his costar from The Virginian –Doug McClure– and Christopher George. Both of them in late 70’s and early 80’s found new careers in B movies and late night horror films. Clu finally got a lead part in Dan O’ Bannon’s cult classic The Return of the Living Dead (1985). He also was in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985) Throughout the 80’s and 90’s he would appear in TV and in the occasional horror flick. In 2005 he started acting in his son’s horror films –the Feasts movies and Piranha DD in his 80’s. Not letting age get in his way, he has been a horror fan favorite and still shows up at conventions at almost 90 now. You can say one thing about Clu: what a diverse career it has been for this awesome cowboy!
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