5 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Kojak’ Star Telly Savalas

Kojak Telly Savalas 1973-1978
Everett Collection

30 years ago on January 22, day in 1994, actor Aristotelis “Telly” Savalas lost his battle with prostate cancer just one day after his 72nd birthday. Savalas was a proud Greek actor best known for his role as Lt. Theodore “Theo” Kojak in the 1970s show Kojak. Some of his other notable roles were in Birdman of Alcatraz, The Dirty Dozen, and Battle of the Bulge. In honor of the star, learn some interesting facts about his life and career, which spanned over four decades on television and in movies.

There was a reason Kojak loved lollipops

American Actor Telly Savalas Stars in the TV series 'Kojak', 01.11.1986

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His most famous character Kojak always seemed to have a lollipop in his mouth. Turns out, Savalas was a heavy smoker and often smoked cigarettes and cigars in the first few seasons. When he was trying to quit, lollipops were offered to him to help him stop smoking. He also admitted to having a huge sweet tooth but having so much sugar gave him many cavities.

He was extremely proud of his Greek heritage

12/1973- New York, NY- Full length view of actor Telly Savalas in his role of New York City Detective Lt. Theo Kojak in CBS-TV series "Kojak". SEE NOTE.

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He was known for saying “Everybody should have a little Greek in them” and was very outspoken about his heritage. He was born to Greek-American parents Christina Kapsalis and Nick Savalas (Tsavalas). His mother was an artist while his father owned a Greek restaurant. He had four siblings and once said, “Our father raised us with great pride in being Greek, to never lose our Greek language, to never lose our religion, and the Greek pride…blood doesn’t become water…Hellenism will never be lost.” He contributed to the St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church in Los Angeles and often participated in Greek Independence Day parades.

He was the godfather to a very famous actor

Jennifer Aniston and John Aniston

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Savalas was a close family friend of actor John Aniston and even became Jennifer Aniston‘s godfather. She reportedly called him Nono Telly.

He loved being famous

 Telly Savalas, 1973 Lisa and the Devil

Everett Collection

Celebrities have differing opinions on the fame that comes with starring in big movies and television shows but Savalas was always ready for it. He often spoke freely about his love of fame and would do things considered scandalous like appearing on the cover of People Magazine shirtless in 1974.

He had many unusual hobbies and talents

1987: Actor and star of TV's "Kojak," Telly Savalas, takes a break during the World Series of Poker in this 1987 Las Vegas, Nevada

George Rose/Getty Images

While he was an accomplished actor, he was also a singer and had some success on the charts, especially with the cover songs “If” and “Some Broken Hearts Never Mend.” Savalas had a degree in psychology, raced motorcycles, was a world-class poker player and a lifeguard. Talk about talent!

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