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Gary Collins, Actor and Miss America Pageant Host, Dies at 74

Collins Gary P2012

Born in Venice, Calif., he would star in countless series and films before becoming a TV talk show fixture.

Gary Collins, an actor-turned-TV host who was a familiar face throughout the 1970s and 1980s, has died early Saturday in Biloxi, Miss. He was 74.

The reason was "natural causes," according to the Harrison County Coroner, the Associated Press reports.

Born in Venice, Ca., to a waitress mother, Collins enlisted in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Europe, where he got his showbiz start as a performer for the Armed Forces Network. 

He came back to Hollywood and got TV acting work in shows like 1965's The Wackiest Ship in the Army and 1972's The Sixth Sense, in which he starred as parapsychologist Dr. Michael Roberts. He also starred in Born Free, the 1974 TV series based on the film of the same name about wildlife conservationist George Adamson.

Collins built a busy career as a TV and film actor -- he even appeared in 1970's disaster classic Airport -- but audiences put the name to the face once he started hosting a series of light-news programs -- shows like Hour Magazine, which ran from 1980 to 1988, and the ABC talker The Home Show, which he hosted from 1989 to 1994. He was also the host of the Miss America Pageant from 1982 to 1990.

Collins moved to Mississippi, the home of wife Mary Ann Mobley (pictured with Collins above) in 2011, and in recent years had gotten into several scuffles with the law. In 2011, he was arrested and fined for leaving a Biloxi restaurant without paying his bill, and he was convicted on separate DUI cases in California in 2007 and 2009.

Collins is survived by his wife and their daughter, Marcy Clancy Collins, as well as by his two children Guy William and Melissa with first wife Susan Peterson.