Question: I hope you can answer this: Who played Nick on The Big Valley? It is killing me and my co-workers! We know that Barbara Stanwick was the mother and Linda Evans was Audra. Lee Majors was Heath and Richard Long was Jarrod. I can picture the Nick character always in black, wearing two guns, with wavy hair and striking good looks. But who is he? Thanks. — Judy

Televisionary: Now just you and your co-workers hang on a minute there, Judy. If everyone who wrote in was as well-informed as you, ticking off names of cast members and all, I'd be out of job. But praise be to whoever kept the face behind Nick Barkley out of your noggin, since you still need the ol' Televisionary to ease your troubled mind.

The man's name is Peter Breck and he is, to my mind, one of the more interesting fellas to sit down with a TV Guide reporter since, to hear his tales, there's not a whole lot of difference between him and his in-your-face, two-fisted character. The actor, who worked on the series alongside the talent you mentioned during its entire 1965-69 run on ABC, started his career in early '50s New York. Or rather, he tried to start it, but ended up scraping by and surviving on such hobo-like delicacies as ketchup soup — the recipe for which he described to TV Guide in 1966.

"I bought two jugs of vodka, grape juice and lemonade and mixed a Purple Jenny," the actor said. "I took the 50 or 60 bottles my friends brought and stowed them in the bedroom. Everybody drank the punch. The next day I took the booze back to a liquor store and got $300 for it." Pretty slick, no? And lest you wonder about the man's integrity, he noted that he'd paid back every bottle he took within a month.

That kind of pragmatism and no-frills thinking stuck with the man even when he was getting steady work on Big Valley, since he hadn't forgotten landing a lead on the short-lived Black Saddle, watching it get cancelled out from under him, then grabbing another role on a show that never made it to the airwaves. "When your series dies, you have to start over," Breck said. "You can't be proud. You take unemployment checks; you take what work you can get... You can't carry that star on your sleeve. It'll replace your heart... If I'm not a star, I won't let it bug me. I got a word for people who want to be a star. Change your name to EXIT. You'll see your name all over."

Now, you and your colleagues get back to work before your boss kills you.