Question: After reading your answer about Donna Reed's name, I don't want to bog you down with another real-name question. But I want to know. What was the real name of Chad Everett, the star of Medical Center? (I'll admit I already know. I just want to see if you do.) — Ann F., Kellogg, Idaho
Televisionary: Oh, Ann. Don't you realize that I only allow myself to be baited when I know I can give you far more on the given topic than you already know — and maybe far more than you want to know?
Everett, who co-starred with James Daly on the hit CBS doc drama for seven years beginning in September 1969, was born Ray Cramton (a decidedly unsuitable name for a dashing star). Agent Henry Willson, who came up with monikers for Tab Hunter and Rock Hudson, created Cramton's new one after the actor signed a $250-a-week contract with Warner Bros. "I had to change my name because the studio had Ray Danton under contract and insisted our names were too similar," Everett told TV Guide in 1975. "It wasn't easy finding a new name. In fact, I had seven or eight different ones. I was Chad Barton. Chad Colton. Chad Baxter. Then we finally got to Chad York. I really liked that name. It was two four-letter words and I could see it getting on a marquee quicker than a big, long name. I fought very hard for Chad York, and lost."
Everett may have lost, but his new name was certainly better than the one his grammar school mates stuck him with when he was a kid — "Lard." (That one went away, he explained, when he became the quarterback of his high school football team.)
Confusing matters, wife Brenda Thompson adopted the screen name Shelby Grant ("there were four Brendas in town who weren't making it," Everett explained), which complicated things when getting together with the family. ("My folks call us Ray and Shelby. Hers call us Chad and Brenda. We call each other Chad and Shelby.")
However, if household naming conventions were a little fuzzy, Shelby knew exactly where she stood in her husband's eyes when it came to other matters, particularly domestic ones. Take the time Everett appeared on The Dick Cavett Show and told the host: "I have three horses and three dogs... and a wife." Cavett asked him if he'd like to reconsider that billing order and the actor responded: "No... no, no... she's the most beautiful animal I own."
One likes to think Everett had his tongue in his cheek at the time, but over the years there were many such moments. Starting out an interview in 1972, the actor claimed not to know who Gloria Steinem or Bela Abzug were, adding that he hadn't even heard of women's lib until a Medical Center script brought it to his attention. Once he became aware of it, though, he liked what he saw... literally. "The thing I most enjoy about women's lib is the bras being gone and the great exposure of pulchritude," he said. "I'd like to see more of that type of lady speaking for equal rights."
Moving on to living arrangements in general, Everett frowned upon any sharing of household or child-rearing work. "It's ridiculous," he said of the notion. "A woman shares in the income of her man by giving a cleaning service. It's honorable work. Wives aren't slaves or prisoners."
Here's where I point out that I don't judge anyone's relationship so long as it's working for them. And the Everetts' was working. "Chad's never changed a diaper and a lot of women don't like that attitude," Grant said. "But I don't think, as long as he's making the money, he should have to. I've seen a lot of pussyfoot men at the laundromat and the supermarket each week. In our house Chad doesn't wear my clothes, and I don't wear his."
And for all his candor about his old-fashioned attitudes, Everett certainly didn't turn many of his female fans off. Medical Center was popular with the ladies and much of that popularity could be credited to Everett's Dr. Joe Gannon. "Some of the mail is blunt," he said of letters from his women-admirers. "And some of it is a little more subtle, like: 'If you're ever in my neck of the woods, I certainly would be tickled to death to have you come by and tickle me to death.'"
As for the rest of the show's fans, Executive Producer Frank Glicksman believed it was the lack of lecturing that roped them in. "We don't have an old guy like [Dr. Kildare's] Raymond Massey lecturing a young upstart like Dick Chamberlain," he said. "We don't make moral judgments, like we had to do by mandatory command of the networks in the old days. A young girl comes in to see Chad Everett with gonorrhea and he doesn't say, 'You shouldn't have done it,' but 'Let's cure it.' The kids dig that — a young hip doctor who relates to them and doesn't moralize."
Nope, no moralizing there. Good thing the young girl never asked him to call her "Ms.," though.