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'I Spy' star Robert Culp dies at 79

LOS ANGELES - Robert Culp, the actor who teamed with Bill Cosby in the racially groundbreaking TV series "I Spy" and was Bob in the critically acclaimed sex comedy "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice," died Wednesday after collapsing outside his Hollywood home, his agent said. Culp was 79.

His manager, Hillard Elkins, said the actor was on a walk when he fell. He was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead just before noon. Los Angeles police Lt. Robert Binder said no foul play was suspected. Binder said a jogger found Culp, who apparently fell and struck his head.

Culp had been working on writing screenplays, Elkins said.

"I Spy," which aired from 1965 to 1968, was a television milestone in more ways than one. Its combination of humor and adventure broke new ground, and it was the first integrated television show to feature a black actor in a starring role.

Culp played Kelly Robinson, a spy whose cover was that of an ace tennis player. In real life, Culp actually was a top-notch tennis player who showed his skills in numerous celebrity tournaments.

Cosby was fellow spy Alexander Scott, whose cover was that of Culp's trainer. The pair traveled the world in the service of the U.S. government.

The series greatly advanced the careers of both actors.

Culp followed "I Spy" with his most prestigious film role, in "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice." The work of first-time director Paul Mazursky, who also co-wrote the screenplay, it lampooned the lifestyles of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Bob and Carol (Culp and Natalie Wood) were the innocent ones who were introduced to wife-swapping by their best friends, Ted and Alice (Elliott Gould and Dyan Cannon).

Culp also had starring roles in such films as "The Castaway Cowboy," "Golden Girl," "Turk 182!" and "Big Bad Mama II." His teaming with Cosby, however, was his best remembered role.

Cosby won Emmys for actor in a leading role all three years that "I Spy" aired, and Culp, who was nominated for the same award each year, said he was never jealous. "I was the proudest man around," he said in 1977.

Culp, born in 1930 in Oakland, Calif., attended College of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., Washington University in St. Louis and San Francisco State College before landing at the University of Washington's drama school.

He was married five times, to Nancy Ashe, Elayne Wilner, France Nuyen, Sheila Sullivan and Candace Faulkner. He had four children with Ashe and one with Faulkner.

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