Actor, TV host Gary Collins dies at 74

BILOXI, Miss. — Gary Collins, an actor, television show host and former master of ceremonies for the Miss America Pageant, died Saturday, authorities said. He was 74. Collins, a resident of Biloxi, Miss., died of natural causes just before 1 a.m. Saturday after he was admitted Friday evening to Biloxi Regional Medical Center, according to Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove.

During the 1980s, Collins hosted the Miss America pageant and the television shows “Hour Magazine” — for which he won a Daytime Emmy in 1983 — and “The Home Show.”

As an actor, he appeared in numerous movies and was a fixture on television in the 1960s and 1970s, playing a variety of guest roles in comedies and dramas including “Perry Mason,” “The Love Boat” and “Ironside,” among others. He also starred in regular series including “The Wackiest Ship in the Army” and “The Iron Horse” in the 1960s and the “The Sixth Sense” in the 1970s.

He kept acting for decades, appearing as late as 2009 in an episode of the TV show “Dirty Sexy Money.”

Collins was married to former Miss America and Mississippi native Mary Ann Mobley.

Best known as a handsome and amiable on-air personality, his public image suffered at times because of run-ins with the law.

In 2009, he pleaded guilty in Santa Barbara, Calif., to misdemeanor driving under the influence — his third offense. In 2010, he was fined $500 in Jackson, Miss., for leaving the scene of a traffic accident.

Last year, a Harrison County judge dismissed charges against Collins for allegedly leaving a Biloxi restaurant without paying his bill. Dismissal came after a restaurant employee asked to with draw his complaint in the case.

Information on funeral arrangements was not available Saturday afternoon.

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