Though his political career received less attention than that of other entertainers-turned-legislators like Clint Eastwood, Fred Dalton Thompson or even Sonny Bono, Fred Grandy was indeed successful in making the transition from working actor to the House of Representatives in the 1980s. The reason for his low-ranking status in that exclusive group was possibly due to his best-known credit as randy pursuer Burl "Gopher" Smith on the lowbrow but popular romantic comedy series "The Love Boat" (ABC, 1977-1986). Grandy, however, had developed an interest in politics long before his acting career took off in the early 1970s, and he good-naturedly shouldered comments about his "Love Boat" past while campaigning for the Iowa House of Representatives, where he served for four terms. After completing his duties in Iowa, he campaigned unsuccessfully for governor of the state before presiding over Goodwill Industries, hosting his own conservative radio talk show, and appearing on a daily talk show for Retirement Living TV. Though largely out of political office and entertainment later in his career, Grandy nonetheless remained active with the causes he believed in and remained a beloved TV actor for a certain generation who grew up with "The Love Boat."
Born Frederick Lawrence Grandy in Sioux City, IA on June 29, 1948, he came from a wealthy family and attended the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, where he shared a room with presidential grandson, David Eisenhower. Grandy was later the best man at Eisenhower's wedding to fellow commander in chief offspring, Julie Nixon. He later went on to attend Harvard University, where he graduated magna cum laude with a degree in English in 1970. He served briefly as an aide to U.S. Representative Wiley Mayne, but kept a foot in performance and comedy. In the early 1970s, he was a member of the Boston-based comedy group The Proposition, which counted future "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) alum like Jane Curtin among its members. Grandy later wrote and performed with Curtin in the play "Pretzels," which enjoyed an off-Broadway run.
Grandy's onscreen career began in 1973 with guest appearances on comedy series like "Love, American Style" (ABC, 1969-1974) and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (CBS, 1970-77), which featured his future "Love Boat" captain Gavin MacLeod. He made his feature debut as an ill-fated racer in the futuristic black comedy "Death Race 2000" (1975), while enjoying a recurring role as Adrienne Barbeau's boyfriend on "Maude" (CBS, 1972-78). Grandy later became the star of his own series with 1976's "The Monster Squad" (NBC), a live-action children's series about a wax museum employee (Grandy) who brings to life three legendary movie monsters to help fight crime.
The following year, Grandy signed on to sail the high seas on Aaron Spelling's campy guest star showcase, "The Love Boat." As Gopher, Grandy was given the lion's share of the laughs to shoulder, and he delivered them with a light blend of verbal zing and physical comedy. Given the show's heavy-handed approach to both humor and romance, Grady's tasks were unenviable, but he delivered with an energy and charm that made him one of the series' more well-loved characters. Despite the show's schedule, Grandy found time to guest star on several other series during its network run, including "Fantasy Island" (ABC, 1978-1984), which followed "Love Boat" in the powerful Saturday night programming block. Grandy also stepped away from his zany Gopher persona to play the venal political operative Donald Segretti, who was convicted of wrongdoing during the Nixon campaign, in the 1979 TV movie "Blind Ambition."
Gradually, Grandy grew disillusioned with both "The Love Boat" and acting in general, confessing to MacLeod that he planned to quit the series and run for political office. Reportedly, his co-star made the first contribution to Grandy's campaign. When the series ran aground in 1986, Grandy ran for the Iowa seat on the United States House of Representatives as a moderate Republican. He won by a narrow margin. During his four terms in office, he served on a number of committees, including Agriculture, Ways and Means, and numerous others. As for his acting past, he tried to maintain a healthy distance from it, though publicly admitted that without the exposure afforded to him by "The Love Boat," he would have never made it to his current position in government.
In 1994, Grandy gave up his seat to run for governor of Iowa, which he lost by only four percentage points. He then moved into the private sector to serve as president of Goodwill from 1995 to 2000, and lent his political expertise to a teaching position at the School of Public Affairs at University of Maryland College Park. Grandy also contributed to NPR as a political commentator. He turned to radio in 2003 to serve as co-host of "The Grandy & Andy Morning Show" on WMAL-FM in Washington, D.C., which was later renamed "The Grandy Group." The following year, Grandy suffered a heart attack and underwent an emergency angioplasty, but returned to work at the station a year later, attributing his quick recovery to his vegan diet. No stranger to controversy, Grandy was forced to resign from the show in 2010 for incendiary remarks he made against Islam. Meanwhile, after almost two decades away from television, Grandy made an unexpected return to acting with an appearance in a 2004 episode of "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010). He did remain active in conservative politics after his dismissal from his radio show, supporting Newt Gingrich during his run for president during the Republican primaries and continuing to make, by most accounts, outlandish accusations about liberal groups like insisting that the ACLU and Occupy Wall Street were linked to radical Islam.