- The Washington Times - Monday, September 3, 2001

LOS ANGELES (AP) Actor Troy Donahue, a blond, blue-eyed heartthrob of the 1950s and '60s who starred in teen romances like "A Summer Place" and "Parrish," died yesterday. He was 65.
Mr. Donahue died at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica after suffering a heart attack on Thursday, said family friend Bob Palmer.
The actor played Sandra Dee's young lover in 1959's "A Summer Place," a role that made him a teen matinee star.
"He was a good-looking, blond guy who looked great on the beach," Mr. Palmer said. "He was a little more moody he wasn't a gee-whiz guy. His character was more the brooding youth, but with heroic underpinnings."
Mr. Donahue went on to star in a series of teen romances, including "Parrish" (1961), "Rome Adventure" (1962) and "Palm Springs Weekend" (1963).
Mr. Donahue was born Merle Johnson Jr. on Jan. 27, 1936, in New York City, according to a Warner Bros. studio biography from 1960. His father headed the motion picture division of General Motors Corp. and his mother was an aspiring actress.
He moved at 19 to Hollywood, where he was discovered by Warner Bros. The release of "A Summer Place" made him for a time the studio's top fan-mail draw. "They'd ask me to light a cigarette and when I did, they screamed and fell down," Mr. Donahue said of his fans in an interview with the Associated Press a year after the film's release.
During his heyday, Mr. Donahue split his time between the movies and television, appearing in ABC's detective series "Surfside Six."
He was given his screen name by Henry Willson, the same film agent who named Rock Hudson. "It was part of me 10 minutes after I got it. It feels so natural, I jump when people call me by my old name. Even my mother and sister call me Troy now."
By the late 1960s, the studios stopped making the kind of teen films that propelled Mr. Donahue to stardom. He had a bit part in 1974's "The Godfather: Part II," playing a character called Merle Johnson. But with his career in decline, Mr. Donahue became a drunk and a drug addict, even spending a summer as a homeless vagrant in New York's Central Park. He became sober by the early 1980s.
"I realized that I was going to die, and I was dying or worse than that, I might live the way I was living for the rest of my life," Mr. Donahue said at the time. He has had bit parts since then, including a role in director John Waters' 1990 film "Cry-Baby."
Mr. Donahue was married at least four times, once to actress Suzanne Pleshette.
He is survived by two children and a sister.


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