David Janssen ~ Biography

Janssen in his starring role on “Harry O”

DAVID HAROLD MEYER was born in Naponee, Nebraska on March 27, 1931.   His mother Berneice Graf Meyer, a former Miss Nebraska, had been a member of the touring Ziegfeld Follies Burlequsce group. When David was two-years-old, she left Harold Meyer and took David to Los Angeles, California in hopes of entering the film industry as an actress. Despite her best efforts, her dreams of fame and fortune were not realized, and she faced numerous struggles. In 1940, as David had just turned nine-years-old, she placed him in the McKinley Home for Boys as she felt she could no longer provide a good and stable home for him. He would remain in the Home until he was 12.

Berneice had married Eugene Janssen, a trucking company executive. It was Gene Janssen who brought David into their home and provided, for the first time, real stability to David’s life.  He was a role model for David and a genuine father figure. As he was about to enter high school, Gene Janssen wanted to legally adopt David. David’s biological father refused to grant permission. However,  David changed his name and became officially known as David Janssen.

David was a talented athlete and excelled in swimming, basketball and Pole Vaulting.  He was very popular in high school. Berneice recognized her handsome young son could find a career in the film industry.  She began “shopping” David around to Agents and Studios and taking him to auditions.