Q & A

As everyone knows, I co-authored “DAVID JANSSEN-MY FUGITIVE” with Ellie Janssen.  After many years, I finally wrote: “DAVID JANSSEN~Our Conversations” in two volumes. There was so much I had to just leave out.  I have corresponded with many, many of Dave’s devoted fans and found many of you have questions about his persona, his life”off-screen” that have not been answered or even touched on in the books.  Here, I invite you to ask questions, and if I can provide you with a factual answer, I will be pleased to do so.  Please feel free to e-mail me directly if you desire.


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26 thoughts on “Q & A

  1. Mary Shanahan, Dublin, Ireland

    Hello Mike, As you will know being a devoted fan of Davids’ I have read ‘OUR CONVERSATIONS’ a couple of times. I often thought about the time he spent in the Mc. Kinley Home and how unhappy he was there. His Mother Bernice claimed in an interview that he was”ONLY” there for 1 year and that David told lies. Of course I believe what David said he was there from the age of 9 until he was 12. Why do you think she felt the need to lie about it, was she ashamed? I know you met Bernice, did the subject ever come up ?

    Thanks Mike, keep working for David, he is watching over you.

  2. mike@davidjanssenfugitive.com

    David loved his mother, however, she had hurt him, deeply when she placed him in the McKinley Home for Boys for THREE YEARS. Then, as he was a struggling “Contract Player” at Universal Studios, and during his 2 years service in the U. S. Army, of course, he was struggling financially. She would “lend” him money, which he always repaid. However, he was SHOCKED when (after he was in his third season of “DIAMOND” and had married Ellie – whom she did not approve of), she showed him a LEDGER BOOK, and it contained every DIME she had lent him through the years, including postage stamps for letters she sent him at Fort Ord), and it showed a balance just under $300! He felt she did that to embarrass him in front of Ellie. He promptly wrote her a check for nearly double and told her “consider this “paid in full, with interest.” He continued to help her financially until he married Dani, who put a stop to it. I think his financial support was in his mind, a feeling of obligation. I do believe the clause in his Will, leaving his mother $1.00 was true. He felt abandoned by her, he loved Gene Janssen as if he were his real father and he was devastated when his mother divorced Gene. When Ellie and I interviewed Berneice, my thoughts were she was not stating facts, but stating HER “facts”, and she believed it herself. It reminded me of Ellie and how conflicted Ellie’s memories were and what Dave had discussed the same incidents, people, etc. that Ellie was dictating to me for her Memoir.

    Thank you for being a devoted fan of Dave’s.

    Have a great evening,

    Mike Phelps

  3. Pearl


    I have finished reading “My Fugitive” prior to beginning reading your two books of recollections of Dave. After Ellie’s memoir, I am definitely looking forward to reading your own impressions.

    I believe I read that you said in an interview that after initially struggling with Ellie’s words and impressions about Dave, that you finally just decided to simply write what she said, and not to challenge any of her observations … or something to that effect. Writing her words apparently also provided even more motivation for you to write your own books about Dave.

    After reading Ellie’s memoir, I am struck by a number of things. As I have often done in the past when I want to address a number of specific points and questions, rather than just include all of them in one, long email, I will bullet each of the items and then go into more depth after each one.

    If you had been allowed to really edit Ellie’s memoir, rather than just write what she dictated, how might you have handled the following …

    · It takes almost three full chapters for there to be any mention of all of David Janssen in the book, even though the title is “My Fugitive”.

    o While I understand that Ellie had a life before David, might it not have been appropriate to at least provide an introduction somehow relating that this book is about her relationship with David, but first, she wants to provide some background on herself?
    · The first few chapters,, and really the whole book, come across as quite self-indulgent. Her recounting of her relationship with Frank Sinatra is just full of questions.

    o Were you ever able to do any verification of what she had to say about Frank? I assume that Frank was already dead by the time you wrote this memoir for her?
    o Was there ever any attempt to verify her story about aborting Frank’s baby but never telling Frank about it?
    o Given Frank’s megastar status, I struggle to completely believe that Ellie was so, almost indifferent and cavalier about their relationship – like it was fun, but it was really no big deal.
    o Do you know whether Frank ever addressed his relationship with Ellie in any of his memoirs?
    · The first few chapters end in almost a stereotypical cliff hanging comment, intending I suppose to lead the reader to the next chapter.

    o Examples: Chapter I: “… a dark cloud would soon cast its pall over my life.”
    Chapter II: “But my life was about to be energized in a way I would dread.”
    Chapter IV: “My heart was pounding as I raced to pick up the phone.”
    o Was this Ellie’s specific desire to do that? It seems more like an amateur’s attempt to artificially create interest, or even suspense. Granted, you were very new to writing at that point, but I’m wondering if those may have been Ellie’s suggestions?

    Other questions about the book’s content.
    · The recounting of the events leading up to Dave asking Ellie to marry her seem a bit, if not unbelievable, at least once again self-indulgent on Ellie’s part.

    o Given that Ellie did not seem at all concerned about her relationship with Frank, or Frank’s other relationships, which did not involve marriage, and that she even aborted his child with no apparent thought of asking Frank to even do the “right”” thing, how does that square with her supposed distress at what other people might think about her relationship out of wedlock with Dave?
    o I will be curious to learn what Dave’s thoughts are about the events leading up to his proposal to Ellie. I am sure that those will be related in your first book. In retrospect, I wonder if Dave felt at all manipulated into that marriage? Ellie makes it sound like she gave him every opportunity to back out up until the last minute. Given everything else in the memoir, forgive me if I find that a bit suspect.
    · Did Dave feel as strongly, as apparently Ellie did, that the producers of Richard Diamond would be as opposed to their marriage occurring during the time of production?

    o Was Dick Powell really that upset?
    · I’ll be interested to read any comments Dave had about Suzanne Pleshette. Ellie certainly appears to have been extremely jealous of her even though she admits there may not have been any reason to be.

    I’m looking forward to reading the two books relating your conversations with David.
    Continued good fortune with developing this website for David. Keep up the good work.

    Roger Koehler (aka Pearl)

    • mike@davidjanssenfugitive.com

      Hello, Roger,

      Thank you for your kind words, I believe I can provide factual answers to your questions. Yes, the reactions to Ellie’s memoir, coupled with a few of Dave’s friends and mostly Carol Connors was the prime motivation for me to write “Our Conversations”.

      1. That was a major criticism of Ellie’s memoir – that it was “self-serving.”

      2. Yes, I cringed at the first few chapters – especially about her abortion Mr. Sinatra had no knowledge of. As I relate in “Our Conversations”, me making a call to Mr. Sinatra to beg him to allow Ellie to include that segment in her book took nerves of steel I did not know I had. I had no words planned, did not know IF I would reach him or how he would respond. I can only say, he was a true Gentleman. I do agree with you, her recollections of her affair with him leave many questions, even for me.

      Mr. Sinatra was very much alive when her Memoir was published. She had sent him a copy of the original manuscript. She also sent him a hardcover copy of her book. To my knowledge, he did not respond.

      As for Ellie’s indifference and cavalier attitude of her relationship with Mr. Sinatra, I believe that stems from the fact she was from a wealthy family, was divorcing a multi-millionaire garment manufacturer, and most telling was her relating that Mr. Sinatra was surrounded by many beautiful women. I do not believe Ellie was HIS only “lady of the night” during her time with him in Las Vegas. To my knowledge, Mr. Sinatra has never mentioned Ellie in any public forum.
      As for Ellie’s feeble attempts at creating suspense leading the reader to the next chapter, those are all her words – not the way I would have preferred to proceed. My writing experience was limited to police reports and legal briefs – more of the “Just the Facts, Mam” Jack Webb – “Dragnet” style. LOL

      As for Dave’s proposal, I had to rely on her recollection. Dave and I never had occasion to discuss it.I do know Dave did not know Ellie was 11 years her senior until they applied for a marriage license in Las Vegas.

      Her “distress” at Richard Long and Mara Corday seeing her leave Dave’s cottage one morning, I believe was her attempt at self-indignation. No, Dave did not feel manipulated into their marriage at all. He truly loved her, and that was confirmed to me by the fact their age difference was not important to him. Ellie was taken aback at the William Morris Agency’s objections to their marriage, and according to her, it was Dave who became angry and determined.to make his own personal decisions. Fortunately, soon after, while in New York, one of Ellie’s family friends called Agent Abby Greshler and arranged for Dave and Ellie to meet him when they returned to Hollywood. Abby was impressed with Dave and knew all about him before they met. Abby agreed to be his Agent. The first thing Abby did was get the Morris Agency to release Dave from his contract with them…He then renegotiated Dave’s contract with Dick Powell’s Four Star Productions for the third season of “Richard Diamond”. Dave’s salary went from $750 to $7,500 per episode. Abby and Dave became close friends as well as Abby remaining his Agent for the remainder of his life. Dave looked upon Abby Greshler as his SAVIOR and a strong “father” figure. Gene Janssen was MORE a father in Dave’s eyes than his biological father with whom he had no memory of.

      Dick Powell had little contact with Dave once “Diamond” went into production. They did enjoy a cordial business relationship. Dave always held Mr. Powell in high regard and was grateful for the opportunity he gave him – it was his first “real, big break.”
      I know that Dave really did fall in love with Suzanne Pleshette, and had he been able to divorce Ellie at that time, I have no doubt he would have proposed, and Suzanne would have said “yes!”

      I thank you for being a loyal fan of Dave’s and “THE FUGITIVE”. I do hope you enjoy reading “Our Conversations” and that you will stop by his site from time to time.

      I love your ‘PEARL’S NEW MEXICO BLOG’ on WordPress! Now I understand your nickname “Pearl”. Great Photos and great literary content as well!

      Thank you, with Best Wishes,

      Mike Phelps

  4. Raymond Starman

    I like your new website very much. I like the subject headings for Janssen as well. I will continue to follow it. Anything you need from my book TV Noir:20th Century relating to David I will gladly supply. It’s great that you’re keeping his career and acting reputation alive. Best of luck, talk later.

    • mike@davidjanssenfugitive.com

      Hello, RAY STARMAN,

      As you know, I LOVED your Book, and especially the detailed insights you presented on “THE FUGITIVE” and David Janssen.
      With your permission, I will place your book’s Cover and a link where Dave’s fans can purchase it. I think many of Dave’s
      fans will also be fans of the television series you write so eloquently write about.

      Thank you,

      Mike Phelps

      • Ray Starman

        Mike, thank you so very much. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. I will gladly follow your new website and look forward to it Take care

      • mike@davidjanssenfugitive.com


        David’s favorite color was blue – any shade. (His Humor).

        He was a voracious reader and read several books per month. He would look at a book’s topic, if he liked it, he bought the book and read it. If he knew nothing of the subject matter, he would definitely read it. He had a wide range of interests, but loved history (since the beginning of time).

        Thank you for being a loyal fan of Dave’s. Have a nice evening.

        Best wishes,

        Mike Phelps

    • mike@davidjanssenfugitive.com

      Good Evening, Hazel,

      Dave’s favorite color was blue (“any shade, as long as it’s blue”.

      Dave was a voracious reader and his interests ranged from world history, American History, World War II,
      the classics, novels of every genre, especially true crime, biographies . . . he was so well versed and recalled details of each book long after he had read it. He not only read a book, he absorbed it.



  5. mike@davidjanssenfugitive.com

    ‘TV NOIR – The Twentieth Century’ By RAY STARMAN.
    Available on Amazon.com – ISBN: 978-1453696002 ONLY $7.95 (Paperback Edition).
    I read the book cover-to-cover and LOVED it!

    • Raymond Starman

      Michael, thank you so much for those encouraging words. Coming especially from you it means a lot to me. I hope to be able to contribute to your website and appreciate any readers who are interested in my book as well. I Look forward to communicating with all of you. I appreciate everyone who welcomed me into your group. Thanks again to Michael and everyone in the group. Take care.

  6. mike@davidjanssenfugitive.com

    Hi Ray,

    ANY FAN of David Janssen and “THE FUGITIVE” TV series would love the chapter you devoted to him and the series. You worked hard on your research and the side notes no one has matched, Dave would be proud and humbled.

    I URGE his fans and fans of “THE FUGITIVE”, as well as all the classic TV series to get your book. They will surely enjoy it.


  7. Joanne infantino

    Are you planing to write anymore books on David Jansen I’m sure there is more to his story

    • mike@davidjanssenfugitive.com

      Good Morning, Ms. Infantino,
      There is so, so much I felt I had to leave out of “Our Conversations”. As ‘The Final Years (1973-1980) ends with the finality of his shocking death, I still wrestle with “can I write more, include a lot more about his tormented mind during his tumultuous last six years with Dani. I have yet to make a decision.

      The reason for this ‘Q & A’ page on HIS website is to encourage his fans to post questions about Dave and his personality, his state of mind during times of discord with Ellie and Dani. After I relocated to New York City, we saw each other far more infrequent than when I lived in Los Angeles. However, our telephone conversations increased, and of course, we saw each other when he had reason to be in New York.

      Please feel free to post any questions and if I am able to provide you with a factual answer, I will do so immediately.

      Thank you so much for being a loyal and devoted fan of Dave’s. He appreciated his fans much more than they realized. I appreciate your active participation on Louis Carauna’s facebook The Fugitive: TV Series (1963-1967).

      Best wishes,

      Mike Phelps

  8. Anita Brown

    Hey Mike! You already know how much I appreciate you, & for what you did for DJ in his lifetime & what you’ve shared since. Anyhow, got a question for ya. As much as I enjoy watching Harry O, over and over and over (like everything Dave did), I always wondered if David Janssen ever had his own boat?

    • mike@davidjanssenfugitive.com



      THANKS AGAIN, ANITA, FOR ALL YOUR GREAT POSTS, ATTACHMENTS, AND COMMENTS ON THE facebook.com/The Fugitive: The TV Series (1963-1967).


  9. mike@davidjanssenfugitive.com


    • Carol Bianchi

      Hi Mike,
      I am sure this date is very memorable for you, and also for us fans. I remember reading how shocked and devasted you were about his sudden death in reading your books on Janssen. So true, David Janssen will be forever Loved and Never Be Forgotten.

      I have read that on February 13th, he passed on @ 5:36am, but was officially publicly pronounced as being passed @ 5:55am. Do you know the exact timing of his passing?
      I recall this date of his passing since I was coming home from my college classes, and in the kitchen of my home, I can vividly remember my Mother and her three sisters sobbing. I had thought something terribly went wrong with my Father. Instead, My Mother told me that David Janssen had died. I remember feeling so sad for days on end. I was a Janssen fan at the age of 9. Got hooked on The Fugitive, but also have many of Janssen’s TV movies and of course his 4 TV series.
      I started to watch again the Harry O series. He appeared to be so relaxed and natural in this series, since he loved being close to the Beach.

      Recently, I checked the online Memorials and there are many “hits” about remembering David . Many have made comments on February 13th and 14th.

      Also, when you have an opportunity, please check out Goodreads site. I had left a comment for you awhile back.

  10. mike@davidjanssenfugitive.com

    Good Afternoon, Carol,

    Yes, it is a somber day, and the sadness does not diminish with the passing of even 38 years.

    Dave was officially pronounced at 5:55 AM (PMT) in Santa Monica Hospital. An Autopsy performed the following afternoon determined the cause of death to be a massive heart attack. According to a Fire-Rescue Paramedic Lieutenant who had responded and Ellie and I interviewed for her Memoir, they found Dave in bed dressed in blue pajamas, and without Vital Signs. They placed him on the floor and began CPR, also placing an IV in his left arm to begin hydration. After approximately 20-30 minutes, they did get his heart beating. They then placed him in the Ambulance and rushed him to the hospital. The Emergency Room doctors made every attempt to revive him, to no avail, and he was pronounced officially at 5:55 AM.

    That is a touching recollection of your Mother and her sister’s reaction to learning od Dave’s passing. Thank you for sharing it with me. I have heard many similar stories. Dave had over 32 million (estimated at the time) Fans around the world.

    As for “HARRY O”. The series was conceived by Writer Howard Rodman, and the title character was written SPECIFICALLY for DAVID JANSSEN. Now, I have some great news about “HARRY O” and “David Janssen-Our Conversations. Actor Les Lannom, who co-starred with Dave in six episodes of “HARRY O” (as Lester Hodges) and I have teamed up and Les will Narrate an AUDIOBOOK of both Volumes. The most exciting part of this project for me is that Les will insert HIS own memories of working with Dade, having him as his Mentor, Dave’s quick wit, relaxing with him in his Silver Bullet and sharing some good Irish Whiskey. Dave LOVED the role, loved Les as a “little brother” and told me it was his FAVORITE television role.

    Thank you so much, Carol for your interest and continuing to help keep Dave’s memory alive,

    Best Wishes,

    Mike Phelps

    • Carol Bianchi


      Such exciting news about the AUDIOBOOK! I am sure you will notify us fans through this website and other sites, when the AUDIOBOOK is completed and where to purchase it. Yes, I did enjoy seeing Les Lannom on Harry O. I also enjoyed Henry Darrow who was later replaced by Anthony Zerbe. I loved when David on Harry O would open up a beer can, and throw the can tab in the sink or in the ashtray, or just throw the can tab into a fresh can of beer and start to drink it. And also that he never liked having to lock his beach house.
      I never knew that David drank Irish Whiskey-this is so strong. I recall his favorite was Scotch.
      Thank you for your response. And stay safe with the Florida flood waters. That is, if you are still in Miami.

      • mike@davidjanssenfugitive.com

        Dear Carol,

        Thank you again for your kind words and memories of Dave, especially in “HARRY O”. He LOVED the character which Howard Rodman specifically wrote for him to play. It allowed him to really be himself and mostly, to inject his humor into the role. As Les will explain, there WAS a lot of “Adlib” by Dave diverting from the script. Dave only drank Irish Whiskey on rare occasions. Les is 100% Irish, and he would bring a “jug” to the Silver Bullet on occasion.

        Les has already started on the AUDIOBOOK, and we are very excited about it. I will post all details when it is ready on the fb Fugitive page, and everywhere else I can.

        Thanks again, have a good evening,

        Best Always,


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