Universally recognized as Ship's Doctor Adam Bricker on the blockbuster prime-time sitcom The Love Boat (1977-1986) -- a part he held for the entire nine-season run of the series -- actor Bernie Kopell entered the doors of show business via a most unlikely route. Born in Brooklyn, Kopell attended Erasmus High and then New York University (with a dramatic art major). After a stint at sea aboard the naval vessel USS Iowa, Kopell signed on to drive a taxicab in Southern California -- and achieved his big break on the day that Oregon Trail (1959) film producer Dick Einfeld hitched a ride in the back of his cab. In a span of minutes, Kopell reportedly managed to convince Einfeld that he was not really a cab driver but an actor in serious need of work. The effort paid off, and Kopell snagged his first part -- a two-line part in Oregon as an aide to president James K. Polk.
In the early '60s, Kopell joined the Actors' Ring Theatre in Los Angeles, where he developed a knack for characterizations and voices; this led, in turn, to character-type roles on a myriad of television programs including The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Steve Allen Show, and My Favorite Martian (which often, though not always, cast the wiry Kopell as a Hispanic). By the early '70s, Kopell had landed steady assignments on Get Smart, Bewitched, That Girl, and other series. The Love Boat, however, embodied his breakthrough. He followed it up with an emcee assignment on The Travel Channel (hosting its Railway Adventures Across Europe) and a surge in theatrical work, with portrayals in regional productions of such plays as Rumors, A History of Shadows, and Death of a Salesman.