Gardner McKay, an actor plucked from obscurity to star in TV's "Adventures in Paradise," but who later became distinguished as the author of one of regional theatre's most popular plays, Sea Marks, died in Honolulu Nov. 21 after a battle with prostate cancer.
Mr. McKay was 69 and is remembered as television's hunky Capt. Adam Troy, an adventurer who represented free-living by comandeering his own boat in the South Pacific. The 1959-62 ABC series was high-profile but Mr. McKay's greater joy was traveling the world and writing plays and fiction. The two-character Sea Marks, a favorite in the regional theatres for its lusty language and deep well of emotion (to say nothing of a producable cast size), was preserved by PBS in 1976, in a production starring Veronica Castang and George Hearn. The work concerns an Irish fisherman who writes poetry-tinged letters to a spinster in Liverpool who wants to publish his work.
Sea Marks has been presented around the world, and made its Off-Broadway debut in 1981-82 after success in resident theatres around the country. Mr. McKay's other plays include Me, seen in a 1972 TV presentation as "Untold Damage" (with Geraldine Fitzgerald and Richard Dreyfuss) and Masters of the Sea, billed as "a tragedy with comedy in three acts," and This Fortunate Island. He also wrote a thriller novel, "Toyer," about a serial criminal who doesn't kill his female victims, but "toys" with them psychologically.
Mr. McKay, the 6-foot-5-inch, darkly handsome son of an ad executive, was raised in New York and Paris. He attended Cornell University for two years, but quit when his father died. He was a sculptor and had done some bit-part acting before he was noticed at a Hollywood restaurant by producer Dominick Dunne, who arranged for a screen test for "Adventures in Paradise." Mr. McKay would become world famous for the briefly-seen show, but chucked any more Hollywood success to travel the world, from the Sahara to the Amazon.
In addition to writing plays, Mr. McKay was theatre critic for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner 1977-82 and was a short story writer whose works were heard on Hawaiian public radio. He is survived by his wife, Madeleine Madigan, and, according to The New York Times, brother Hugh Dean McKay, son Tristan Gardner Lebaile, of Paris, daughter Liza McKay Petree, of San Francisco, and a granddaughter.