Aristotelis "Telly" Savalas (Greek: Αριστοτέλης "Τέλι" Σαββάλας; January 21, 1922 – January 22, 1994) was an American film and television actor and singer, whose career spanned four decades.
Best known for playing the title role in the 1970s crime drama Kojak, Savalas was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Birdman of Alcatraz (1962). His other movie credits include The Young Savages (1961), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Battle of the Bulge (1965), The Dirty Dozen (1967), The Scalphunters (1968), supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), Kelly's Heroes (1970), Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971), Inside Out (1975) and Escape to Athena (1979).
Savalas, the second of five children, was born as Aristotelis Savalas (Greek: Αριστοτέλης Σαβάλας) in Garden City, New York, to Greek American parents Christina (née Kapsalis), a New York City artist who was a native of Sparta, and Nick Savalas, a Greek restaurant owner. When he entered Sewanhaka High School in Floral Park, New York, he initially only spoke Greek, yet learned English and graduated in 1940. After graduation, he worked as a lifeguard, but on one occasion, was unsuccessful at rescuing a man from drowning, an event which would haunt Savalas for the remainder of his life. When he entered Columbia University School of General Studies, Savalas took a variety of courses, such as English, radio and psychology, graduating in 1948. At that time, he fell in love with radio and television, which led to his interest in acting. Savalas also gained life experience with a three-year stint (1943–1946) in the Army during World War II, working for the State Department as host of the "Your Voice of America" series, then at ABC News, before beginning an acting career in his late thirties. In 1950, Savalas hosted a popular radio show called The Coffeehouse in New York City.