Bruce Kessler’s Cause of Death: Prolific TV Director and Adventurer Dies at 88

After a brief illness, Bruce Kessler, a well-known boat designer and prolific TV director, passed away in Marina Del Rey, California, on April 4. He was eighty-eight.

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Bruce Kessler’s Cause of Death:

When Bruce Kessler wasn’t racing cars, building boats, or sailing around the world on a sailboat, he directed episodes of television programs, including The Monkees; It Takes a Thief, The Rockford Files, McCloud, and The Commish. He passed away. He was eighty-eight.

After a brief illness, Kessler passed away at his Marina del Rey home on Thursday, according to his brother, novelist and writer Stephen Kessler, who spoke to The Hollywood Reporter.

Among the survivors is his spouse, the actress Joan Freeman, who gained notoriety as Elvis Presley’s love interest in the 1964 film Roustabout. After being together for 54 years, she and Kessler were married for 33 years.

Bruce Kessler: Who is He? & Career Life

After working as second-unit director on Howard Hawks’ action movie Red Line 7000 (1965), which featured James Caan and was about stock cars, Kessler became a television director for three decades.

With the final episode of his career aired in 1997, his credits included Hunter, Hardcastle and McCormick, The Flying Nun, Adam-12, Marcus Welby, M.D., Get Christie Love!, Baretta, Switch, CHiPs, The A-Team, The Greatest American Hero, and Riptide, MacGyver, The Commish, and Renegade.

Bruce Michael Kessler was born in Seattle on March 23, 1936. In 1946, he relocated to Los Angeles with his family, where his parents, Jack and Nina, collaborated with fashion designer Rose Marie Reid to start a women’s swimsuit business.

As a result of the company’s success, they moved to Beverly Hills, where Kessler became friends with aspiring stars Steve McQueen and James Dean, who also loved racing.

When Kessler was 17, he drove his mother’s Jaguar XK120 in amateur auto races, earning him the “Little Lead Foot.”

In September 1955, Kessler was scheduled to accompany Dean to a road race in Salinas, California, in his silver Porsche. However, “due to a last-minute change of plan, drove up with another friend,” Kessler wrote in a piece for the Santa Cruz Sentinel last month. That day, Dean was going to perish in a vehicle wreck.

He said, “That stroke of luck was symbolic of my brother’s subsequent charmed life, both on and off the track. He was 19 at the time.”

While driving a Ferrari in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1958, Kessler had severe injuries in a violent incident that happened in the middle of the night in the rain (his co-driver was fellow American Dan Gurney). After a race disaster in Pomona, California, a year later, he spent several days in a coma. He eventually resigned from racing following another catastrophic collision in Riverside, California 1962.

Turning his attention to the entertainment industry, Kessler produced and directed The Sound of Speed (1962), a 19-minute documentary devoid of speech about the Scarab race vehicle, which he had assisted in building. His short film, which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, helped him land a job as a screenplay supervisor and technical consultant for action movie chase and racing scenes.

Following his time with Hawks, Kessler directed four episodes of The Monkees’ first season in 1966. He also directed the 1968 movies Killers Three (1968), starring Robert Walker Jr., and Angels From Hell (1968), which was based in the world of motorcycle gangs.

The Gay Deceivers (1969) and Simon, King of the Witches (1971), starring Andrew Prine, were two other films he would make. He also directed several telefilms, including Murder in Peyton Place (1977).

Kessler, always full of adventure, collaborated with naval architect Steve Seaton to create the company’s first recreational motor yacht, a 70-footer that he named Zopilote and launched in 1985.

Milt Baker stated in Soundings magazine that “at the time, no one had any idea what an iconic and groundbreaking trawler yacht she would become.” “Zopilote was a game-changer in the world of offshore cruising boats, and it didn’t take long for Delta to stop manufacturing fishing boats and switch completely to yachts—heavy offshore yachts like Zopilote, then bigger and finer superyachts.”

Kessler and Freeman embarked on a 35,000-mile tour of the South Pacific in 1990, departing from California on board Zopilote. According to Baker, after completing the last leg from Europe to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 1993, Zopilote became just the sixth powerboat to round the globe.

Later, Kessler contributed to the construction of the 64-foot Spirit of Zopilote, designed by Seaton and delivered in 1997. Over the following twenty-seven years, he and his spouse lived and traveled on it. As a captain of his ships, he ultimately accrued over 100,000 nautical miles and 25,000 hours of experience.

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