Actor James Garner, sidelined last week by quintuple-bypass heart surgery, is still a star in the eyes of the Beef Industry Council, which has no plans to drop him from its current "Beef: Real Food for Real People" ad campaign.
"We certainly plan to keep him as a spokesperson," said John Francis, vice president of marketing for the Chicago-based council, which represents beef producers nationwide.
Garner, star of the defunct "The Rockford Files" and "Maverick" TV series, is currently featured in four TV commercials, four radio spots and one of the council's two print advertisements promoting beef.
On Monday, he was listed in satisfactory condition at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The 60-year-old actor is "beginning to eat a normal diet" but hospital spokesman Ron Wise wouldn't say if beef is included. Garner is expected to be discharged later this week, Wise said.
Garner's contract with the Beef Industry Council expires at the end of May "but it has an option to extend," Francis said. "We haven't begun to discuss it at this point."
No shootings for new commercials are yet scheduled, added Jeanne Sowa, a council spokeswoman.
Earlier this year, the council dropped Cybill Shepherd, star of television's "Moonlighting," as spokeswoman when her contract expired. She had been quoted in a magazine as saying she didn't really eat much red meat, but maintained she had been misquoted.
In the council's current campaign featuring Garner, one ad has a "right-brain, left-brain" theme. The logical left side of the brain tells you "3 ounces of lean, trimmed beef in a balanced and varied diet can easily fit within the leading dietary guidelines," Garner notes, while the creative right side tells you that "Beef just tastes good." In the closing, Garner eats steak and smiles: "The nice thing about sirloin. Makes the whole brain happy."
The actor entered the hospital April 18 for repair of an aortic aneurysm, a weakening in the wall of the main artery carrying blood to the stomach, according to Wise. But doctors postponed that surgery when tests showed Garner had clogged vessels near the heart, he said.
"That (aneurysm) will undoubtedly be repaired later," said Wise, who added that Garner had a "positive mental attitude about the surgery. He was very cool about the whole thing--cool in the way you'd expect James Garner to be cool. He was very relaxed; his spirits were excellent. He didn't seem to have any fears (before the surgery). He did say, 'I wish I hadn't waited 45 years to quit smoking.' "
Dr. Jack Matloff, head of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at Cedars, performed the five-hour operation, Wise said. Matloff and his team have operated on, among others, George Burns, Milton Berle and Ella Fitzgerald, he said.