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Special thanks to Mariali for sending, typing and translating this article!

Perry Mason:

The Famous TV Lawyer is a single father with 17 children


  • The only unsolved case: His weight.

  • What he defends the most: His bachelorhood

  • Was shot in Vietnam while entertaining the troops.


After eight years of making a TV series, to the point of getting confused with his character, Raymond Burr wanted to rest, following his doctor’s advice.  But Perry Mason, his clever "lawyer-detective" alter ego, had become so famous all over the world that practically caught him in a way that it isn’t easy to give up.   As soon as the news of his retirement spread, letters began to arrive from every corner of the world asking, or better yet, demanding Perry Mason’s presence on the screen.

The Studio reacted. The bachelor-attorney’s show was the one with the highest audience on Saturday nights.

They offered Burr a new contract, which put him, from the Ten-best paid artists, into the Top-three with the highest salaries.

"I stayed for the money" Raymond Burr explained later, "just for that". "  CBS offered me a lot of money and I would have been a fool if  I hadn’t taken it. Two million dollars is plenty.  Just a little more than the first year I did Perry Mason. That time I got 100 thousand dollars, but, as the show has been so successful, they have been raising my salary"

"Naturally," he continues, " not all of it goes to my wallet.  Part of it will go to finance my own company Harbour Productions Unlimited.  With Lester Salkow, my associate; we’ve done a couple of movies.

Burr is not a fan of talking about his private life, but has a background that is not easy to uncover.

He’s a little unwilling to give interviews, but not for the reasons that made Greta Garbo famous, but because, giving himself so much to his acting, (he even sleeps at the Set) there’s not much to tell about it.

" I like private life, like everybody else, and I don’t have any trouble getting it" he explains, "I don’t like to be in the spotlight; that’s why I’ve been "cultivating" other interests.   Art, for instance.   I’m not a collector, but I have pieces from several parts of the world.    This "hobby" takes a lot of my free time, but I think is a really good way to relax and, above all, it’s always interesting.   Besides, it is fair to say that, if I wasn’t an actor, I couldn’t afford these luxuries."

The Secret life of a Bachelor

Raymond Burr has been married three times.   Divorced one, widower twice.   A friend says: "Some men are born to be single and Ray is one of them.   He has lived alone for quite some time now and it would be very difficult for any woman to adapt to him.   Like other single people,  he has his habits and costums, so he’s not in conditions of giving explanations for each one of his actions."

Proof of that are his trips, which he always makes along with presentations to entertain the soldiers.   This is an almost unknown aspect of Raymond’s life, and he’s not interested in making it public.

Last year he spent three weeks in South Vietnam, visiting the troops and virtually exposed to a shotdown.   He wasn’t very lucky: he was shot in his shoulder.

However, when he came back to the U.S. he didn’t make any comments and quietly returned to the Hospital to finish his treatment.  The press, half- aquainted of the facts, informed it was Cancer.   Burr clarified it, but he didn’t publish, nor explain what the truth was.

But don’t you think the bullet backed him down, in fact he’s thinking about coming back to South Vietnam soon, and for another three weeks.

There’s another interesting fact about the life of this lonely man.   That’s the case of his adopted children.

It’d be rather cruel to say that he "collects" them on his trips, because his real and truest intention is the most honest philanthropy.

He has adopted 17 kids and he’s always writing and sending them, even to the most remote places, his fatherly greetings.

We believe that Raymond Burr has a heart bigger than he says he has, and that he didn’t come back to the Studio just for the money, as he wants us to believe with his declarations, he is too touched with the love and appreciation shown by his millions of viewers.

Honestly, he confesses that he would feel really bad if he’d disappointed the faithful audience that has followed his performance for over eight years.

The truth is, Raymond Burr, who resembles his character even in his private life, doesn’t need Perry Mason to survive.

As he’s got fame, fame is not an interest for him.  He’s a millionaire and, of course, he has his survival assured for many years to come.

He lives in a beautiful house, so he doesn’t need a home either.  Even if he doesn’t have a wife, he has his foster children to compensate his solitude.

When Burr has been sick, he has a replacement in the person of Barry Sullivan, and because of that, he’s certain that, if he decides to retire, his character won’t die.

His only real problem is the trouble to conceal his qualities as a great Gourmet Chef with the ideal weight his performance requires.

When he gave us this interview he was just coming back from Jamaica where he went to a "weight-loss" treatment.   For this great eater, was more comfortable with a diet based on tropical fruits from its land of origin, than being at a clinic, treated by tasteless pills.   He came back very pleased, because he managed to lose 15kgs (8 pounds aprox.)

His friends prayed for him not to gain weight again, but this happens when the acting gets rough and he falls into a nervous tension.

The truth is: Raymond Burr gives himself completely to his character.    He’s like an artist creating his Master piece.   He has given it so much and cared about it so much that sometimes it is easy to confuse fiction with reality and is really hard to know where Mason ends and where Burr begins.

-Sheila Graham


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