Blocker was born in DeKalb
in east Texas
, the son of Ora Shack Blocker & Mary Davis Blocker. His family moved to O'Donnell, Texas
soon after his birth. He attended Texas Military Institute
and later graduated from Sul Ross State Teacher's College
, where he earned a master's degree
in the dramatic arts
. (The Hoss character was originally written as "lovable but slow-witted". Blocker however, was the only cast member with an advanced degree).
Blocker held down various jobs as a high school teacher
, actor and rodeo
performer. He reputedly worked as a bouncer in a beer joint while a student. By all accounts he is remembered from his school days for his size of 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) and weight of 300 pounds (136 kg), and as being good-natured despite his intimidating size.
Blocker was drafted
and served in the Korean War
. He later married Dolphia Parker, whom he had met while a student at Sul Ross State. All of their four children's names begin with a 'D': actor Dirk Blocker
and producer David Blocker
, and twin daughters Debra Lee (who studied to be a hairdresser
) and Danna Lynn. The actor once owned an authentic 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle
SS396 (with the sought-after Z16 option) as Chevrolet
was the commercial sponsor
of the show. His Chevelle
is now in private hands, and is sometimes displayed in car shows.
A Free Methodist
, and Eugene McCarthy
supporter (later endorsing the 1968 U.S. Democratic
presidential nominee Hubert Humphrey
), Blocker uprooted his family in the late 1960s and moved to Europe, as he was angered by the ongoing Viet Nam "conflict"
. He kept a house in Inglewood, California
. His 6,000 square foot Tudor
style mansion in the Hancock Park
area of Los Angeles is currently owned by Rob Zombie
On a television interview Zombie claims to have had encounters with Blocker's ghost, though he may have been joking.
He received partial ownership in a successful chain of Ponderosa/Bonanza Steakhouses
in exchange for serving (in character as Hoss) as their commercial spokesman and making personal appearances at franchises. Though not as popular as they once were, a few of the restaurants still remain.
In 1972, Blocker died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism
following routine gall bladder
surgery in Los Angeles
. The cast and crew of Bonanza
were shaken by his death, and the writers took the then-unusual step of referencing a major character's death in the show's storyline that autumn. It is speculated, however, that the loss of the show's most affectionate character hastened its end. Bonanza
lasted another season, but the final season in which Blocker did not appear is the least-requested in reruns.
Despite playing the "middle son" on "Bonanza", he and the actor who played his elder TV brother, Pernell Roberts, were born the same year.
attempted to cast Blocker in his film Dr. Strangelove
, after Peter Sellers backed out of playing the role of Major T.J. "King" Kong. Blocker turned it down, feeling it was too liberal. The role subsequently went to Slim Pickens
Blocker also appeared in the Three Stooges
short Outer Space Jitters
in 1957, playing the part of "The Goon".
befriended Blocker while directing episodes of Bonanza
. Years later, he cast Blocker as Roger Wade in The Long Goodbye
. Unfortunately, Blocker died before filming commenced. The role went to Sterling Hayden
, and the film was dedicated to Blocker.