1955 MR. UNIVERSE MICKEY HARGITAY
BURBANK, Calif. (September 18, 2006) -- Access Hollywood has learned that Mariska Hargitay's father, former Mr. Universe Mickey Hargitay, died on Thursday, September 14, at the age of 80.
Last month, the Emmy winning "Law & Order: SVU" actress abruptly abandoned her scheduled appearances on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and Access Hollywood to stand by his side.
Hargitay, 42, just had her first child with husband Peter Hermann this past summer.
The Hargitay family has supplied the following statement:
Words cannot express how saddened we are by the loss of Mickey. At the same time, we are so grateful for who he was and is to all of us, and for the love he gave us in our lives. He will continue to be our source of inspiration and strength.
A private service was held for the family.
Born Miklos Hargitay in 1926,Mickey emigrated from his native Hungary to the United States after World War II. He became interested in bodybuilding in the 1950s and was named Mr. Universe and Mr. America in 1955.
"My dad's a bit of a superhero," Mariska Hargitay told the National Public Radio show "Fresh Air" last year.
He parlayed his perfect physique into a performing career when Mae West tapped him to be one of the musclemen in her stage show.
It was there that Hargitay met Mansfield, whom he married in 1957. That same year, he made his big-screen debut in "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue." He went on to star opposite his wife in three films: "The Loves of Hercules," "Promises! Promises!" and
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The couple had three children together, including Mariska, before divorcing in 1964. Mansfield died in a car crash in 1967.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who played Hargitay in the 1982 TV movie "The Jayne Mansfield Story," offered his condolences and called Hargitay "a magnificent individual."
"Mickey was such an inspiration and always had such a positive attitude," Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "He was a role model of mine for being a successful immigrant who came to this country and pursued his dreams."
Hargitay's career continued after his divorce with appearances in a half-dozen Italian films and horror flicks. He even guest-starred in a 2003 episode of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," the show in which his daughter Mariska plays a leading role.
When she won an Emmy for her work last month, Mariska tearfully thanked her father, "because he is the reason I'm standing here today."
Besides Mariska, survivors include his wife, Ellen, sons Mickey Jr. and Zoltan, and another daughter, Tina.