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The cast of 'The Love Boat' reunites to receive a surprise honor

Forty years after the series premiered, the cast is closer than ever!

Image: NBCUniversal

It's been 40 years since the Pacific Princess first set sail on The Love Boat. For nine seasons, we followed Captain Merrill Stubing and the crew as they cruised around the world, playing cupid for a host of unsuspecting passengers.

Yesterday, the original cast reunited on the TODAY show. Gavin MacLeod (Stubing), Bernie Kopell (Doc), Fred Grandy (Gopher), Ted Lange (Isaac), Lauren Tewes (Julie) and Jill Whelan (Vicki) sat down with hosts Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie to spill some behind-the-scenes secrets from the show.

The cast members still remain friends four decades after starting the show. In fact, the night before the interview, they all had dinner in Whelan's apartment.

"Bernie is always inviting me over to his house," Lange said. "We watch the [boxing] fights together!"

In addition to the stellar cast, what makes The Love Boat so much fun is the different guest stars. Television favorites like Florence Henderson, Don Adams and Linda Evans were frequent passengers, but the show also pulled in Hollywood legends like Ethel Merman and Helen Hayes.

But Lange reveals there were plenty of other celebrities who yearned to appear on the show — including the Queen of Soul. 

"Aretha Franklin wanted to be on the show," he said. "They didn't believe me. And she kept asking and kept asking."

One of the regular cast members almost didn't make it on the show, either. Tewes revealed she got the part of Julie McCoy the day before The Love Boat started filming.

After the cast reminisced more about the show, debating who was the best kisser and whether or not they thought it was going to be a hit, Kotb and Guthrie were ready to reveal the big surprise. 

The cast of The Love Boat will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. All six actors will share a plaque, courtesy of Princess Cruises. As the cast members sat there in shock, it was clear no one knew about the honor before it was revealed. 

"They told us last night that there was something happening in the fall," MacLeod said. "We were trying to put it together, but we never came up with this."

This won't be the only reunion the TODAY show puts together this summer. Next Tuesday, Barry Williams will appear on the program to promote The Brady Bunch and the Summer of Me!

Watch The Love Boat on MeTV – Sundays at 5 PM *available in most MeTV markets

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