Saturday, March 27, 2010

Death Comes in 3's

The last week saw the death of three of my childhood TV idols; Davy Crockett (Fess Parker), Jim Phelps (Peter Graves) and Kelly Robinson (Robert Culp). Davy Crockett was a mini-series showed on "The Wonderful World of Disney." Jim Phelps led the Impossible Mission Force on "Mission Impossible." Kelly Robinson was half of the team on "I-Spy."

Yes, I said "The Wonderful World of Disney" not "Disney's Wonderful World of Color." That was what it was called when I watched it. Color had not been invented yet. (Sex also had not been invented, but that's another story.) On Friday's my father would go bowling and I was allowed to control the television. We only had one TV. It was pre-owned by my uncle who had given it to us when he had bought a newer model for his family. In the late 1950's, television was a luxury, not a necessity. Today you can pick up hundreds of working televisions on any trash night if you were so inclined. Just drive down any side street and you will find several sets on the curb waiting to be disposed. Many in still good working condition. People buy flat screen TVs and throw out there old picture tube sets. They have to throw them out, nobody wants them. In 1959, you hung on to your TV. If it wasn't working, you had it fixed, or fixed it yourself by taking out the tubes, use the tube tester at your local electronics store, and buy a replacement for whichever tube was broken.

So on Friday nights I would watch Disney. It was a different type of entertainment. Every week was something different than the week prior. You may see "Spin and Marty" (the adventures of a couple kids), or a travelogue (this week the Netherlands), cartoons (Mickey Mouse and the gang), or a western (Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier). When I first saw Davy Crockett it was a rebroadcast. I had only been 2 when it was first aired and I had been too busy poddy training to watch TV. I watched a repeat performance and instantly wanted a coon skin hat. (By the way, the poddy training was a success.) I had very few favorite television shows, but Disney was one. Two others were "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" and "The Donna Reed Show." Most of my memories of the 50's have faded, but some are still vivid. When the "Beverly Hillbillies" debuted in 1962, I was surprised to see Buddy Ebson (Davy's sidekick George) had not died at the Alamo.

In the early 60's I listened to comedy albums. The popular ones were Alan Sherman's "Camp Granada," Vaughn Meader's "The First Family," The Smothers Brothers "Mom Always Liked You Best," and Bill Cosby's "Why is there Air?" Bill Cosby was hilarious and so when he began his TV show "I-Spy," I watched. I loved the banter between Cosby and Robert Culp. They were spies who's undercover identities were tennis pros. After I-Spy, I would recognize Robert Culp when I saw him. Remember "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice?" Robert Culp played the husband of Natalie Wood in this classic wife-swapping movie.

As I recall "Mission Impossible" I can hear the theme music; the heavy bass beat with the staccato blast of horns. I loved the way Peter Graves playing Jim Phelps would get his assignments. Computers had not advanced as of yet, so he would get an envelope of photos along with a tape recorder that explained the mission, should he choose to accept it (which he always did). The tape recorder would then self-destruct. Peter Graves went on to play a pilot in "Airplane," a spoof of all the "Airport" movies of the 70's. He had the greatest lines in that movie. While showing the cockpit to small boy, he would ask the boy, "Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?" and "Joey, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?" and "Joey, have you ever seen a grown man naked?"

So in memory of these three actors, you should put on a coon skin hat and use a tennis racket to destroy a tape recorder. It will be appreciated. Especially by the companies that sell these products.

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