Tuesday, February 28, 2006

D is for Death - And Darren, Dennis, Don

The old golden age of TV is passing away, quickly.

Three celebrity deaths in the past four days may not affect what passes for prime time entertainment these days, but they leave a giant vacuum in the memories of those of us who remember that time with nostalgia.

Darren McGavin
. Carl the Nightstalker, the original and apparently not to be duplicated. The winner of "a major award" at Christmas. The gambler who bet against Roy, the best baseball player who ever was.

Mike Hammer. The man who opened a sleek aluminum-plated diner on Mars expecting heavy traffic.
A classic. Dead at 83, may God rest his soul.

Dennis Weaver. Chester on Gunsmoke. McCloud from Taos, N.M. Winner of a multi-mile Duel.

Native of Joplin, Mo., and thus practically a next-door neighbor to the Oklahomilist. Navy veteran in
World War II (speaks for itself). Star athlete in the late '40s at the University of Oklahoma (Boomer Sooner). A man who transcended the material he was given.

A husband of more than 60 years with three sons and three grandkids, an example of fidelity not often equalled in Hollywood.

An environmental spokesman who actually practiced what he preached by building his Colorado home out of recycled materials and using solar energy. Dead at 81. May God give his soul rest.

Don Knotts. Irreplaceable. The most universally beloved funny man of a generation. Rubber-faced, heart of gold, voice that you just had to try to imitate. Deputy Fife, proud possessor of one bullet to be kept in pocket in case of actual emergency when deadly force was required.

He got a lot of work in his career. Movies. TV series. But he will forever be known in syndication and on home video as Barney, Mayberry's finest.

He will be missed. May God have mercy on his soul.

Darren. Dennis. Don. Three extraordinary gentlemen whose work helped define what good TV was supposed to be. Three men you thought of as friends, and would have been tickled to have live next door.

We're not saying that there are no good comedic male role models left in Hollywood 2006. It's just that three giants have departed, leaving huge footprints that someone at least should try to fill. If they can.


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