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07 November, 2009

Too Many Tributes...

I was saddened earlier this year to read of the death of Hank Locklin at the age of 91. That name might not sound familiar to most of you, but for a few who share my taste in music, chances are it will ring a bell. Locklin, a member of the Grand Ole Opry for nearly fifty years, sang one of my favorite country songs of all time, Please Help Me, I’m Falling. The song, released in 1960, was a huge hit for Locklin years before I was born; yet even today, it remains one of my favorites.

My taste in music, it does appear, is much the same as my taste in many other areas… fixed firmly in the past. While seldom am I given to introspection, it has occurred to me previously that I’m in truth a creature of another time, another era. I often feel as though I was born fifty or sixty years too late, or that I had been mysteriously transported into a future not entirely my own.

Lately it seems as though I’m even more out of place. In recent years, I’ve had the occasion to write many tributes to those who have passed on. Beginning with a triple tribute to Dennis Weaver, Don Knotts, and Darren McGavin three years ago this past March, I’ve composed eulogies to Richard Valley, Ben Chapman, Forry Ackerman, and most recently Robert Quarry. And to speak frankly, I’m tired of eulogizing people that are responsible, to a greater or lesser degree, for my love of Horror.

Now before too many of you break out your thesaurus in order to find as many synonyms as possible for “ungrateful SOB”, (churlish has always been my personal favorite…) let me qualify my statement by saying that it’s not the writing of these tributes that I object to, it’s the necessity. Many of the stars and icons of my youth are now reaching the age where the need for such celebrations of one’s life and accomplishments are always a possibility. Many are already gone; sadly, more than remain with us. The writing of such tributes is easy; dealing with the loss of yet another fragment of childhood is the difficult part. It’s easy to forget that, for those of us now in our forties, childhood was a long time ago. The people that we idolized as children were twenty and thirty years older than we were then, and still are, if they’re still with us at all.

The only thing from the world of entertainment that had a greater impact than the monsters on me as a child was Star Trek. I was a Trekker from the beginning, and have never lost my love of and fascination with the world created by Gene Roddenberry when he set out to make a series that would be, in his words, “‘Wagon Train’ to the stars…” The people who created that series, who brought it into our homes and transformed it from a TV show to pop culture phenomenon, are now in their sixties and seventies; several have passed away in recent years, including Roddenberry, the “Great Bird of the Galaxy” himself. The most recent of the Trek family to leave us was Majel Barrett Roddenberry, widow of Gene and the familiar voice behind the Enterprise’s computer, as well as Nurse Christine Chapel in the original series.

These deaths, especially of James Doohan and DeForrest Kelly, who played Scotty and McCoy respectively, struck me more deeply than most. This is a part of my childhood I’m not yet ready to surrender, and all due respect to Simon Pegg, there is only one Scotty.

Lately, I’ve had to write far too many tributes, for far too many childhood heroes, and I want it to stop. I don’t want to have to eulogize any more ‘elders’ of Horror, or bid farewell to more cherished moments of my youth. I want to honor those we still have with us, and show them our appreciation now, before it becomes a eulogy. We genre fans should cherish the elders of our “tribe”, and use the time we have left with them to absorb the lessons and memories they have to share with us. People such as Kevin McCarthy, Ricou Browning, Julie Adams, John Zacherle, Bob Burns, and Conrad Brooks are a physical connection to a time most of us know only from grainy images in black & white, a time when cinematic giants still walked the earth. Those times, and those icons, are long gone now. It would be a shame for us to fail to appreciate our last links to them until it was too late.

And, in a broader sense, it is a shame anytime we fail to realize that those who possess the wisdom of age seek only to pass it along to a younger generation, and when we fail to take advantage of that wisdom.





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