But this isn't a normal situation. You see, right now I'm thinking about "Alias Smith & Jones", that fantastic TV show, and its two groovy superstars, Pete Duel and Ben Murphy. And most of all, like every single fan of theirs during the past month or so, it's the tragic way that partnership had to come to an end that's been taking up all my thoughts and feelings.
As you all know, Pete was found dead in his Hollywood home on New Years Eve. He died from a gunshot wound in the head. He was 31 years old.
I'm not going to try to work out the exact chain of events that led up to his tragic death ... I don't want to, because I think that's something that we should all respect as being private. Instead, I'd rather remember Pete as he was during his lifetime - as he still appears on our TV screens - a great actor and a wonderful person. He was the sort of man that people couldn't help liking, though he had something of the loner in him as well.
STRAINS OF STARDOM
Sure, he could be very intense at times (that helped him a lot as an actor) but he was also very gentle with the same kind of sense of humour you can see coming through his part as Hannibal Heyes (alias Smith). He'd got himself quite a reputation of managing to keep kind and generous to other people, no matter what strains and pressures he himself was under at the time.
And I can tell you, the pressures that a top Hollywood star like Pete has to cope with are enough to drive anybody under. You have to be tough to stand up to that sort of pressure, all day... every day,.. and I guess Pete was just too nice a guy to turn that tough.
One thing's for sure: Pete Duel is going to be missed in a big way by an awful lot of people. Well, you know from your own feelings how much his millions of fans are going to miss seeing him, so you can imagine how much worse it will be for his relatives, all his friends and for his acting colleagues. Ben Murphy reckons he'll miss Pete two times over "as a real good friend and as a great actor too" . . . and that's the way just about everybody at Universal Studios, where "Alias Smith & Jones" is filmed, is feeling at the moment.
As "Kid" Curry (alias Jones,
of course), Ben is already building up a good working partnership
with actor Roger Davis, who will be taking over as the new Alias
Smith in future series. As Ben says, he feels an extra big duty
to all the show's fans now to keep it going and to make it as
great entertainment as it always has been in the past. But he
also knows it'll take him a very long time to get over the loss
of his first 'pardner'.... If he ever really can ....
I know I don't need to tell you what a great pair Pete and Ben made - I've gathered from your letters that you've already noticed that for yourselves!
Pete, with his brown hair and soft brown eyes, and Ben, with his dreamy blue eyes and blond hair, answered just about every girl's dream between them. One difference between them you might not have noticed is that Pete had the edge on height - at six feet he towered a whole inch above Ben's 5' 11"!!
I guess they just seemed to belong together. So much so, in fact, that you don't very often come across a fan of the show who's crazy about one of its stars and is left unmoved by the other one. You might perhaps like one or other of them slightly more, but a lot of fans seem to share my problem of being equally crazy about them both! Well, with two such groovy stars on the screen at once, you could sit there in front of the TV and just melt into a wonderful out-of-this-world dream ....
Hey - I'd better snap out of this, or I won't get anything done at all!
So, to get myself back on the rails again, I think perhaps I'd better go back and start at the beginning after all, although I seem to have left it a bit late!
While you're waiting for the clock to inch its way round to eight o'clock on a Monday evening, have you ever wondered how this unique and fantastic show you're waiting to watch first saw the light and who created it? I reckon you might have done . . .
And I'll bet, if you have thought about it, you'll have imagined that right from the start the show was destined to be the biggest success story of all time. As though it had been a guaranteed winner from the time it was just the germ of an idea in the brain of its creator and present producer, Glen Larson.
Well, those were the lines I used to think along anyway . . . till I found out that it wasn't that way at all! In actual fact, "Alias Smith & Jones" was a real rush job - raced into production to fill a time slot that needed something new to boost its viewing record!
Talk about striking it rich! Can you think of any show that would boost viewing any higher?
And even now that the show is acclaimed in the States and throughout Britain, they haven't slackened up on the pace of production at all! They work on a schedule of rehearsing and filming each show in five days! (and that's the average Hollywood schedule for a 25 or 30 mir show!).
With all that, they never miss out on excitement and the sense of humour that makes this series unique among Westerns - unless you count in "Butch Cassidy' of course. But then it's not surprising that these two should have a lot in common because the characters of Kid Curry and Butch Cassidy are both based on members of the real-life Hole-in-the-Wall gang. Well, what do you know ?!!!
It's the same sort of story: of outlaws who may be on the wrong side of the law but who've got an awful lot of good in them all the same. The really big difference in the case of Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry being, of course, that they openly decide they want to change their ways. As two of the most notorious wanted men on the nineteenth century Western scene, they plan to get out of their old "profession" while the going's good. But, with your face on Wanted posters all over the land and with a reputation to back it up, it's not quite as straightforward as that!
HOW IT ALL STARTED
As all "Alias Smith & Jones" addicts know, they have to prove themselves before the Governor will grant them the the free pardon they ask for. Which is how they come to be "going straight" while they're still officially wanted men with rewards their heads....
There's a situation with a problem and a half all right! But these guys aren't only fast on the draw you know - they have ideas too....
And the idea of being too big a temptation
to any hopeful bounty-hunter who might come their way doesn't
appeal to them in the least. That's how they come to be travelling
"Alias Smith & Jones" - in a bid to leave their
past behind them with their names....
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