by Joyce Becker
TV Movie Backstage, September 1971

Ben Murphy is indeed a freaky kind of star but, then again, almost any contemporary entertainer, almost any individual who has managed to free himself to one degree or another from the chains of middle-class bondage, the hangups of convention, might be considered "freaky." I all depends on who is doing the judging and what criteria he or she is using...bearing in mind the inherent dangers of throwing stones in a glass house or the biblical edict calling upon "He who is without sin" to cast the first stone.

"Freaky" is one of the most widely used and popular contemporary slang terms but it is also one of the most ambiguous terms available. It can mean literally anything...good, bad, or indifferent. It is derived from the word "freak" which essentially means "unnatural" or "unexpected," in short--anything different or out of the ordinary. Throughout history, it has been used most often as a term of contempt, a term of derision, but now, at the dawning of the Aquarius Age, the term has taken on a new, different, and far reaching connotation. Now many people seek to have "freak" or "freaky" applied to themselves or to their wares or products.

In its most generally acceptable form, freaky is a good term nowadays--it has changed, just like we, the people, have changed, and the world we live in has changed...presumably for the better, which is lucky since we're not really in a position to turn back to the old ways which brought most of the nations of the world to this armed and uneasy truce, teetering precariously one the brink of nuclear holocaust.

We have been given this world and it is up to us to live in it as best we can, preserve what is still left and hopefully, leave enough that is worth having for future generations to build on.

The way things look now, we are lost unless we develop and live by such an ecological ethic. This is no time to bicker among ourselves or to ridicule that which is different...this is a time of change and we must all work together if we are going to be successful. Each of us needs the other, now more than ever before. Humanity is no longer in a position to indulge itself in the bigoted luxury of putting down that which is different, those who choose to seek their own course, to follow their own star.

In the midst of this change, "freaky" has come to mean pretty much the same thing as "kooky". It is still a term of derision to some but, to most of the enlightened people, is a term of endearment (or something closely akin to it) and might well be worn by the recipient as a badge of honor in some elements of society.

Ben Murphy, who can be seen each week co-starring on "Alias Smith and Jones, is one of those modern, worthwhile people who has chosen to follow his own path through make up his own mind, and to seek the truth for himself rather than to rely on here say or dogma. The path turned into a long and often lonely road for him before it led to success in this hit series but Ben doesn't show any signs of regret and, to cap it all, he doesn't appear to be any the worse
for ware.

He is something of a loner but he is a loner by choice, although nature probably had something to do with it. He dates a lot of the prettiest girls in Southern California but he tends to stay clear of romantic interludes with actresses, possibly because he doesn't want the attendant publicity that most often goes hand in hand with that kind of involvement to interfere with his private life. Although Ben once spent an entire summer traveling around Mexico with a lovely young lady, he points out that he has never been engaged and freely adds, "I've never even been close to getting married."

He doesn't rule out marriage as an eventuality though, saying: "I want to someday. I think in my 30's would be a good thing--have a lot of children, a couple of my own and the rest adopted."

Shades of ZPG (Zero Population Growth)? It would seem so and it would also appear to be in keeping with Ben's character. He is hip, modern, free thinking, and very much the individual. . .it would be natural for a person like this to support the ZPG idea that of seeking to re-establish a sound ecological balance throughout the world (America, Canada, The British Isles, parts of Europe, and part of Scandinavia, for a start) by stabilizing human population. . one new child for each person (no more than two per couple) if you want to raise a lot of kids, adopt the neglected, homeless orphans to round out your family.

Growing up was a lonely time for Ben and maybe that is what has influenced him to desire a big family.

He was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas (which probably isn't too far from Delight, which gave us Glenn Campbell) but, after the age of eight, grew up in the vast open countryside of rural Illinois. He did not have many close friends. He found school to be a boring tedium and says that he spent most of his free time reading, "... mostly classics."

Speaking with refreshing candor, he reflected on that period of his life: "School was a total bore...high school and college too."

He added: ". . there was no drama work in my high school. There was no such thing. Life was a bore in those days. I don't know why--whether it was me, or growing up in the middle west in the mid 1950's. The whole country was just kind of at one level.

"I was kind of a loner. I had friends but they didn't mean anything.

"I stayed home and read a lot...I was an intellectual."

Ben developed a restless spirit, searching spirit, and somehow managed to attend a total of nine colleges in an eight year period after finishing high school. He was searching for something but the chances are even he didn't know exactly what it was at the time.

He didn't begin to act until he was on the verge of being awarded a bachelor's degree, which, for most people is the goal of a college education. He liked acting and after being graduated, he went on to attend the famed Pasadena Playhouse School of Theatre Arts.

Strangely, he hadn't been the least bit interested in theatre as a youth, saying: "I never went to plays or movies. I was never interested in anything like that. That interest never occurred to me until I was in college.

"I know that what laid the groundwork was the inability to communicate in life. Emotional stagnation of life was what caused me to become an actor. I knew there must be more to life.

"That's what caused me to split from home at eighteen and go to nine colleges. I just kept bumming around--looking. I simply felt that there was something better around the bend.

"Also, I was probably escaping my Catholic, middle-class, middle-west heritage.

"I started out by going to a Catholic college for men. The next year, I went to a Catholic College that was coeducational. And, then, I moved on to Mexico to a totally secular society and college at the University of the Americas in Mexico City.

"From there, I went to the University of Illinois, which was bigger than the other schools I had attended. I was totally alone in that place.

"Oh, I was happy. I am always happy when I am alone. . yes, the University of Illinois was big and I was only there for my senior year...and I didn't know anyone, and I didn't belong to anything. And so, I was delivering papers! I was delivering papers in my Senior year of college."

Fate moves in mysterious ways, they say, and the paper route helped to launch his acting debut... "I was delivering the daily's just to have something to do, and I happened to read an ad in it, which said they were having auditions for "Julius Caesar," and this is what got me started.

"I went to the audition and got upon stage and was scared to death, did the audition and got a little part in the show. And, from then on, I started doing college plays (there were only about three months left in school, so I didn't do too much).

"I don't remember any critic reviewing me. I am sure I wasn't too promising--a tall, skinny kid with a crackly voice.

"I enjoyed it though. It was great fun. It wasn't 'til the Pasadena Playhouse, which I attended after finishing college, that acting became a serious thing and became work."

The work paid off too and he now has a fine, very promising career to show for it. He was spotted by an agent while doing a "Playhouse" production and the rest is history. He started with small parts and they gradually got bigger including a solid two year gig on "The Name Of The Game," [and] at least for the present, in his starring role on "Alias Smith And Jones."

He didn't go about any of it in the ordinary way but, how can you expect a man like Ben Murphy--truly "a freaky kind of star"-- to do anything the ordinary way?

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