Monday, September 13, 2010

Long Live Kevin McCarthy

Actor Kevin McCarthy passed away this weekend. He wasn't a young guy, and it was natural causes, so that's better than some.

I met him once, in 2004, at the Twilight Zone convention my buddy Brian and I went to. Basically, it was a get-together of elderly actors and filmmakers who had worked on the "Twilight Zone" forty-something years before. Each had a little space laid out for them at the Beverly Garland Motel and they mostly just waited until someone came up to them to talk or get an autograph. Kevin McCarthy did an episode called "Long Live Walter Jameson" back in 1960.

Well, he was one of my favorite actors, I was very excited to be able to meet him. I had purchased a olde tyme poster for INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, and McCarthy was not in the least bit surprised what I wanted him to write on it.While Brian and I were talking to Mr. McCarthy, asking him about working with Joe Dante and pod people and such, this kid comes up to the booth. He was around twelve years old, a little Jewfro-ed know-it-all, the kind you can tell was an only child and home-schooled to boot after hearing him speak one sentence. He had this amazing sense of entitlement that really blew me away, making me later wonder what impressions I'd have given someone when I was his age (though surely I didn't carry with me a sense of self-importance like this bastard did). He looked at the old actor's name tag and said, "Kevin McCarthy, huh? What have you done that I've seen?"

McCarthy frowned and said, "I did a Twilight Zone once."

The kid shook his head. "No, no, name some of your movies."

So McCarthy dutifully lists off film titles. "The Misfits."

"Never heard of it."

"How about Piranha?"

"Uh uh."

"Innerspace?"

"Nope."

"Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

"No, sorry."

I think Brian might have chimed in with "He was in the Looney Tunes movie," as if the kid were four instead of pushing teenagehood. The kid didn't think that merited an answer, and started reading--aloud--the filmography McCarthy had listed next to his name tag (all the guests had a card with the episode of TZ they had done, as well as significant projects they might be recognized from).

About ten seconds later, Kevin McCarthy interrupted the boy by saying, "Look, kid, are you going to buy something?" The kid said, "No." And McCarthy shouted, "Then get THE HELL out of here!" People from surrounding booths looked over, I think at least one old lady gasped, and George Takei said, "Oh my." It was absolutely hilarious, and as the boy took off, both Brian and I laughed about it with the actor.

I had brought my IOTBS poster for him to sign, but after that, I bought a 8x10 glossy of him and Dana Wynter for him to autograph, that I kept at my cubical at work until the day they escorted me to my car a year later. I considered asking McCarthy to pose in a picture with me, but he frankly looked so frail and sickly that I didn't ask him about it. I figured he must have been pushing seventy-five, maybe even eighty, but he looked pretty tired.

In fact, I used to check his IMDB page every couple of months just in case. And the first time I did that, I was shocked to see that he was born in 1914, making him NINETY at that particular appearance. That made me regret not getting the picture with him when I had the chance.I probably checked up on him sometime in the summer, around the time I rewatched "Long Live Walter Jameson" and listened to his commentary on the DVD. He'd made it to ninety-six.

Well, this morning, there was a news headline on my computer saying, "Body Snatchers Actor Dies," and I figured the time had come. Usually, when I think back on the good times in L.A., it's not the trip to Disneyland with my friend (hetero) on Gay Day, or getting to third base with a veritable stranger (hetero) at a Halloween party, it's getting to meet all these famous and creative people I've looked up to all my life, or just gotten to appreciate after the fact.

And while I may not have done the "get the hell out of here" story justice, it holds a special place in my heart.

Long live Kevin McCarthy

Rish "You're next!" Outfield

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