Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fans and Friends

I'm thinking today of Brian Keith, the actor likely most widely known for his roles in Family Affair and Disney's The Parent Trap (the original from the 60s, not the more recent remake). Of course, he was acting long before and long after either of those things, and the work that has endeared him most to me was the role of a crusty old judge in the 80s series Hardcastle and McCormick. Several years ago, my fondness for that particular television show led me to search the internet for anyone who might share my interest, and I was fortunate enough to find an active Yahoo group devoted to the show. That has turned out to be one of the best moments of my life.

I know; I can hear you now: "Huh? Finding a fan board about a show that's a couple decades old ranks as one of the high points? Really?" Yes, really. See, it's not so much about the fan board as about the fans themselves. I've been lucky enough to have made some dear friends from that group, and we've shared some experiences I'll never forget. In addition to the many hours simply chatting online, and the countless emails exchanged over a wide variety of topics, we also banded together to sponsor Brian Keith for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. That little endeavor took over two years of our lives, but was worth every minute. Then a few of us joined forces to write and publish a book-- a viewer's guide to the show that had brought us together in the first place. Not the next Great American Novel or anything, but still a book, which was definitely a big check mark on the to-do list.

I think sometimes the internet gets a bad rap-- that when thinking of online relationships, folks conjure up images of sad little people pecking away in a darkened basement, or predators lurking, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting victims. I'm not naive enough to think those things don't take place, but that's not all there is to the great world wide web. My two best Hardcastle friends are in Illinois and Washington, but I've got others in Florida, Texas, Connecticut, New Jersey, Canada, Scotland, Australia, Greece, Hungary . . . the list goes on. That's the good side of online relationships. We're all normal people (relatively speaking!); we've got jobs and families and other interests, but the miracle of the internet lets us get to know people we'd otherwise live our lives without, and that can't be a bad thing, even if something as frivolous as a television show brought us together.

Which brings me back to the actor. It was Brian Keith that originally drew me to watch Hardcastle and McCormick. I'd grown up with him in those famous roles of his, seen him in other movies and on TV, and always enjoyed his work. So when he began a new series way back in 1983, I just had to watch, and that has led to so very many good things. So, on this sad anniversary of his passing, I am remembering Brian and all the joy his work brought over the years, and I'm thanking him for the friendships that work made possible.