Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pernell Roberts: A Chance Meeting

As the last of the original stars of Bonanza Pernell Robert rides off into the sunset,dead at the age of 81 of cancer; I've been asked by several readers to share my personal recollection of a chance meeting we had in Malibu in January 1999.

Pernell Roberts, died today. Here's what I said on Twitter.

Actor, civil rights activist, Pernell Roberts (Bonanza, Trapper John, MD.), dies of cancer at 81.

What I didn't say was that I met him back in January 1999 in Malibu at Ralph's. We were both buying groceries. He had two items; I had about fifty. I let him in front of me, as did another customer, who also had a large number of items. Roberts thanked us, and then said our good deed was worth about four "attaboys" apiece, and then he said with a smile, his eyes twinkling, each attaboy is good for at least ten "dumb fucks" and then he went to the end of the counter, collected his two items, was met by somebody, and left.

Neither I nor the person in front of me let on that we knew who he was. It was cooler that way. I got to see the real person without a celebrity mask in place.

By the way the two items he bought were a box of lime, raspberry, and grape fruit-flavored popsicles (which had a little bit of frozen purple colored popsicle juice on one corner of the package, whether it had leaked from inside the package and then been refrozen, or had leaked from another package I couldn't tell), and a carton of cigarettes. I was not surprised to see he died of cancer.

I suspect he was a very smart, very sharp man in an industry that values neither trait. He's most noted for walking away from a lot of money by leaving Bonanza after six seasons. Still, he marched on Selma, Alabama, in support of Civil Rights, and that in my mind merits about ten thousand attaboys.

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