That Bears Fan was my cousin Mark Ryan, with whom I shared a birthday. The Facebook message from his brother Mike:
Mark said was not feeling well and was in bed. He had told his son he would watch the Bears game with him so he came downstairs. He fell on the way down the stairs. They helped him up and Mark then lied down on the couch for the game. He had something to drink and said he was feeling better. A few minutes later he stopped breathing. The ambulance got him to the hospital quickly but they were not able to revive him. They do not know what the cause was as of yet. It was his 48th birthday this past Friday. I miss you Mark.
Life is indeed One Mixed Bag, eh?
Then off to Paramount to read for a small part in MacGyver. It was evening by the time I got to Paramount.
The audition turned out to be in the Writers' Building, where William Holden hung out in Sunset Boulevard. To my shock, I was kept waiting for a half hour. I felt so affronted that I almost stalked out. But I stayed, read my lines, and did something cute. When the line says that I told someone to "terminate" MacGyver and he says, "Who me?" I'm supposed to say, "Do you see anyone else in the room?"
Instead I said, "No not you. Nixon."
The producers laughed, and I had the part. In this one, I get to shoot a prop machine gun. At MacGyver. From a flying helicopter.
I'm so glad I didn't walk out. Humility always pays off. Always.
The best part is always the heavy. And the meaner and crueler and the worse you are, the more vicious you are as the heavy, the better the hero looks when he whips you. So, the heavy is liable to be a very dramatic, fine acting part. I told my agent at that time, "I want to play heavies who are really vicious and cruel and terrible. I want them to know that they're terrible and I want them to enjoy it."
Click to see the video. Here are all four verses:
I wish I was a spaceman,
the fastest guy alive
I'd fly you ‘round the universe.
In fireball xl5.
Way out in space together.
Conquerors of the sky.
My heart would be a fireball.
Every time I gaze into your starry eyes.
We’d take a path to Jupiter and maybe very soon.
We’d cruise along the Milky Way and land upon the Moon.
To a wonderland of stardust.
We’ll zoom our way to mars.
My heart would be a fireball.
And you would be my Venus of the stars.
We'd make our way to Mercury
And travel wide and far.
We'd take a trip to Paradise
And wish upon a star.
We'd steer a course for Heaven,
Love would be our guide.
My heart would be a Fireball,
Cause you would be the angel by my side.
But though I’m not a spaceman
Famous and renowned
I’m just a guy that’s down to earth
With both feet on the ground
It’s all imagination
I’ll never reach the stars
My heart is still a fireball
Every time I gaze into your starry eyes
The TV theme consisted of verses 1 and 2. The extended version on the record consisted of verses 1, 2 and 4. (Verse 3 only ever existed on paper, and was never recorded).
Something to think about: There's only 15 years between this (1962) and Star Wars (1977).
The vessel used for shots of the PT-73 under way was a 72-foot type II Vosper MTB (Motor Torpedo Boat), a British design built under license in the U.S. for export to Russia. The war ended in August 1945 before the boat, the real number of which was PT-694, could be sent to the Soviet Union. The boat was then purchased by Howard Hughes and used as a chase boat for the one and only flight of his Spruce Goose aircraft. The boat was then sold to the studio - as there were few other real PT boats left in existence at the time - and some liberties were taken in reconfiguring it to look like a PT Boat. Vosper PT's did not have machine gun turrets on either side of the pilot house (though ironically the real PT-73, a Higgins design did) as the PT-73 in the show did. Other irregularities are the main mast aft and a small mast right in front of the cockpit. Shots of the crew aboard the PT-73 were filmed on a full-scale mock-up in a soundstage. "PT-73" was later sold to the mayor of Hawthorne, California, and was converted to a sport fishing boat. It was later destroyed when it broke loose of its mooring near Santa Barbara and washed up on the beach during a storm. The real PT-73 was a 78-foot Higgins boat assigned to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 13, which saw service in the Aleutians and in the Southwest Pacific theater. On 15 January, 1945 it ran aground, and was destroyed to prevent it falling into enemy hands.
You can read about Ernest Borgnine's 10 years in the real Navy here.
Michael Burns is a former child actor who went on to a distinguished career as a historian, writer, and college professor. He is now retired and raising thoroughbred horses in Kentucky. He was familiar to television audiences of the early 1960s as the teenage character Barnaby West on the popular "Wagon Train" series. After other TV and films credits in his late teens and early 20s, Burns left acting to pursue his interest in history, graduating from the University of California. He earned a Ph. D. from Yale University in 1977 and wrote an acclaimed history book, "Dreyfus", about the Dreyfus Affair. Between 1980-2002, Burns was a professor of history at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.