Herald and Journal Herald & Journal, February 2, 1998

A few who won't be forgotten


Part of life, as it is, is the passing of others.

During 1997, there were many famous persons who passed away, most notably perhaps Princess Diana and Mother Teresa. I'd like to acknowledge three persons that I will miss, and I suspect you will, too.

Charles Kuralt

When I first saw "On the Road with Charles Kuralt" on TV, I thought that there's a job I wish I had. Traveling all over America at someone else's expense, turning in a story or two a week about some interesting person or place. Charles made it look all too easy. But, of course, it wasn't.

Do you know that in his quest for a story, he and his motorhome probably went through Howard Lake? One of his stories was about the huge twineball at Darwin, Minn. down the road about 15 miles. Maybe Kuralt, his cameraman and sound man stopped and had a pizza at Red's or gassed up at Joe's Sports Shop.

After he left the road, Kuralt was host of a Sunday morning show on CBS. Bad part about that show was that it was on the air the same time church services were being held. In my case, God usually won. But if we did stay home, I wouldn't miss the show.

Kuralt didn't like interstate highways. He preferred back roads. In his book, "On the Road," he had this to say, "Thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast-to-coast without seeing anything. From the interstate, America is all steel guard rails, and plastic signs. And every place looks and feels and sounds and smells like every other place. We stick to the back roads where Kansas looks like Kansas and Georgia looks like Georgia."

I say, Amen. We will miss Charles Kuralt's writing talents and beautiful speaking voice.

James Stewart

When it comes to speaking voices, there's only one Jimmy Stewart.

His was an "aw shucks" delivery, complete with stammer. I think he was one of the greatest motion picture actors of all time. There wasn't a role he couldn't play. And he played them all.

My favorites include "Spirit of St. Louis" when he played Charles Lindbergh, "The Glenn Miller Story" in which he played the popular band leader of the '40s, and the annual Christmas movie, "It's a Wonderful Life" playing the troubled George Bailey. You probably saw it for the umpteenth time on TV this past Christmas season.

Oh, I can't forget the thrillers "Rear Window," "Vertigo" and "The Man Who Knew too Much."

And don't forget the countless westerns. I can't begin to name them all, but my favorite is the role he played in "How the West Was Won."

Stewart was the type of personality that seemed like he was an old friend.

I remember hearing him sing in a movie, using his own voice, too. I also remember him playing an accordion on the "Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson, or was it Jack Paar?

No, there'll never be another Jimmy Stewart. He was one of a kind.

Red Skelton

Red Skelton was the last of the clowns.

I don't know of any other comedian who worked as hard as Red.

His radio show "Clem Kadiddlehopper," was very popular. It's where he developed his characters, Mean Widdle Kid, Cauliflower McPug, San Fernando Red, and others. Later you met these characters on television. He would look the part also.

Red was a big movie star in the '40s and '50s. He was one of MGM's top stars. He sometimes got the girl too . . . like maybe Esther Williams.

On TV, he developed the Seagulls, Heathcliff and Gertrude. But to me the most memorable was his pantomime skits. Remember the Freddie the Freeloader Christmas skit? It was a classic.

This is my favorite Red Skelton story ­ Some years back, Red was booked to appear at the Clay County Fair in Spencer, Iowa. This county fair is as big as the state fair. Instead of hiding in a motel room or bus before the show, Red took a walking tour of the Spencer business district. He talked to people he met, stopped in the stores, even bought a pair of socks. He did not hide. The people of Spencer, Iowa were amazed.

Do you think today's super stars would do this? No way. Red was a common man, not a big star.

Of all the famous people who have passed on last year, these three, Charles Kuralt, Jimmy Stewart, and Red Skelton will be missed the most by me. Sure, all three were retired and not in the limelight anymore, but I miss having them here just in case they were going to delight the world again with their talents.

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