It's hard to say goodbye

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Those of use who grew up glued to the fuzzy, flickering black-and-white images of broadcast television's heyday lost some old friends this week.

One started as a sidekick and went on to be a leading man; one made a career out of being a sidekick, another was familiar to everyone but was perhaps best loved for his role in a Christmas classic, and the last made sports exciting for even the most unathletic of us.

The latest was Dennis Weaver, known to later baby-boomers as culture-swapping "Sam McCloud" who took his boots to the city, but who gained his first fame as stiff-legged "Chester," a $9,000 a week gig on the CBS western classic "Gunsmoke."

Darren McGavin was probably the most familiar face none of us could place. McGavin, who started out painting movie sets, became one of the busiest actors in Hollywood with gruff roles like TV's "Mike Hammer" and as Frank Sinatra's drug supplier in 1955's "The Man With the Golden Arm."

He won his only Emmy playing Candice Bergen's opinionated father in a 1990 episode of "Murphy Brown," but is perhaps best beloved for the role of the hot-tempered father of a boy with a yearning for a BB gun in the 1983 classic, "A Christmas Story."

The distinctive voice of Curt Gowdy was silenced by leukemia this week. Gowdy, who called his first football contest at a six-man game in Cheyenne, Wyo., in 1944, went on to cover 13 World Series and the Montreal Olympics in 1976.

He also called the first Super Bowl, and Oakland's 43-32 win over the New York Jets, including the part viewers missed when NBC cut away to broadcast "Heidi."

He was also host for many celebrities appearing on the "American Sportsman" series from the early 1960s to the 1980s, but was best known for his 15 year stint at the Boston Red Sox.

But it was the death of Don Knotts at 81 that probably brought the most reaction around the country.

As the pretentious, bumbling "Barney Fife" on the Andy Griffith show, he helped create the hometown Mayberry all of us miss more and more as the years go on.

So long, old TV pals. We'll miss you.

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