Monday, June 6, 2005


The person being honored to mark my 50th birthday is a member of the League of Themselves. That is, he is a person from the Real World who has played his own fictional presence in Toobworld. A lot of people who promote their own vision of the TV Universe don't even want to consider those who appear as themselves to be legitimate links between TV shows. But I don't see any difference between them and those characters who are fully scripted. After all, they end up doing things and meeting people they never would have in the Real World.

For instance, maybe there is a Kramer connected to Jerry Seinfeld (via Larry David), but he's Kenny, not Cosmo. And Jack Benny didn't really have a vault under his home which had quicksand and was stocked with alligators. Um... right?

Several people have already been inducted into the Crossover Hall of Fame for portraying themselves in fictional situations - George Burns, Milton Berle, Jack Benny, and Sammy Davis Jr, to name a few.

And now another person's fictional self will be inducted as a special honoree on my birthday. And it's someone near and dear to my heart.

He began his life in Toobworld back in 1961 when he was made a citizen of Joyville, Ct., on 'The Hap Richards Show'. For those too young to remember, local TV stations used to produce their own shows for the kids - Captains, Cowboys, Officers, and Rangers inhabited treehouses, playhouses, treasure houses and treasure ships all across the TV map of the United States.

Joyville, Ct. was one such place, only to be found on the CBS affiliate from Hartford, Channel 3 (WTIC - now WFSB). And in the woods outside of town, there was 'The Ranger Station' where every weekday afternoon 'Ranger Andy' welcomed children from all over the state to enjoy cartoons, special guests, and a few songs from Ranger Andy. All the kids had to do was introduce themselves to the audience viewing at home.

Sounds easy, right? Well, there were stern admonishments before the show started that the kids had to face the camera and DON'T LOOK at the boom mike hanging over their heads!

In the summer of 1966, our inductee found himself in the Ranger Station with two of his brothers and seven of his cousins, which the small town newspaper (the Winsted Citizen) found to be note-worthy. So focused was he on not looking up at the microphone, our inductee screwed up his own introduction.

After his cousin, Laurie Hansen, stated her name, he blurted out her last name as his own. He was able to correct himself, but not before that first syllable had escaped his lips. Ever after, "Hans" became his middle name so far as his grandfather was concerned... which was one reason our inductee wasn't too upset when "Papa" finally passed away.

In the Real World, our honoree has no interest in hockey, and yet his TV avatar went to many of the games while he was a student at UConn. This would have been 1976, 'The Deadliest Season' of Gerry Miller AKA the Penalty Killer. (Check out the first half hour of that TV movie starring Michael Moriarty and Meryl Streep to see our inductee in nine different close-ups.)

And this film serves as his inclusion in the Kevin Bacon game with only two degrees of separation. (Meryl Streep appeared with Bacon in "The River Wild".

By the way, at the same time as our inductee's TV counterpart was UConn, Rebecca Howe, former manager of the bar 'Cheers', was also a student there in Storrs where she earned the nickname "Backseat Becky".

There is one significant entry from the reality genre for our inductee, of the talk show variety. On the 100th episode of 'The Late Show with David Letterman', 100 episodes after the late night host shifted his operations to CBS, the man of honor and his pal Patrick Scully can be seen in the studio audience with Letterman as he handed them some photocopies of his vacation slide.

(Caveat: One of the inductee's best friends, Ken Natter, manages the copy shop which produced the stack of pics. But that's not how or why our Hall of Famer was in the audience; that was just a bit of serendipitous TV magic.)

Finally, his place of employ is itself somewhat of a hub for the TV Universe, connecting many TV shows which have had scenes take place there.

Among them:
'Sex And The City'

And those are just the ones which have taken place while he's worked there.

Others include:
'The George Burns And Gracie Allen Show'
'The Incredible Hulk'

So with all of that, I have no problem with the nominee; hey, I've inducted a few people (and pigs!) on far less this year. But that's the way it goes when I practice the mantra of "What I say, goes."

It's just that in this particular case, some might think I'm showing way too much favoritism. If so, then dat's de name of dat tune.

Oh. As the Lieutenant would say, just one more thing.

The identity of our birthday honoree......

Won't you enter and sign in, please?

Toby "Hans" O'Brien
David E. Kelley's Vanity Card Granny is right. I am a stinker!

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