Friday, January 4, 2008

TVXHOF: A RUSTY BEGINNING FOR 2008

"Bank clerk - must be steady family man.
I'm steady and I come from a family
."
Rusty Williams
(reading the want ads at age 6)
'Make Room For Daddy'

Eighteen years ago this month, actor Rusty Hamer took his own life. There's no way I could ever know what drove him to do it, but it might be that his acting career centered around just one role and it appears he didn't find much work otherwise as an actor; he may have felt trapped.And yet it is that role which we have chosen as the classic TV representative to kick off the 2008 inductions into the TV Crossover Hall of Fame.

RUSTY WILLIAMS
'Make Room For Daddy'
'The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour'

'The Joey Bishop Show'
'The Danny Thomas TV Family Reunion'
'Make More Room For Daddy'

'Make Room For Grand-Daddy'

In much the same way as George Burns is the "Patron Saint" of serlinguism (the act of addressing the home audience) even though it's named for somebody else, Rusy Williams was one of the earliest practitioners of the Bonaduce Syndrome in Toobworld. Bonaduce Syndrome could be considered an affliction by adults, which children - usually the boys - are smart alecks, mouthing off with wisecracks.

We first met Russell "Rusty" Williams when he was about five or six, and he already showed the propensity for a smart remark in any situation. The kid probably couldn't help it; it may even have been genetic since his Dad was nightclub comic Danny Williams.Even though he was a wise-ass, Rusty always proved loveable to those around him. I doubt we ever would see Danny wrap his hands around Rusty's throat to throttle him a la Homer and Bart Simpson.

Here is a "biography" for Rusty, courtesy of a great book entitled "Television Character And Story Facts" by Vincent Terrace. (It's available through MacFarland Publishing and is a great resource!)

Rusty (Russell), Danny's son, was born on February 15, 1947. He first attended P.S. 54, then Claremont Junior High, and finally West Side High School. He is also a member of Scout Troop 44. In a 1956 episode, Rusty, who has a fascination with Elvis Presley and the TV show 'Wyatt Earp', called himself Elvis Earp , ran away from home and began a career as an orphan at Miss Martin's Children's Home. Rusty thought the best parts of school were recess, lunch and holidays, and he had his first crush on a girl named Sylvia Watkins.

Danny took his family on the road at times and once as they drove through the town of Mayberry, North Carolina, they were stopped by the local constabulary, one Sheriff Andy Taylor. Therefore, Rusty was involved with the launch of one of Toobworld's greatest shows, 'The Andy Griffith Show'.

They also went on vacation once up to Connecticut for a real winter wonderland experience. Danny rented the home of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo for the two weeks, but unfortunately the Ricardos came back unexpectedly and wanted their home back. What transpired can be seen in "Lucy Makes Room For Danny", an episode of 'The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour'.

Time marches on for TV characters, even when they're not on screen. And so even though we didn't see it happen, Danny Williams moved his family out West to the Los Angeles area. But Rusty came back to New York City to go to college in the early sixties. Needing a place to stay, he moved in with his "Uncle" Joey Barnes, as seen in several episodes of 'The Joey Bishop Show'.

At first, Joey and his wife Ellie thought that maybe Rusty was one of the pod people, because he was acting far too politely for a boy his age. (At least, as far as they knew how a boy his age should act.) In order to help Rusty out with his schoolwork, Joey sought assistance from a convicted bookie who had a photographic mind. But he went above and beyond the call of duty to help Rusty get into a fraternity by coercing three friends to join him dressed up as women for a frat dance.

By 1967, Rusty had joined the Army and was seriously dating Susan McAdams, whom he would later marry. By 1970, Rusty and Susan were struggling to make ends meet in their marriage and so they ended up living with his parents again, as did nephew Michael, Terri's son, while she was overseas with her husband.

I don't remember much about the sequel, but I've read that Rusty was now studying to be a doctor; he may have served as a medic while in the military.

Many times when a actor passes away, I'd like to think that the character passed away as well, rather than entertain the thought that someone might come along and take over the role for a new incarnation. But Rusty would now be sixty (He would turn 61 next month.), and I think he's still out there in Toobworld. Perhaps he's practicing medicine at Manhattan General Hospital here in NYC, and he and Susan could even be grandparents themselves by now.

I'm sorry Rusty Hamer felt the need to take his own life, and I know this tribute to his Television legacy is hardly the perfect memorial, but I hope it serves as a small tip o' the hat to his character of Rusty Williams.....
BCnU!
Toby OB

"Telling the truth would never cramp your style, son.
Matter of fact, you tell the truth, it makes your life a lot simpler.
A lot happier, too.
"
Danny Williams
'Make Room For Daddy'

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