Friday, February 8, 2013


It was twenty years ago today that my Dad, Tom O'Brien Jr., passed away due to lung cancer. He smoked for fifty years - since he was thirteen - switching to a pipe in his later years. And even though it was too late, I'm glad he was able to quit on his own terms, before he found out that it was going to kill him.

I've always said that everybody has a televersion, a counterpart in the TV Universe (even if it's just footage of you in the background during a live report on the evening news, or getting hit in the crotch with a nerf bat as seen on 'America's Funniest Home Videos'.)

And there are always the "Missing Links" - those connections I find between TV shows which are not officially sanctioned.

In this case, as I remember my Dad, I've got a Missing Link between a TV mini-series and a real life event in which Tom O'Brien was involved.....

'The Scarlet And The Black' was the adaptation of a real world adventure in which Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty of the Roman Curia was able to hide downed pilots, escaped prisoners of war, and Italian resistance fighters from the Nazis. In that mini-series, Sir John Gielgud portrayed Pope Pius XII.

From May to August of 1950, the Essex-class aircraft carrier known as the USS Leyte (not to be confused with the USS Leyte Gulf) was deployed to the Mediterranean. On July 2, 1950, the crew of the Leyte were granted an audience with Pope Pius XII.

Here's a picture from that meeting:

And there's my Dad, second sailor to the Pope's right, with his eyes fixed on the Pontiff.

So basically what I'm saying is that even though it happened off-screen, Life continued after the events of 'The Scarlet And The Black' for all of the characters involved. (An on-screen crawl detailed what happened with Monsignor O'Flaherty and Colonel Herbert Kappler, for example.)

And that means the televersion of Pope Pius XII, looking like Sir John Gielgud, met the televersion of my father five years after the mini-series ended.

But that would have only been one episode in my Dad's televersion life.  (And since it happened in July, it wasn't even a Sweeps event.)

There would have been the gentle family sitcom, sixties-style, which for a long while would have been 'My Three Sons' but with both parents.  (And that red-headed oldest son suffering from Bonaduce Syndrome - you know, a wise-ass.)  After a nine year run in that format, his sitcom life would have added two more moppets (the youngest one in curls) to the family dynamic to refresh the format, as many sitcoms often did.

And there would be quite a gallery of supporting players - the eccentric co-workers at the Post Office, let's say.  Then there would  be 'The Mothers-In-Law'. (And Kaye Ballard and Eve Arden weren't far off the mark in comparison to his own Mom and her counterpart.)  A father-in-law combining the best (and worst) of Archie Bunker and Uncle Joe Carson, but with whom Dad bonded as though Papa was his own father.  And there would be the three brothers-in-law, two of whom married to his wife's sisters.  There would be the impish TV repairman who dressed like Les Nessman  (Bowties are cool!); the conservative sergeant in the National Guard; and then there's the traveling Texan married to his sister.

As for the televersion of my Mom and her two siblings?  Collectively they could be dubbed the "Three Weird Sisters".......

There was always a beagle in our lives, so I don't think a talking dog a la Cleo from 'The People's Choice' would have been out of place.  

Twenty years after, it makes for a nice day-dream.  I just wish there was a TV movie out there in which Dad was still with us. (It's a "Wish-Craft" that I am able to fulfill in the closing chapter of my Toobworld novel.....)

He would have turned 84 later this year, just two weeks before Ed Asner does the same.

So there it is, my poor tribute to my father on the 20th anniversary of his death, in TV terms.

I love you, Dad......

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Lovely tribute and wonderful photos! xoxoxoox