by Maria Schulz
The other night, as we clicked through 500 channels of absolutely nothing worth watching on television, my husband stopped his channel surfing on a station running The Rockford Files. There was Jimbo, getting punched in the head and then running away from the bad guys.
“Hey,” my husband said. “Did you ever write James Garner a fan letter?” Um…no. Why would I do that? Sending fan mail always seemed to me to cross some invisible line that changed you from a harmless devotee to a scary stalker. You might say that mentioning him all the time on my blog is a kind of fan letter, and you’d probably be right. However, James Garner hasn’t left any thoughts in the comments section, so no harm, no foul. But let me tell you…it isn’t easy being a James Garner kind of girl in an Andy Gibb kind of world.
Way, way back in the day, James Garner was an icon to me. I would devote entire summers to catching his old movies on late night television, after scouring the TV Guide at my grandmother’s apartment. He was my hero in The Great Escape, Darby’s Rangers and The Americanization of Emily. He made me laugh in Support Your Local Sheriff, Support Your Local Gunfighter, and Victor/Victoria. He made my Friday nights extra special as I watched The Rockford Files alongside my parents and brothers (read all about that in my post, James Garner and Fruit Pie: Perfect Together).
As a kid, I didn’t tell everyone I knew about my James Garner fangirl status. Why, you ask? Well, if you wanted to hang out with kids your own age, you couldn’t exactly show off your James Garner lunch box, point out your James Garner pin-up posters, or hug your Jim Rockford notebooks to your heart as you defended him against all challengers to his throne as “the most handsome heartthrob on television.”
Of course, I didn’t have to work hard to convince my mother, grandmothers, or aunts about the merits of James Garner. I knew that they would understand. My mother admired Clark Gabel; my Italian grandmother adored Dean Martin. My Puerto Rican grandmother didn’t state an explicit favorite (at least, not in English), but she never made me turn the channel when James Garner and Mariette Hartley were doing their Polaroid commercials. In fact, she used to laugh really loud and circle The Rockford Files in the TV Guide. That was encouragement enough for me.
The girls my age loved David Cassidy, Davey Jones, Andy Gibb, Bobby Sherman, Sean Cassidy, Vince Van Patten and Mick Jagger (you can read more about them in my post, Pin Up Material). At anytime, you could go to their houses and see their favorite stars’ sultry, pouty mugs peering back at you from their bedroom walls. Meanwhile, being the oddball I was, I had a TV Guide cover of Jim Rockford and Brett Maverick on my wall and newspaper clippings about James Garner in my scrapbook.
What was so great about him anyway? Well, of course there were his looks. He was tall, dark and handsome, and in his own way, very wise. Jim Rockford was my hero because instead of seeking out trouble, he liked to run away from it. Self-preservation was his ultimate mission, and I respected that. He seemed to portray someone who just wanted to get in his day’s work and then go fishing. I respected that too.
But of course, there was more to it than that. No matter what character J.G. portrayed, there was a genuine, gentle quality shining through. He seemed honest, brave, and loyal; plus he also seemed to have a great sense of humor, which I always thought was more important than the best looks. Although, let’s face it: a little eye candy never hurts. Those were the qualities that he helped me recognize as important, even when I was just a kid and I used to tell my father, “I’m never getting married!” When it was time to find someone with looks, brains, character, and a great sense of humor, I recognized the right one—my husband—thanks to years of admiring someone who embodied all of those traits.
Recently, I read a blog post called “I Kissed James Garner In an Elevator”. http://thepioneerwoman.com/blog/2007/04/i_kissed_james_/
Remarkably, I did NOT write this post. I really did get a kick out of it though. It made me smile to think there was someone else out there with a crush on Jimbo. It also made me a little bit mad, since it never occurred to me to hang out by any elevators looking for him…and since I like to think of him as “mine” alone.
On April 7, James Garner will celebrate his 86th birthday, but for me, he’s always about 42 years old, charging $200 a day (plus expenses) for his private detective services, and riding away from the bad guys in his gold Pontiac Firebird. I just want to say: Happy Birthday, Mr. Garner! Thanks for helping me understand the qualities that really matter in a person, and thanks for all the years of entertainment and joy that you brought into my life. I think I’ll celebrate by watching The Great Escape, Murphy’s Romance and The Notebook. Later, I’ll re-read The Garner Files.
James Garner, consider this your birthday fan letter…and by the way, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section.
Recipe: Classic Fish & Chips
Jimmy boy and Rocky loved to go fishing. So here’s a dish that honors them both.
Classic Burger Recipes
Because, like these recipes, James Garner is as all-American as you can get.
So, Hungry Lifers: who would you send a fan letter to? Did you ever kiss James Garner in an elevator? What’s your favorite J.G. movie/TV show/Polaroid commercial? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!