Rerun Junkie Character–Marty Morrison

I’ve written a bit about Marty Morrison before when I wrote about Barney Miller and The Pride of the Ol’ 1-2, but I always knew I was going to dedicate an entire post to the man because as characters go, Marty Morrison is pretty brilliant.

Portrayed by the fantastic Jack DeLeon in eight episodes, Marty Morrison makes his grand entrance in the second episode of the series having been arrested by Wojo for stealing a purse. The entire scene of Wojo booking Marty in front of his victim is nothing but a showcase of Marty’s wit.

Wojo: Okay, Marty. This is the second purse you snatched in a week. Now you’re getting bad habits.
Marty: Kleptomania is a disease, not a crime. Besides, I’ve thrown away better purses than that.

Mrs. Florsheim: I want that man in jail. And I’m not afraid of reprisal.
Marty: Oh, who would want to reprise you?

Mrs. Florsheim: You’re just lucky the police got to you before my husband did.
Marty: Same to you.

Wojo: Mrs. Florsheim, what time was the crime committed?
Mrs. Florsheim: I beg your pardon?
Marty: What he wants to know is when did you buy the purse.

Wojo: Was there anything missing from the purse?
Marty: Good taste.

At a glance Marty is a stereotypical catty, somewhat effeminate gay man. That’s how that first scene with him plays out. A catty, gay thief.

But he makes some good points. He’s had all kinds of jobs, even tried to get on the police force. But at the time, they didn’t allow openly gay men on the force. As Marty points out, “Why can’t there be gay cops? There are gay robbers.”

Later in the episode, he makes a vaguely suggestive statement to a man he’s sharing the lone 12th cell with. Naturally the guy doesn’t take it well. And naturally, Marty responds with his scathing wit.

As funny as the character is, he also does an exquisite job of highlighting the other characters’ prejudices, particularly Wojo’s. In the earlier seasons, Wojo is extremely uncomfortable with the idea of homosexuality. The ultra-masculine former Marine has a tendency to be hostile towards Marty, and Marty has a tendency to throw that hostility back at Wojo in the form of his own clever insults or suggestive comments. Of course, Wojo’s growth over the eight seasons of the show includes coming to some sort of acceptance of Marty. As a plot devices go, he’s pretty great.

But Marty is more than just a plot device for another character’s growth. He’s more than just a token queer character. Marty gets to be a person, which was definitely more than what a lot of queer characters got to be on TV during that time period. In a time in which homosexuality was still viewed as a deviant choice by most, Marty gets to rise above much of that stigma. Why? Because we like him. He’s not like the deranged murderers that show up on other cop shows at the time. He’s a petty thief that’s been known to smoke pot. No different than any of the straight crooks and pot smokers that made their way through the 12th. Marty is harmless.

And being harmless allows Marty to help highlight the injustices that queer people faced. We watch Marty flirt with a Russian pianist seeking refuge in the United States from the oppression of his home country in “Asylum”. He also stands up for the man and offers to help him get to immigration since, according to the State Dept., no one with any official status is allowed to help and by Marty’s own admission, he doesn’t have any status.

While the cruelties of Russia were easy for an audience to absorb back in the ’70s, bringing that cruelty closer to home was more effective. In the episode “Discovery”, Marty brings in his friend Darryl Driscoll to get some help from the fellas at the 12th, something that Mr. Driscoll is sure will be their undoing. Mr. Driscoll was accosted by a man claiming to be a 12th precinct detective and had to buy his way out of trouble for $50. It’s only understandable that he’d think he was walking into a lion’s den. But Marty, despite his own frequent law tangles, considers these men to be his friends, and of course, Barney and his men -even Wojo- step up to take Mr. Driscoll’s complaints seriously. Marty, who is accustomed to the insults spit at him by many of the uniformed officers, had no doubt that they’d be treated like human beings by the detectives.

He’s been in enough trouble to know the 12th precinct pretty well.

In addition to stealing handbags and possessing pot, he once shoplifted luggage. Walked right out of the store and right into the 12th’s holding cell. It turns out that Marty’s get-rich-minded scheme of marrying a much older woman couldn’t deter his sticky fingers. And in another episode, Marty asks Barney to put in a good word for him with his probation officer as he and Mr. Driscoll are hoping to move to the much more gay-friendly city of San Francisco. Lucky for all of us, though, the duo stayed put in NYC.

Marty mostly cleans up his act by the time the show hits the finale, which is also Marty’s last appearance. Fitting that the man who helped establish the quality of characters populating the mug books of the 12th precinct would stop by to say goodbye to his friends and the place he made a mark on.

In a time when gay characters were scarce and often vilified, Marty Morrison was a funny, charming, likeable character that helped ease the stigma surrounding gay men, at least a little. Even if the character isn’t a perfect representation, he helped pave the way for the depiction of authentic, messy, queer humans that are more frequently (yet not frequently enough) seen onscreen today.

Rerun Junkie Character–Dr. Miguelito Loveless

A great hero needs a great nemesis. In the case of The Wild Wild West and its two heroes Jim West and Artemus Gordon, only a true diabolical genius could do.

Enter Dr. Miguelito Loveless.

Played by Mr. Michael Dunn, Dr. Loveless is quite the foe. His evil schemes are so clever that West and Gordon only narrowly avoid utter doom time and time again. Choosing a little person to play the main characters’ biggest arch rival might seem like an odd choice. When one thinks of an evil villain, they think of someone imposing, particularly in the physical sense. However, Mr. Michael Dunn has enough presence that his personality looms threateningly even though he physically can’t.

The result is a truly unique adversary.

Like any good villain, Dr. Loveless typically had a right hand woman and sometimes a left hand man. For six for the ten episodes he appeared in, his lethal lady was Antoinette, played by Phoebe Dorin, who worked with Mr. Dunn as a singing act. In three episodes, he had a towering assistant named Voltaire, played by Richard Kiel. One additional task that Voltaire had that other henchman might not, would be to help elevate Dr. Loveless when necessary.

Dr. Loveless’s height wasn’t ignored. It sometimes even factored into his plans, and his treatment by the rest of the world due to his height did factor into his hatred of humanity. But everything Dr. Loveless did, a six foot tall man with a hatred of humanity would be just as likely to do. He was a diabolical genius who wanted to take over the world. It’s good to have goals.

Likewise, Jim West and Artemus Gordon took Dr. Loveless seriously. They treated Dr. Loveless like the brilliant and dangerous man that he was.

His first appearance in “The Night the Wizard Shook the Earth”, the third episode of the series, established Dr. Loveless as a cultured, brilliant man who treats his underlings with an odd sort of courtesy and respect even when he loses his temper, and who loves his saintly mother for many reasons, but mostly for instilling in him a love of music. A nice juxtaposition, given that he’s lying in wait to kill a man. Which he does, of course, right under Jim West’s nose. When Jim finally meets Dr. Loveless in person, he finds the genius inventor in his game room besting three big men in physical combat with the help of his walking stick. A marvelous first impression. He doesn’t greet West as an adversary, but as a guest, serving him tea and chatting about the man he murdered and the explosives he invented before rescuing a fly from his tea. He even sings a song, accompanied by Antoinette. It’s all very gentlemanly. Jim poses as a turncoat and Dr. Loveless tests him by having him deliver a message to the governor of California. You see, the state has taken his family’s land and he wants it back. It’s not much. Just half the state. And he’ll periodically blow up 5,000 people with his powerful explosives until he gets it. A very reasonable request, especially since he does make a few good points about politicians. Anyway, even though Jim West bests him in the end, Dr. Loveless proves himself to be a formidable adversary, a role he takes quite seriously throughout the run of the series.

In his quest to gain control of California and the world, Dr. Loveless employs murderous toys, hallucinogens, Jim West dopplegangers, shrinking powder, starvation powder, practice robberies, and even fakes his own death.

In his last appearance, the Season 4 episode “The Night of Miguelito’s Revenge”, Jim West is lured to a barber shop under the pretense of meeting Artemus Gordon, but his shave turns out to be a close one. The other customer is none other than Dr. Loveless, his face concealed by a towel and using fake legs to give the impression he’s much taller. With West under a towel of his own, Dr. Loveless proceeds to drug him and then deposit him in a funhouse that’s not so fun. At least for Jim. When he comes to after being beaten by the thugs hiding there, he finds himself back in the barber shop and chasing Dr. Loveless as he executes his latest plan: a kidnapping scheme according to an old nursery rhyme. While Dr. Loveless seems to be living his best life in his circus with his captives, Jeremy Pike (this was one of the episodes Charles Aidman stepped in as sidekick while Ross Martin recovered from his heart attack) manages to figure out who the next victim is and takes his place. Dr. Loveless taunting West on stage as the “dummy” in a ventriloquist act leads to Jim being buried at sea, which fails of course, but we all had fun trying. As it turns out, Dr. Loveless is seeking vengeance on those who’d wronged him and his friends and holds a mock trial at his circus with a clowns for his jury and Jim West being the final defendant. West and Pike spoil his plans, but Dr. Loveless naturally escapes.

Such was the legacy of Dr. Loveless that his son Dr. Miguelito Loveless Jr, played by Paul Williams, plagued Jim and Artie in the 1979 TV movie The Wild Wild West Revisited. Sadly, this legacy was in part because Mr. Michael Dunn had passed away in 1973.

As villains go, Dr. Miguelito Loveless was perhaps one of the most eloquent and clever, his malice carried out by brilliance and even though you never want to see him win, you’re always glad to see his charming face.

Shades of McGarrett

Thanks to Charge! and my habit of leaving the TV on in the background while I work, I’ve been half-ass rewatching CSI:Miami. I watched this show first run back in the aughts (though I was in and out on the final few seasons) and it is just as bonkers as I remember it. Which is absolutely not a bad thing. Of the three CSIs that were running at the time, it definitely trotted into nighttime soap territory while proceduraling and I find that to be good fun.

As I’ve been rewatching it, I find myself remembering some of the episodes and the character arcs. But I’m also picking up on things I didn’t really notice before. Or maybe care about.

This time through, I’ve found myself somewhat captivated by Horatio Caine aka David Caruso. Now, I’m not a main guy kinda gal, so it’s not surprising that I didn’t pay that much mind to him during my original watch. No slight against him. His sunglasses-quip one-two is iconic, after all. But the main has never been my bag.

(If memory serves, my favorite character back in the day was Tripp, and if you’re wondering why I would pick this sarcastic, no-patience, no fucks to give detective over the young, pretty CSIs, let me tell you that even in my twenties, that man spoke to my soul. It’s speaks even louder now that I’m his age.)

So, I’ve been puzzling about this. Because there’s something about Horatio Caine that’s caught my eye now, something that’s captured my attention that didn’t before, and I haven’t been able to put my finger on it.

Until the other night when it hit me and the epiphany lit up my brain in such a way that I think I might have actually cried out “Eureka!” Also, my eyes might have bulged out of my skull. It wasn’t pretty, but it was satisfying.

There is something very Steve McGarrett about Horatio Caine.

Obviously, this is probably just me, though it could be argued that Jack Lord set a certain standard when it came to good looking justice seekers with fab hair and impeccable style when playing Steve McGarrett, and David Caruso kind of followed along with that with Horatio Caine. But truly, this is an all-in-my-head vibe kind of thing that I now cannot unsee and so I shall gift it unto you.

I’m not apologizing.

Here’s my vibe comparison.

Steve McGarrett and Horatio Caine have a lot in common. They’re both the leaders of their law enforcement teams, something they take very seriously. They both take their jobs as a whole seriously. They are justice seekers and that is serious business. They have a tendency towards stoicism when they’re hunting down bad guys, and it’s no surprise that since they’re the pinnacle of good guys, they almost always get their quarry. And damned if they don’t always have the line that puts anyone and everyone in their place.

This, of course, is sort of the backbone to the leads on this sort of show. That strong, in charge, can’t be beat personality.

But, both Steve McGarrett and Horatio Caine have softer sides that tend to be forgotten amongst the Book ’em, Danno and sunglasses of pop culture.

For all of their tendency to the serious, both men have a sense of humor. They find things funny. And there’s something sweet and glorious when they smile. Perhaps because they’re so serious so much of the time a quirk of the lip means that much more.

The way Horatio Caine interacts with children is reminiscent of the way Steve McGarrett interacts with them. Both men have the ability to be soothing without being condescending. They have a knack for making a kid feel safe. Also, the little ones seem to adore them. I don’t know what faces they’re making when we’re not looking, but babies and toddlers think they’re great. Likewise, these serious business, childless men (okay, Horatio acquired a teenage son in the later seasons thanks to a before-times thing with Elizabeth Berkley because why the fuck not) are just as happy with the little ones. They look nothing but completely comfortable with them and their reputations do not suffer a bit for it.

The biggest vibe for me, though (aside from the smiling thing because my laws the sweetness) is the affection and even tenderness each man has for the members of his team. It’s anticipated that they will have their team’s backs if someone comes for them or implies that they are anything other than terrific humans. There are no doubts that these two men will have the heads of anyone who hurts one of their crew. And that injured party in peril will have the love and support of their leader. Always.

But it goes beyond that given.

These two men care about their team beyond the work and it’s shown in ways both surprising and mundane. Steve thanking Danny for a birthday party at the office with sincere gratitude and a touch of physical affection is as sweet as it is surprising (almost as surprising as Steve getting blown up 30 seconds later…well, as surprising as it can be when it happens once a season). He’s truly touched. Meanwhile, Horatio offering to be the DD during a night out could be written off as a Drive Sober PSA and a given for a responsible cop. However, the implication goes beyond that. He’s there to make sure his team gets home safely. Period.

It’s a likeness that struck me hard.

As iconic as Steve McGarrett is, I never thought anyone could, intentionally or not, compare.

Leave it to a ginger in Miami with a pair of excellent shades to do just that.

Rerun Junkie Characters–Stefan Kopeckne

Mr. KopeckneA good character makes a lasting impression.  Like Big Chicken on Hawaii Five-0, Stefan Kopeckne (the other character that lead so many people to my blog) was only on two episodes of Barney Miller, but that was enough to make him memorable.

Kenneth Tigar was actually in five episodes of the show from 1976 to 1981, but it was his first and last appearances that he played the unfortunate Mr. Kopeckne.

His first appearance in the episode “Werewolf” was the more memorable of the two. Mr. Kopeckne, brought into the station after causing a commotion in a park (and ruining Detective Harris’s [Ron Glass] suit in the process).  Upon questioning, it’s revealed that Mr. Kopeckne believes he’s a werewolf, cursed from birth.  He’s put in the cage to fret about his impending transformation which will come at midnight while the police officers just wait for Bellevue to pick him up, not really taking his claims that seriously.

It’s the transformation scene that really makes the whole episode and makes Mr. Kopeckne someone to remember.  He claims he can feel the hair on his legs rustling and he starts panting because his tongue is sweating, all the while Nick (Jack Soo) is trying to talk him out of it. Mr. Kopeckne climbs the bars and starts to howl when Barney (Hal Linden) comes in and yells at him, saying this is a police station, not a horror movie.

Kopeckne the werewolfIn the end, Mr. Kopeckne goes off to Bellevue with some hope as Barney has pointed out that the lack of lycanthropy must mean they’ve made some progress with it.

Mr. Kopeckne returns in “Possession”. This time his arrested for disorderly conduct and claims that it’s because he’s possessed.  Sure enough, questionable things start happening in the precinct and Mr. Kopeckne demands that the police chaplain give him an exorcism. Not quite as good as “Werewolf”, but Mr. Tigar goes the distance with it, for sure.

Really, all of the credit in the world goes to Mr. Tigar. He’s one of those actors that you’ve seen before, probably multiple times, but probably don’t know his name. The kind of guy who is so good at his craft that you remember the character over the actor behind it. He took a character that could have been absolutely ridiculous and unbelievable and gave it enough realistic gravity to make it believable and let the comedy play.  It was easy to believe that this guy had a screw loose enough to think he was a werewolf, but could still function for the most part. He created a character that could have easily recurred once or twice a season without getting overdone or boring.

It’s kind of a shame they didn’t.

I’d have loved to see what else Mr. Kopeckne, and Mr. Tigar, could have come up with.

Rerun Junkie Characters–Big Chicken

Big ChickenThere are two guest characters from the TV shows I’ve blogged about that end up in searches that lead to my blog and one of them is Big Chicken.

It’s understandable, really. First of all, the old Hawaii Five-O series ran for twelve years and it was pretty popular. Second of all, Big Chicken, even though he was only in two episodes, was pretty damn memorable.

His first appearance, in a first season episode called “…And They Painted Daisies on His Coffin”, introduces us to the Big Chicken smarm. In the episode, off-duty Danny chases and ends up shooting an armed “kid” (they called him a kid; I called him twenty-five). Only, surprise! The victim’s girlfriend takes her now-dead boyfriend’s gun and runs off so it looks like Danny killed an unarmed “kid”. An investigation ensues and wouldn’t you know that dope pusher Big Chicken is involved? He thinks the law is cool. You can tell by the way he breaks it. Unfortunately, he doesn’t feel the law is so cool by the end of the episode.

Big Chicken in prisonLike I said, you get a hint of his smarm the first go-round. But it really comes on full-force and pretty much evolves into shudder-inducing creep later in the first season in an episode called “The Box”. The first time you see him, he’s in the prison shower (which is apparently some sort of broken pipe trickle), singing while some of his cohorts jump and beat a man. It’s unnerving and creepy and smarmy and just plain wrong.

The episode involves McGarrett entering the prison after the scuffle in the prison shower turns into a sort-of riot, but mostly hostage situation. It’s then that Big Chicken really turns it on. He weasels better than any weasel, ingratiating himself to the guy that his boys (one of whom is Al Harrington, who went on to play good guy Ben later) were whipping only a little while before in an attempt to get McGarrett killed. It’s a total slime act and the tension between Big Chicken and McGarrett has a real uncomfortable passion to it. His skeev level is off the charts.

I want to take a shower after I watch that episode (but not in a prison because no).

To me, the greatest part of this character is that it’s Gavin MacLeod playing him. When you think Gavin MacLeod, you think Captain Stubing, happy Loveboat guy, making dreams come true for his passengers and being an adorable father to his adorable daughter. Or maybe you think Murray Slaughter, TV writer and desk neighbor of Mary Richards, a good guy with excellent timing when it comes to insulting Ted Baxter.

You don’t think of him as a creeper’s creep.

I’ve seen him play a jerk before. He was a pretty big one an episode of The Big Valley. But to see him play the lowest of scum in such a slimy, skeevy way sticks with me. Kudos to him for that.

And kudos to Big Chicken.

Ya creep.