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July 21, 2005

The final frontier

I was preparing a radio piece for the CBC asking sf actors what they made of their most devoted fans, their experience of interacting with their fans and, most important, just who it was the fans thought they were meeting when they approached the actors at conventions. The piece was never produced due to some unfortunate timing, my interviews were carried out a week before September 11, 2001, but I nevertheless am pleased to have had the opportunity to meet and chat with the actors behind Chewbacca, Neelix, Greedo (though not that Greedo), Admiral Motti (a bit intimidating with his Imperial guard) and Leeta, the pneumatic Dabo girl from Deep Space Nine. While I met Traci Lords she was not giving interviews but Ted Raimi was bafflingly pleased to be interviewed for a CBC piece having grown up listening to it from near Detroit. I had interviewed his friend Bruce Campbell for a National Post article so knew enough to ask him what it was like to grow up "north of Canada"...

Perhaps the main reason I am a moderately successful anthropologist is I am prepared to be a bit nosey in asking people questions and, given that many folk prefer not to be pestered in this way, it is important to have something to offer in return if only an honest curiousity about what people think. This curiousity lead me to be lying in wait for James Doohan at the bar at Planet Hollywood in the hopes I could stand him a drink and ask him a few questions. I was not quite prepared for the man when he arrived with his family. He had a presence it is difficult to describe, quite different from the raw charisma of William Shatner, but in some ways more impressive in its quiet strength. A surprise perhaps in speaking of a man best known for playing an engineer in a fanciful space opera. No surprise at all in a man who who fought at Normandy. I let the man have a drink in peace.

James Doohan has died, aged 85. This is what I wrote about him last year:

Most installments of the Flea Presents Great Canadians™ are somewhat tongue in cheek. This one is not. Recent news coverage of James Doohan's poor health has revealed aspects of his biography many fans knew nothing about. Doohan was a Captain in the Royal Canadian Artillery, stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day and was wounded after taking out two enemy snipers only to go on to fly an artillery observation plane for the Royal Canadian Air Force. This is a stand up hero and a great Canadian. The Campblog has more to say.

Update: The Castle offers a moving tribute to "the craziest pilot in the Canadian Forces".

All Stations This Net, All Stations This Net - Station Doohan, Close Station, March Order. Return to Assembly Area Fiddler's Green, route Hell. Await further orders. Report to Lieutenant Eddie Albert for TINS exchange.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at July 21, 2005 11:11 AM

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