where did my coolness go?

by Catherine Brandenburg
July 2003

> Oh, could you please share with the group the details of
> your encounter with Roddy?

Only one encounter--directly, that is.

As I mentioned in a prior message (and got nailed by Roc!), I am a longtime attendee/worker of science fiction conventions. Somewhere between 1974 and 1978, Mr. McDowall attended a convention near the Los Angeles airport. And before anyone says "how in the world can't you remember the date, time and temperature, let alone the crummy YEAR?!" (or politely raised eyebrows to that effect) I defend myself by saying that was when I was sometimes attending multiple conventions per MONTH. Fandom in its heyday, huzzah, huzzah. If a certain landlady hadn't disposed of my property two years ago <very tight smile>, I could not only tell you date and convention, but scan in the program book page for sharing. ::::deep, calming breath:::: Back to the topic.

Having worked umptybump conventions up to this point, and lived in SoCal all my life, the concept of c*e*l*e*b*r*i*t*i*e*s was more along the lines of "oh, that's nice." I was often one of the people shuffling writer A or actor B to their panel or autograph session. But when Mr. McDowall's name appeared on the list of guests... Coolness not only went out the window, it dropped 15 stories, bounced twice and sat in the rose bushes.

My mother was an occasional convention-goer as well, and--hmmm, wonder *why*--decided to attend this particular convention and wander by the autograph session. When I got to the table, I don't remember if I said anything, period, let alone anything reasonably intelligent and coherent. The moment could have easily been fobbed off with a scrawl and a verbal pat on the head. But Mr. McDowall was of a different cut of cloth than most of Hollywood. He managed to engage me in conversation--ye gods, probably something about my high school, or something equally earthshattering. He asked. He listened. He was more than polite, kind and considerate. For those few minutes, he made me feel like I was the only person he wanted to talk to, that I was as interesting to him as he was to me. It's something all actors do, to one extent or another. But with him, it never seemed part of an act.

At this point in time, I was the last of five kids still living at home. Family dinner was Mom, Dad, yours truly, the occasional friend staying the night (usually sprung on Mom at the last moment) and a Sunday night drop in by one brother to mooch a meal and laundry privileges. We didn't throw dinner parties (bwa-ha-ha!) and generally led fairly quiet lives. After my mother met Mr. McDowall, got her autograph and had a few minutes to talk with him as well, she later said, "He's so very pleasant, so interesting. I would love to have him to dinner." Hold the presses, the Earth just came to a screeching halt. Of course, no, she didn't invite him--it was the whole concept that she would have, given the chance.

He was the epitome of gentleman.

The other meeting is, well, not mine. But worth the telling. During the same time period--high school--I was a drama geek, costume and makeup departments. I became friends with another d.g., and we discovered, among other things, a mutual admiration for Mr. McDowall. (Interesting how we always will find one another!) She was a little more...ah...expressive, shall we say. At that time, Mr. McDowall frequently appeared on the Dinah Shore Show (where I discovered his photographic talents). other talk shows, and...Hollywood Squares. How this girl found out where Mr. McDowall would be, and when (granted, this is pre-stalkers but also pre-Internet), I have no clue--but she did. Frequently. She and a friend with a car & license would then plow through town, hoping for a glimpse. Several times she was rewarded. In particular, at NBC, Mr. McDowall had just finished taping Hollywood Squares, and was heading to his car. From across the parking lot, at a few hundred db, comes, "WE LOVE YOU, RODDY!!!!!!!" (The driver of the car was trying to slink through the floorboards at that point.) He merely smiled genially, called back, "Thank you!" in an appreciative tone and escaped to the sanity of the freeway. The next day at school, she was bouncing off the walls with joy. I was delighted with the tale, but came to a screeching halt when she suggested I join her next time. I don't know if it was visions of detention for forging a note from my mother or visions of Mr. McDowall getting fed up with this behavior right at the moment I appeared with her, but I declined.

Since she is now a sane, sober member of the teaching profession, busting students for *their faked notes, I shall decline to mention her name. Perhaps she's on the loop? ::::looking about hopefully::::

I'm sure many of you have far more interesting tales to tell... ::::settling back with a cup of tea::::

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