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John Ritter

John Ritter's death has hit me hard this morning.

John Ritter was probably best known for his role as Jack Tripper on "Three's Company," a show which I enjoyed as a child in the 1970's. (That's probably the correct mental level for it.) But that's not why Ritter's death has hit me so hard.

Back in 1990, Ritter played L. Frank Baum in a TV-movie called "The Dreamer of Oz," all about Baum and his lifetime struggles, and how he finally found success with the Oz books. Ritter's portrayal was perfect; he played Baum with the gentleness that Baum was known for. The movie isn't available on VHS or DVD, which is a damn shame; although I do have a copy taped off the TV broadcast.

I had always meant to write Ritter a fan letter, to let him know how this one particular role of his had moved me. For some reason, I always thought he might appreciate knowing that this particular performance of his was so effective. But I never got around to writing the letter -- wouldn't even know where to send it -- and now it's too late.

Ironically, Baum suffered with a heart condition all his life; and it looks as Ritter had an undiagnosed heart problem that led to his death. I hope it was quick and painless for him.@


It's funny. Four other people of note died this week. I have little but contempt for Edward Teller and Leni Riefensthal, and barely knew the the music of Warren Zevon and Johnny Cash. All, however, were probably more important in their fields than John Ritter was in his.

But he seems to be attached to just the right roles to make his death a bit sadder than even the equally untimely passing of Zevon. Our generation grew up watching him, and liking him. (Never mind that I think a lot of boys hit puberty at just the right moment to find "Three's Company" funny.) And unlike the other TV stars of my youth - Mary Tyler Moore, Alan Alda, Hal Linden - Ritter was never gone for too long.

Oh, and he was Ted. Joss Whedon said that he thought John Ritter was the biggest guest star Buffy ever had. I beg to differ, seeing Joel Grey as perhaps a bit bigger, but in some way I think Buffy fans got to claim him as a sign the show was going to be big. Never mind that having him play a psychopathic robot was as astounding a twist as seeing Fred MacMurray in "Double Indemnity" muhst have been in the late 40s.

Condolences to Ritter's family, friends and many fans.

December 2016

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