The Boyfriend of the Week


January 10, 2000

This week's Boyfriend is old enough to be my grandfather, but I've been mad about him ever since I was about 12. Back then I knew him as the martian on "My Favorite Martian, and I enjoyed him as the sassy, tattooed sailor in "South Pacific." But when Ray Walston became Judge Bone on "Picket Fences," he became totally irresistable to me.

Really, it makes perfect sense. After all, Ray Walston is one of the greatest actors of all time. He's played every kind of character you can think of, but his most memorable characters are the ones most like himself -- the thoughtful types. How do I know what he's really like? Cuz there are about a zillion interviews with the man plastered all over the Internet. And that, my folks, is exactly the kind of thing the Net was made for -- so you can read interviews with interesting and cute old guys.

But back to "Picket Fences." Judge Bone is one of the most interesting tv judges I've ever seen (even better than Judge Wapner!). At times, he can be very coarse and unforgiving. At other times, his best times, he's willing to forego his sworn dedication to the law in order to fulfill his inner dedication to justice. A thinking judge -- the best kind. I like judges who can see beyond statutes and books and are willing to take a stand and declare the law to be injust when the shoe fits. That's gutsy. Even for a fictitious character.

Plus, I like the way he runs his courtroom. Always demanding respect, yet totally willing to tell the lawyers to JUST SHUT UP RIGHT NOW. I can relate to that. I mean, I don't really know any lawyers, but I do have a lot of experience with people who are full of crap. I went to college, after all.

Anyway, as I'm sure you're well aware, Ray's been more than a martian, sailor, and judge. Some of my all-time favorite Ray Walston characters include (in no particular order): Mad Jack Duncan in "Paint Your Wagon," the teacher guy in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," Candy (the sweet old man) in Gary Sinese's "Of Mice and Men," the bad guy in "Silver Streak," and, of course, Poopdeck Pappy in "Popeye" (who could forget Poopdeck Pappy??).

Now, you just NAME one other actor who can play characters like that! A martin! A judge! A Mad Jack! A Poopdeck! Such breadth! Such talent!

I just love him.

For those of you who like to know a little history, here's some biographical info on Ray: He was born in New Orleans and started his acting career as a spear carrier with a local stock theater company. (A spear carrier! See what I mean about breadth??). His family was heavy into the oil business, but Ray defied his pappy's wishes and joined a travelling rep company instead. From there he appeared in a bunch of stageplays until he finally made it to New York in 1945. In 1958, he won a Tony for his role in Damn Yankees (on Broadway), and from then on, he worked pretty steadily.

Now, of course, there are quite a few dogs in his list -- "Saturday the 14th Strikes Back" leaps immediately to mind, for example. As does "Ski Patrol," and I don't even want to KNOW about his role as "heart attack victim" in "Paramedics." Yeesh. But every now and then, Ray pops up unexpectedly in something and I'm always dang happy to see him.

So, there you have it folks. This week's Boyfriend and all the information you need to understand what the heck I think I'm doing with a man six times my age (exaggeration). Also, I should mention something else about Ray I totally respect -- he's been married to the same gal since 1943. Gotta love a man like that, even if he did spend a season on "Silver Spoons."

MacGyver Factor Score: 92.3% Next up for Ray Walston -- a tv movie in which he gets back behind the courtroom bench. Yahoo!

IMDB page on Ray.

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