Saturday, August 29, 2015

In Memoriam, 2015 edition

Writing Simon's birthday posts is always bittersweet, for two reasons. One, he's gone from this life now. Two, the death tribute must be written the very next day.

It's also always hard to know what to say. There isn't a lot of information out there on Simon the person; much of what we know comes from bits and pieces of biographical information (some of which may or may not be entirely correct), a brief interview with Jack Grinnage on our website, and the three or four articles that Crystal and I have discovered over the years. What we know is very positive, and Crystal highlighted some of her discoveries and conclusions in her birthday tribute yesterday.

We would love for someone who actually knew Simon to come forward and bring more information so that we could learn more about this highly talented man and share it with our readers. We would also love for more Simon performances to become available, especially rare gems such as Ready for the People, in which he had a starring role. We would find it epic to witness Simon's violin playing or one of his stage roles. And we would be ecstatic for Simon to be more widely recognized and remembered to the point of even getting a book written about him and perhaps a movie.

Of course, with character actors such things rarely happen. They are remembered fondly, but oftentimes the viewers don't place the name with the person. With the Internet age, hopefully that doesn't happen as much now. But character actors are not the ones who get tributes, biopics, biographies, etc. written about them, except in very rare cases. This is more of a shame than ever since character actors are so incredibly talented that they slip into their parts so totally and completely that they are believable as everything from a callous outlaw to an honest military man. In many cases, they are every bit as talented as the headlining stars, and sometimes even moreso.

This is certainly the case with Simon. Of course, with his humble and unassuming nature, he was probably content to never be in the limelight enough to actually win awards, no matter how deserved. But we still wish he had. Performances such as Frank Epstein on Hawaii 5-O and Captain Beechum on The Twilight Zone are so completely opposite each other yet both are supremely powerful. Frank is a bitter and angry man, and it's hard to fault him for that, after the torture he went through that ruined his life and his friend's apparent betrayal to their captors. Captain Beechum is a stern and no-nonsense commander, but very compassionate and concerned for his men's welfare and also that of strangers he's never seen. Both try to do the right thing throughout their episodes and both are, in the end, good and upright.

Whether aligned with good or ill, Simon's characters were so very human ninety-nine percent of the time. And even the few that did not appear to show any redeeming qualities whatsoever were magnificently played. After all, for such a good person to portray someone as evil as Mel Barnes takes incredible talent.

Crystal and I have a new Simon project this year: a branch of the fansite on Tumblr, where we post weekly pictures and GIFsets and occasionally other material as well. This week it's my turn to do the pictorial tribute and it falls right on the anniversary of Simon's death. I chose to do the tribute on Captain Beechum.

It's hard to believe that this year marks 32 years since Simon left us. But we will continue to remember and celebrate him, and know that the countless people who appreciate Simon's amazing talents are enjoying his performances right along with us.

Even if some of them still haven't put a name to his face.


1 comment:

  1. Great to see this page. I just viewed a Rockford Files 90 minute movie "The House of Willis Avenue, with the great Simon Oakland playing Vern St Cloud, I believe this is the first of appearances he made on Rockford. Always enjoyed the banter between him and Garner. I am so sorry to read about his early death, he was still a young man and a great talent.