The Genesis Of
PREACHER AND CO
Transcript of original: Brendon Boone's 1969 interview by Marcia Borie
My father is a minister...and I have hurt him. My friend is dead...and I need him. No wonder Brendon Boone asks WHY?
He drives a gun metal gray Jaguar and smokes an old-fashioned pipe. He raises tough-looking English bulldogs and also collects fine paintings and sculpture. He wants very much to marry but lives in a bachelor pad and is not seriously dating any one girl. He is intensely emotional yet always seems calm and controlled. Acting is the only profession he's ever considered but to hear him he's more the philosopher than the performer. On-camera he plays one of Garrison's Gorillas. Off-camera he values true friendship above all else--but he is very much the loner. Brendon Boone is a study in contrasts.
How does a person get this way? Well, it's a long story....
Norman Brendon Boone Jr. was born in Meridian, Mississippi, on February 26th. He's 25 years old and the only child of the Reverend Dr. and Mrs. Boone.
"I never really lived in a house that I felt totally belonged to us because all the places we lived in were the property of the church," Brendon told me. "It didn't take me long to discover that my home, a Methodist parsonage, was a very busy place in which to grow up. You are constantly on display. I felt a deep sense of responsibility to my father--to his name and his work. Growing up in those surroundings, I was not totally free. Everything I did was a matter of public record. Yet I must explain that my mother and father and I had an enormously good family relationship. There were never any problems in that regard. I always felt myself part of a warm family situation. Still it was different from a normal growing-up period, or so I imagine. Since it's the only one I knew, it was normal to me.
"It soon became apparent to me that I was the son of a man of the cloth and that I too had a responsibility to his congregation. It was a difficult father-son relationship. Rare were the treasured moments when we had a chance to go hunting together. As for my mother, she lived the life of a typical minister's wife. She went through everything with my father--all the emotional entanglements that came through his work in the church. As a child I saw everything from joy to tragedy, from calmness to emotions running wild.
"And I saw the strength of my father through all of this. Many times I heard the phone ring late at night when someone was in trouble. I grew up knowing that my father's life was given over to a great dedication, and there was not much left over to share with his own family. Despite this a very warm and close relationship existed between us."
"I wondered if Brendon had ever considered becoming a minister.
"Oh, the thought passed through my head, but I never dwelled on it because I didn't have the calling. I believe that becoming a minister is definitely a calling. My father was called to the ministry when he was in the eighth grade. He came from a family of 11 children and grew up in rural Mississippi. Interesting enough, I began to harbor thoughts of becoming an actor at about the same age. I was in junior high, but I never revealed this to anyone until I got to high school--and then I told my family rather quietly."
As to the typical week in the life of a minister's son, Brendon explained: "I can't break it down into days of the week. I can only say that I was very involved with the church, Sunday school and church activities. Actually, being a minister's son is more an attitude you develop. You are brought up to be an emotional person whose feelings are close at hand, yet always under control.
"My mother had a full time job raising me and working with my father at the same time. There were always committees and boards and charity drives and other social functions to keep her occupied. As for me, I had a great number of opportunities to stand off and observe life. From the age of 13 on I never thought of applying this knowledge in any other way than as an actor.
"When I was very young, just beginning school, my father went into the Navy as a chaplain. He was assigned to an aircraft carrier. We lived in San Diego, California, and Norfolk, Virginia, and other places where there were large naval bases. We didn't stay any one place long enough for me to feel as though I really belonged. In the Methodist Church it is common practice for a minister to be moved from one assignment to another after a certain amount of years. A minister will come to a point where he can't keep the church progressing at the same pace. Then it becomes too comfortable, so the Bishop moves him. All my father's assignments lasted no more than four years. After the Navy all of them were within the state of Mississippi.
"While I was growing up I was always on the outside. Every time we moved the family was well-received by the people in the parsonage, yet it wasn't easy for me to integrate with the kids of my own age. All the time I was growing up there was a constant repetition of the same scene. Moving into a new town...feeling myself an outsider...settling in...trying to adjust...never quite adjusting...then picking up and moving again. I was always a stranger to kids my own age."
Despite Brendon's feeling about being "an outsider," the record indicates a contradiction. When he was in high school he was elected President of the Student Body, President of the Hi-Y, President of the Drama Club. He was voted Most Likely to Succeed and when he graduated they gave him the Leadership Medal. All this happened in Columbia, Mississippi, the town the Boones moved to just as Brendon was ready to enter tenth grade.
"I was 15," Brendon recalled. "It was a very hard age to begin in a new town--an especially difficult time for me. The summer before I won the State Championship Soap Box Derby and had gone on to Ohio to compete in the International Finals, I sort of felt like I was really beginning to belong because we had lived in Jackson from the time I was in the sixth grade until I finished the ninth. I had become closer to the kids there than ever before. I was very involved in sports--ready to be a member of the varsity football team--and then it was suddenly time to move on again.
"My parents realized that this was a hard transition period for me. They said that I should not be involved. But by the end of the first semester, I was involved. Of all the moves we made this was the roughest.
"How did I get involved? By never trying. My father was forever pointing up the fact that, in his words, 'You don't cultivate friendships because you are not outgoing enough.' Because he, a minister, was very outgoing, I was a contradiction to his way of life. For a father like him to have a son like me was a bit difficult to understand.
"I remember him saying many times, 'It's hard for people to get close to you. You don't give them a chance. You just don't cultivate friendships.' Actually, it wasn't that I didn't try. My nature didn't let me try. Likewise by nature I placed an unexplainably higher premium on friendships. I really can't explain it.
"As I said, a close friendship meant everything to me. The closest friend I ever had I met when we moved to Jackson and I entered the sixty grade. His name was Davis Campbell McCool, Jr., and he lived two blocks from our house. Campbell was a bit older than I. He became the brother I never had.
"I don't know what it was about him; I only know that from the very beginning we hit it off. He was very involved behind the scenes, like for instance when I was getting ready for the Soap Box Derby competition and he helped me fix my car. He oiled the wheels and checked everything. He went to all the races with me and he was always waiting at the finish line to congratulate me when I won. Whatever I did, Campbell was there to back me up. Our relationship was like a game of football; I was the quarterback, carrying the ball, but Campbell was always running interference for me. Without his help, I couldn't have succeeded.
"Then when I was 15 we moved to Columbia, which is about 100 miles from Jackson. Somehow Campbell and I managed to keep our friendship going. We've kept in touch even though our interests branched off into two opposite fields--he decided to become a doctor, while I was determined to be an actor.
"I entered Emory University and shortly thereafter transferred to Rollins College in Florida. I enrolled as a drama major. Things increasingly began to come into focus. My parents didn't discourage me from acting, but at first they just didn't understand my aspirations. You see, directly after high school I had enrolled at Georgia Tech--to study architecture. Then on to Emory, where I took a pre-med course. I had devoted a lot of time and intention to other endeavors, so by the time I got to Rollins I reached a period in life where I concentrated on acting. While there I was given the role of Sakini in Teahouse Of The August Moon. My parents drove to Florida to see me. When they saw me on stage, it was enough to convince them that I was where I belonged. They saw in my work the result of a great deal of soul-searching. I believe that through this experience they were genuinely introduced to their son for the first time in 19 years.
"It was while I was at Rollins that I was first spotted by a talent scout and received a call to go to California. I was supposed to test for the lead in a series based on Jesse James and called The James Boys. I went to Hollywood full of hope. It was an awful experience. I stayed there for five weeks. The test never came through; the whole project fell apart. The experience sent me into a panic. It knocked all the blocks out from under me. I left Hollywood totally disenchanted and returned to college.
"Because of this experience something else was tapped from within me. I had to give vent to my feelings. I wrote a story called A Young Actor: The Struggles And Pressures Involved. The main theme was that if an actor does indeed succeed and become effective in films, then there is 'no love so rare.' That was the subtitle: 'No Love So Rare.'
"While I was finishing college Campbell was in medical school. He wrote and told me he had decided to specialize in neurosurgery. I told him of my progress--or lack of it--in becoming a performer. He was fascinated with my world; I was equally as fascinated with his. I graduated and decided to do a bit of traveling. I wanted to try different towns, meet new people and learn as much as I could about life. While I was doing my 'gypsy act,' my friend Campbell had made big strides in his personal life. While I was moving from place to place and dating different girls, my friend married his sweetheart from Ole Miss--a lovely girl named Frances. They moved to New Orleans where Campbell began his internship at Charity Hospital.
"I went to New York and attended classes at the Actor's studio. I was constantly surrounded by people, yet I felt very much alone. Once I went to New Orleans and visited Campbell. Usually Campbell was such a free spirit, but on that day he looked tired and I guessed he was. He actually expressed frustration at the long hours, the days, the weeks, the years since he'd decided to become a doctor. Then he said, 'That's all right, Brendon, when I begin my practice I'll be repaid. Somehow, somewhere, someone will pay me back for all these backbreaking years.'
"I'd never seen Campbell so down. Perhaps I thought it was because his wife was a school teacher--working extra hard to help support the two of them. And there was the baby Davis Campbell McCool, Jr., who had come along to make the going tougher. I sensed that Campbell was trying to tell me to spread my wings and go back to Hollywood and be happy--that a life of dedication wasn't all that he thought it to be.
"This experience affected me in my search for a meaning to existence. If Campbell could become disillusioned, what about the rest of us? I went about the business of pursuing a career and then, a little while later, I received a call from my father. He told me he had some bad news.
"Campbell was very ill. He had cancer. He was dying.
"I couldn't believe it. My friend, my big brother, still in residency, with a young wife, a baby son. I just couldn't put the pieces together.
"I flew to New Orleans to see him. I found a man at peace. Campbell reflected a sense of purpose, of dedication. He was still working at the hospital even though he knew he had so little time. He was very thin and he had dark circles under his eyes. And yet there was a glow about him. We had a cup of coffee together. He asked me lots of questions about Hollywood. I talked about many things that were really so trivial, and yet I waxed enthusiastically about them. He, in turn, talked about the hospital, about the great satisfaction he derived out of helping to make sick people well, about the need for dedication and about how rewarding his life had become. We talked about everything but what was uppermost in our minds. Then for a few moments he quietly discussed his illness--simply and without emotion. He told me how it was. There was so much I wanted to say, but I couldn't. I went right back to Hollywood.
"Meanwhile I had been offered a roll in Rawhide. They had created a new regular character and I had been chosen for it. They drew up the contracts and I signed them. It was a big day in my life. Naturally I was excited. The break seemed to be within my grasp. I went back to my apartment and picked up the mail. And then, since I had no friends in town, I decided to treat myself to dinner. I put the mail on the front seat of the car and drove to a restaurant on Sunset Strip.
"By the time I had ordered, I wasn't even hungry--the excitement was too much. I remember the waitress bringing me a bowl of soup and my sipping a few spoonfuls. I ran through the half a dozen or so envelopes I'd brought into the restaurant. I saw my father's handwriting on one of them and eagerly opened it. A newspaper clipping fell out. It was the obituary of Dr. Davis Campbell McCool. My father had officiated at the funeral. They had chosen not to call me. My father's note read: 'They didn't want you to know until it was all over.' "
Brendon fell silent and there was no mistaking the tears which moistened his eyes. "I don't have an answer for why Campbell died so young. I guess I'll never be able to resolve this question in my mind. I can only say that my own life was enriched for having known him. You know, that night I was in the restaurant, I saw Campbell's face smiling at me. I felt him put his arm across my shoulder the same way he'd done that day at the Soap Box Derby when I crossed the finish line first. He was there. I realized that I hadn't lost my friend. I knew then that he would always be with me--smiling, encouraging me, spurring me on. I felt that he knew what was happening to me and that he derived a great deal of satisfaction from what I was doing."
Shortly after this event Brendon received news that the Rawhide series was canceled. His break had fallen through. Almost immediately he was signed to star in a series pilot, but it didn't sell. Still, Brendon persevered, and a little while later he was signed to costar in Garrison's Gorillas--the fourth time he'd been offered a series.
Now after one season of filming, Brendon is at the threshold of what seems to be a great career. He's been picked to costar in a film, Guns Of The Seven. Also on his holiday, Brendon's taking his first trip to Europe. He's off to Milan, Italy--a prize he won on The Dating Game.
When he returns to Hollywood, Brendon will settle down in his bachelor pad and resume his way of life. And soon he'll be looking for "Miss Right." "Sometimes when the wives and kids of some of the Gorillas cast and crew come on set I can hardly contain myself," he said. "I see little kids run into their fathers' arms and I know that's what I want more than anything--to be married, to have children. But right now I'm not ready. I'm too involved with myself and getting established. But someday I'll have a family of my own."
I have a feeling his first son will be named Davis Campbell Boone.