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Robert A. Mills

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· The Better Angels


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Blogs by Robert A. Mills

YES, WE ARE COLLEGIATE!
10/19/2009 1:42:45 PM
I went out for football in my freshman year in high school, and despite my insane enthusiasm, my 6 foot 118 pound frame was a threat to no one—-except myself. For no apparent reason, I made the Junior Varsity 4th String, possibly because the coach had been a classmate of my father’s.

There was a kid named Dallas at Maury High in Norfolk, VA back in those days, and although I never knew him well nor could be categorized as a “friend,” he was an acquaintance and someone I admired and looked up to. The war was recently over and many ex-servicemen returned to high school to complete their education, and I believe Dallas was among them.

A tall, good-looking fellow with a coiffure of magnificent blond hair, Dallas was four or five years older than I (he was already 19 when I was approaching 15,) as was more than seventy percent of the male student body now at home from the war. This, of course, created a serious disadvantage when it came to athletics and girls. These “men” were the obvious choice of both.

One of my fifteen-year-old peers, however, was a pretty little ol’ thing named Betty Thompson, with whom I was eternally in love for about six months; she is one of three buddies I’ve kept contact with throughout the years. The other was a boy named Laddie Wintringham, a fellow my age, who, last I heard, still lives in Virginia with his wife Jeanne (my third buddy.) Betty, a widow with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, is approaching the octogeneric years along with Laddie, Jeanne and me; she lives on Lake Erie in northern Ohio.

I happened to mention Dallas to her a few months ago (I was unable to recall his last name, knowing him so superficially,) and last week she sent an e-mail informing me he had died recently at his home in California, after a long and brilliant forty-year career in movies and TV as Dallas Mitchell (he was, I learned, Dallas Midgette during Maury High days, the son of a Norfolk police officer.) Dallas had gone on to co-star in the original “Star Trek” series as Lt. Nellis; he appeared as Danny in the movie “Airport.” He had character roles in TV movies like “The Face of Fear”(with Ricardo Montalban) and “Amelia Earhart” (with John Forsythe) and was a regular on TV’s “The F.B.I..,” “Wagon Train,” “Riverboat,” “Gunsmoke,” “Quincy,” “Kojack,” and a host of others. His big screen appearance in “Madigan” with Tom Glavin is still considered a classic by Hollywood insiders.

What I never shared with Betty is that the protagonist in my unpublished novel TYCOON! was based loosely on my old high school nemesis, Dallas Midgette (Mitchell) whose last name had fled my memory until Betty’s e-mail showed up. I call him my “nemesis” because at 19 to my 15 he always got dates with the prom queens I fantasized over, and he ended my nipped-in-the-bud football career by nearly crippling me in practice once I caught the only pass our quarterback ever deigned to throw my way. After 10th grade I got a gig on the yearbook staff as a photographer and that was my entrée to all the school’s sporting events (the girls loved me when I pointed my camera at them, suggesting that if they were nice to me, I’d get their pix in the school paper if not the yearbook. I’m not sure we even had a school paper.)

As for Dallas, I followed (jealously) his growth on the big and small screen while never connecting the dots, and I was sorry to hear of his passing. I wish I had known him better and longer, but, if nothing else, his early years and contributions inspired my character Wally Emerson in TYCOON! Friends who have read the manuscript erroneously believe the book is autobiographic-—but they are wrong.

I should be so lucky to have had a career such as Wally Emerson or even Dallas What’s-His-Name


Copyright©2009 by Robert A. Mills


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