Monday, January 19, 2009

Remembering Patrick McGoohan

Last Tuesday, the actor Patrick McGoohan died at age 80. After doing stage work in England, he graduated to “B” movies then switched to television, becoming the highest-paid British actor for roles in Danger Man (1/2 hour version) and Danger Man (hour version; called Secret Agent in the United States). In mid-1960’s, at the peak of his popularity, he quit that last show, turned down the role of James Bond (he thought the character immoral), and helped create, write, direct, and produce the brainy and brilliant 17 episodes of The Prisoner. He went on to create many more memorable roles in television and movies thereafter.

Although I never knew or met Patrick McGoohan, he had a huge influence on me in the 1980’s. I was working at my first full-time job and felt my mind turning to mush. Those enigmatic, puzzling episodes jolted my 9-to-5 insurance office brain, giving me much to ponder.

Seeing only the last few episodes PBS aired of The Prisoner in 1980, I was intrigued to learn more. This was long before the Internet and the Information Age. I was desperate for information about this esoteric show and little could be found. Wanting to see and discuss the complete series, I met fellow fans in person around town and by letter across the sea. From my local Star Trek club, I discovered others not only interested The Prisoner but also possessing the whole set on Beta Max tapes with a large-screen projector to study them on; high technology at the time. A friendly group gathered to watch and discuss the series, as well as Patrick McGoohan’s other works, and to socialize. It was magical.

Flourishing creatively, I wrote analytical articles and short stories based on the series. I bought the book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" and began sketching seriously and successfully. Contributing both writings and drawings, I was published in many different fan publication dedicated to The Prisoner.

Writing frequently to a dozen pen pals spread over the U.S. and England, we shared not only our interest in the series and the actor, but also articles, photos, and our own lives. When my San Francisco pen pal enthused over her recent trip to Ireland and two other fans living in Brighton, England, invited me to stay with them, I booked my first trip abroad in 1982. The latter couple, who had met and married because of mutual Prisoner interest, very graciously took me out to tour original filming sites in southern coastal England, London, and Portmeirion, Wales, where I met more fans. Taking this trip, when I was 23 years old, helped cement my love and fascination of Ireland and the British Isles and laid the foundation for my later discoveries of ancient Neolithic and Celtic history and culture.

Finding and scanning theses old sketches, I marvel at my first real venture into art. Looking at the various fan magazines I wrote and drew for, I marvel at the output one television show inspired. Remembering all my pen pals and friends at the time, I marvel at how small connections that can bring people together.

Thank you, Patrick McGoohan, for everything. Rest in peace.

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