Recently, I was thinking about Warren Stevens, who played "Doc Ostrow" in "Forbidden Planet," and was in a zillion other genre credits as well including Star Trek TOS and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. He passed away last January, and was in his 90s. Honestly, I hadn't realized he was still alive until he died. His passing made me sad in an oddly personal way, despite my never having met him, my never having been specifically overwhelmingly impressed by a performance he gave, and whom I'd already assumed was dead. This happens to me a lot, and it occurs to me that I've probably never explained why.
As Laurie Anderson said (And as I plagiarized in the eulogy I gave my dad in December of 2011), "When my father died, it was like a library burning down."
I'm kind of obsessive about old TV shows, particularly genre ones: SF, Spy-fi, some high-concept sitcoms, old genre movies, etc. My wife is one of those people who couldn't care less if she were living in England where they only play around at TV without taking it seriously or if there was no TV at all. When we were dating, it confused her as to why I'd get so worked up about blah blah blah The Wild Wild West blah blah blah Fiend Without A Face blah blah blah Richard Basehart blah blah blah whatever.
Eventually, however, she said "I think I get it now: they were your neighborhood, they were your friends. They were the interesting people you *didn't* meet at school, and the folks who didn't make fun of your or beat you up because you liked science." Yup. It's true. I grew up in a relative social void (Which is probably why I'm such a people person now) in the middle of nowhere, only saw people at school, got picked on a lot, and I'm kind of aspergery, so people didn't make much sense to me. My dad worked all the time. My mom was in an antisocial phase. My brother's a social nightmare, and my sister was just a baby. So basically it was just me in the middle of a big house in the middle of a big, empty subdivision, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of Nebraska for about eight years.
So your choices for friends are TV, books, or psychosis. I did TV and Books. Well, maybe a little psychosis, but just a pinch between cheek and gum. Not enough to get addicted.
Anyway:I feel close to these fictional people, and lacking any solid, regular social role models for social behavior, I think I patterned a lot of my behavior and my values and reactions and patter on how TV show characters acted, pathetic as that is.
My wife eventually grew fond of saying "TV is the country my husband emigrated from," It's kind of right, though it's a bit wordy. I generally say "TV is My Home Town." Or perhaps Classic Genre TV is. So when one of the old-timers from these shows dies, I do feel like I lost someone. I do feel like a library burned down, even if it was a fictional library for a fictional character played by an actor/actress I never met, in a show that maybe I didn't even like all that much.
Because it was a part of home.