Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fess Parker is Dead

Fess Parker, the modern, Disneyfied, television-driven incarnation of Davy Crockett, the man who made the raccoon-skin cap one of the most priceless articles of clothing a small boy could acquire, died on Thursday at the age of 85. Playing Davy Crockett in just three hour-long episodes of the Disneyland television program back in 1954-55, Fess Parker became the idol of millions primarily because he was tall and soft-spoken and looked great in a hat made out of raccoon skins. He was lucky as well to be starring in a show that featured a theme song - The Ballad of Davy Crockett - that sold millions of records. Some of you may remember how it went:

Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee
Greenest state in the land of the free
Raised in the woods so he knew every tree
Kilt him a b'ar when he was only 3
Davy, Davy Crockett
King of the wild frontier.

And as the New York Times recalls, those raccoon-skin caps just started flying out of the stores once the shows were aired. "Children wore coonskin caps to school and wore them to bed. They wore them with their Davy Crockett plastic fringe frontier costumes while they played with their Crockett trading cards, their Crockett board games and puzzles, their Crockett color slide sets and their Crockett power horns. They pestered their parents for Crockett toy muskets and Crockett bubble gum and Crockett rings and comic books."

I personally adored my own coonskin cap and it was with great reluctance that I allowed my mother to lend it to a neighbor for a costume party. I was sure it would get hopelessly lost and that my beloved hat would never be seen again. I was right. The hat was misplaced and those hats were so popular, the stores started running out of them. I never owned another one and I never forgave my mother for this terrible transgression. She, in turn, never forgave our neighbor.

Such was the power of Fess Parker as Davy Crockett.

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