Saturday, June 23, 2018

Clint Walker, Tall in the Saddle

It is with sad and heavy heart that I report the untimely passing of Clint Walker, one of the three surviving members of The Dirty Dozen, but who will forever remain in my heart as Cheyenne Bodie from the weekly television Western, Cheyenne. He passed away on May 21, from congestive heart failure. 

Having spent time professionally with a large number of Hollywood actors, especially at fan gatherings and film festivals, I can truly say Clint was one of the few individuals who was sincere down to the marrow of his bones. Down to earth, very little ego, and as you saw him on the screen in both movies and on television, that was how he was in real life. A tall, larger than life man to look up to… the same man who inspired me to eat healthy many years ago when I had lunch with him and he generously provided some dietary tips regarding vegetables, red meat and protein. 

When he made a public appearance at the Memphis Film Festival a decade ago, I quickly observed the fact that he never took time to pose for photographs with fans. When I asked him why one morning, he explained, “at my age and with these knees, getting up and down all day is troublesome and would become painful. I do not mind signing autographs and answering questions, though.” So I guess I was one of the lucky ones to have my photo taken with Clint one morning, not so much at my request as it was his. He insisted on the photo before the door opened and fans caught him posing for the camera.


This might disillusion a few people reading this, but having been in the hotel rooms with Hollywood celebrities over the years, I have always observed the numerous gifts bestowed upon the celebrities during autograph sessions… Amateur artwork, scrapbooks, refrigerator magnets, and in one instance, action figures. Self-obsessed fans never seem to have trouble finding time to create mementos inspired by the legends they get to meet at conventions and fan gatherings. Celebrities accept gifts from fans solely to maintain Goodwill and appreciation, but realistically they never have enough room in their luggage or in their house for all the gifts that have been given to them over the years. For this, academically, I can understand. With Clint Walker, however, he was always sincere when he received gifts from fans. I remember when Clint was enamored by someone who created a pair of leather shows and their talent at leather burning… They had an image of Clint Walker as Cheyenne Bodie on the side of the shoes. He literally stopped the autograph line for a few minutes to admire the craftsmanship. 

In closing, I would like to re-count a story he once told me that is worth sharing… Clint Walker was the Captain of the Guard, a small and brief scene in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments. This was among his first acting jobs in Hollywood. On the way to the studio that morning Walker observed a woman who had pulled over to change a flat on her tire. Being the kind soul that he was, the actor pulled over to assist. (As big and built as he was I can only envision him jacking the car up with his own hands to speed the process.) Upon finishing the task, he apologized for not staying any longer to except her verbal appreciation as he was already late for work. When he arrived at the studio, he expected to be fired for being late to the interview. DeMille was furious until Walker explained his reason. The director looked at Clint Walker for a few seconds and remarked, “I know all about the fix-a-flat. That was my secretary and she explained it to me a few minutes ago.” 

Rest in peace, Mr. Walker. 

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