Monthly Archives: August 2012

Archie Bunker, ‘Meathead’ and the gang…”Those Were the Days”

Photo of the Cast of the television program Al...

Photo of the Cast of the television program All in the Family. Standing are Sally Struthers (Gloria) and Rob Reiner (Michael); seated are Archie (Carroll O’Connor) and Edith (Jean Stapleton), who is holding the child who played the Bunker’s grandson, Joey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m back…I must apologize to everyone for my extended absence from my blog…but summertime events and travel seemed to have taken over the last three months of my life…oh, and trying to work a little as well.

I thought I would share a little story about the time I came face to face with a beloved character from All In the Family at a one man show in Los Angeles. The actor was none other than Carroll O’Connor aka Archie Bunker, known for his extensive rants and raves on everything under the sun, and then some. He was a blue-collared, WWII veteran who a stereotypical racist, bigot, and long suffering husband to Edith Bunker, skillfully played by the beloved Jean Stapleton (aka Dingbat). He was also the father-in-law of Michael Stivic (aka Meathead), played by the multi talented Rob Reiner. and father to the bubbly daughter Gloria, played by Sally Struthers. One of my favorite characters was George Jefferson, (Sherman Hemsley) who lived next door to Archie and was constantly getting under the skin of Archie but later the two became good friends. And who could forget the crass Barney Hefner, played by Allan Melvin. If the name doesn’t quite ring a bell, he also played Sam, the Butcher on The Brady Bunch who had a “thing” for Alice the wacky live-in housekeeper of the Brady’s.

I remember plopping (if that’s a word) down on the living room floor of my home and watching every single episode of All in the Family to get my weekly fix of Archie and the gang…long before the days of DVD’s, Netflix and DVR’s. I was a product of the 70’s generation, and had to actually get up off my butt and go over to the TV and manually change the black and white television. (Yes, I did say black and white). We had three channels-CBS, NBC and ABC and don’t ask me what the heck VHF /UF stations were because when I turned the knob to either one all I saw was Poltergeist “white snow”. And those stupid aluminum, telescoping v-shaped antennas aka “rabbit ears” that my father wrapped in aluminum foil and was constantly adjusting. When he finally got the sharpest reception, the rabbit ears usually would fall off the back of the TV and we started the same vicious cycle over again. The worst part of this whole debacle was having to go up on the roof to repair the broken larger aluminum antenna after a wind storm. (also before the days of Dish Network, Direct TV and Cable….)  How do you spell “broken neck”?) Don’t even get me started on the mirror on the chair in front of the TV so our father could further irritate us  by blocking our view of the snowy, black & white screen while peering out through a cloud of white hovering cigarette smoke, all the while chain-smoking Pall Mall 100’s like he had just heard Orson Wells’ radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds” and was the last to know that the aliens were not really destroying Earth! How I ever made it through track and cross-country running, I’ll never know! Somehow though, looking back, it was all worth being able to tune in to the beloved characters of All in the Family, just to hear the theme song, ‘Those Were the Days’ and believe me they most definitely were the days…at least I think so. So much for my digressing back to the prehistoric age of large black and white TV consoles;  The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, who always signed off nightly with “And that’s the way it is” to America. Who can forget the ugly shag carpeting, bright orange countertops and of course my favorite-bell-bottomed jeans with tie-died t-shirts. So much for my digressing…

Fast forward to the eighties and my residing in Hollywood. I somehow ending up attending a one man show on a weekend evening with a friend from one of my acting classes. She was as excited as I was to sit in the audience and be entertained by none other than, yes, you guessed it right, Mr. Carroll O’ Connor, aka Archie Bunker in the flesh! The lights flickered off and on for a few seconds, then came the dimming of the lights and the most deafening silence I have ever heard, esp. in LA. Our attention was drawn to center stage as a small spot light swung to the middle of the stage center of the proscenium. About that time you could actually hear a pin drop. Suddenly, the curtain ruffled momentarily and then a man’s head popped out and looked around as if looking for someone. His demeanor was most menacing and he seemed very annoyed with someone or something. I glanced around and it appeared that the entire audience sat silently glued to their seats holding their breath, perhaps afraid to move even one muscle. Suddenly, and without any warning, the man yells out one profound, solitary word that sent the audience into a laughing tailspin. That word was “Meathead”, and Archie Bunker was here on stage looking for his Polish son-in-law, Mike Stivic. I knew from that moment on I was somehow witnessing a historic stage performance by Carroll O’Connor as he meandered down off the small stage and walked straight up the aisle, toward the row I was sitting in as he rolled his cigar back and forth his lips. As he shuffled toward me he kept looking around as if he were still searching for ‘Meathead’. Archie had a cigar in his mouth and his fedora atop his head as he unexpectedly stopped right next to my chair and glared over at me. I sat motionless in my seat and was unsure as whether or not to laugh or just piss my pants.

“Have you seen Meathead?”

My lips moved but no words came out…

“Has anyone seen Meathead” he yelled again and continued his slow and deliberate stroll past me and up the aisle to the back of the theater and circled around to the other side and back up to the stage searching for Mike Stivic, his one and only son-in-law.  I could have reached out and grabbed Archie’s arm but was young and naive at the time and thought if I did he would berate me in front of the entire crowd or perhaps even slap me silly.

The rest of the evening was a blur to me but it is a memory that will forever be etched in my mind until my last  breath. I don’t know about the rest of you out there in TV Land, but I miss my weekly dose of Archie Bunker, Edith, Mike and Gloria as well as George Jefferson…I can only imagine the big surprise on George’s face when he got to heaven and found out that his mansion was right next door to none other that Archie Bunker’s mansion.

Talk about moving on up…

From the vault of The Hollywood Contender

Until next time…

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