Not to get maudlin about it, but for my generation Fess Parker was Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone all rolled into one. Television is what did it. Television and Fess Parker. When we watched Fess play Davy and Daniel Boone, TV was a new medium, and that gave it even more power than it has today.
Consequently, I was duly impressed when I first met Mr. Parker. I was with KABC-TV at the time. We were driving up to Santa Barbara to put together a story about what was then his new Red Lion Inn hotel.
It was strawberry season here in Southern California, and we had stopped at a roadside stand to pick up a flat of berries on our drive up the coast. My colleague Heather MacKenzie offered a couple of baskets to Fess, and he gratefully accepted. It was the least we could do for Davy and Daniel, and all those hours of entertainment. It didn’t feel like anyone was giving a gift to a celebrity though. It was more like offering a small token of affection to an old and beloved uncle you hadn’t seen in a great many years.
According to Heather, Fess never forgot, and called her the “strawberry lady” every time their paths crossed in the years that followed.
In case you’re a boomer and you were wondering, he told me he still had “old betsy.” They let him keep it when the Davy Crockett series ended he said, and it had been hanging over his fireplace ever since.
“I think I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” Parker told a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1994. “I’ve lived long enough and observed enough to make myself very comfortable with the realization that the Disney films and particularly Davy Crockett gave me an image that is unbelievably durable. It’s been 40 years and people are still talking about it.
“Had I played Hamlet and starred in a number of Broadway shows or motion pictures as a very versatile actor, I wouldn’t have had the identity, recognition and, most importantly, the welcome I’ve been accorded by most of the homes of viewers. It’s like we’re old friends.”‘ -LA Times
Fess Parker was 85. He really was as easygoing and unassuming off camera as he was while playing either of the roles that turned him into an American icon. According to the AP he passed away on his wife’s 84th birthday at their home in the Santa Ynez Valley.
RIP Davy. You too, Dan’l. And thank you both for serving as role models for an entire generation of young Americans.