The PTC’s president remembers actor Alan Young.
A horse is a horse, of course, of course.
And any Baby Boomer in America will recognize – and can probably sing – the theme song from Mister Ed. Whenever we hear it, we immediately hearken back to a time when television made us happy.
Yes, we knew that the horse didn’t really talk; but the simple innocence of the show made it so clever. We could watch and enjoy a full 30-minute episode and accept the notion that Ed was really giving Wilbur Post constant fits. And we could do so because Wilbur, I mean Alan Young, was so convincing in his role as the stooge.
I moved to Los Angeles in the summer of 1981, shortly after graduating from college. Like countless other new arrivals in Southern California, I was easily star-struck when I would see a celebrity on the street or in a store. My girlfriend at the time, and her family, were personal friends of Alan Young and his wife Ginny. I remember how nervous I was when we first visited Alan and Ginny at their San Fernando Valley home. But when I met him, he was immediately disarming. And even to this day – now almost 35 years later — I can still feel the warmth, sincerity and tenderness of a man I was so thrilled to meet in person after having admired him on TV.
Alan always seemed so humble and so truly grateful for the blessings of a successful career in Hollywood. He knew how fortunate he was. And he noted that his father urged him at a young age to pursue a path in entertainment when he realized his son could make as much money doing one short monologue as he made working all day in a shipyard. “Keep up this talking business,” Alan’s father told him, “because lips don’t sweat.”
Unlike so many performers in today’s entertainment industry, Alan understood the impact his work could have on children and families. He spoke publicly about how the producers didn’t want to include in the closing credits the name of the actor who provided the voice to the horse, because it would upset the illusion for kids who were watching. And he cited comedian Ed Wynn for providing solid career advice. Wynn told Young: “Make it simple. You’re going into someone’s home, so don’t be insulting.”
My, how times have changed. I sure wish we had more folks in Hollywood who felt the same way he did.
Here is a videotaped interview with Alan Young. I urge you to watch it, and to listen to his earnest voice as he talks about his career. And I also urge you to notice the twinkle in his eyes as he speaks. I was so fortunate to see that twinkle in person. And I will never forget it.
Thank you Angus “Alan” Young for the joy you’ve brought to countless millions, and for the joy you will continue to bring to millions more.