This week I went to a conference for women, which included a reminder that even us just being present was an influence on other people. While I was there, actor David Hedison passed away.
Who’s David Hedison?
If the name sounds familiar, he starred on the TV series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and the original movie The Fly. He’s the guy screaming, “Help me! Help me!” as the spider moves in for lunch.
He was also my favorite actor growing up.
KTLA TV showed a science fiction afternoon with Tom Hatten hosting (who also passed away recently). There were films from the 1950s and 1960s. At 4:00, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea came on, followed by Star Trek. I liked both shows even though they were quite different.
Star Trek was like a Western in space with more cerebral content. It took modern-day politics and built futuristic stories about them.
In its later years, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was a hark to those science fiction movies I also watched. We had monster and aliens and even a mermaid. David Hedison was one of the starring actors and he played the action hero.
Some of the memorable episodes included him walking through the inside of the whale to save lives and turning into a werewolf because of a scientific experiment gone wrong.
Suddenly the show disappeared from the air.
The first season was in black and white, so stations discontinued running the entire show. The fans were left to meet at cons and correspond through mail and writing fan fiction. I collected photos and joined his fan club. None of us had access to him.
Except on film and TV. When there were fewer channels, TV Guide would include a short summary of the shows and the guest stars. So when it came in the mail, I went cover to cover and found David Hedison in other shows. Variety was at the local library, so I looked at the casting announcements and found more.
Because of this influence from a person I never met, I read books about Hollywood. There was the book Making a Monster that described how David Hedison was made up for The Fly. I looked for behind the scenes photos because that was more interesting to me than posed photos of characters holding ray guns.
I’m ALSO writing a mystery set in Hollywood after World War II.
Enter the Internet
Then the internet changed everything. In 1997, I started David Hedison’s official website, which I ran with another person until 2007. After that, it became too much work because it was competing with my writing, so the other person and her son took it over.
This was in the Gold Rush days of the internet. No one knew what they were doing.
But we knew one thing: It was the public face of this actor. Agents or producers might see the site. So we had to represent him professionally.
Drove the new base of fans crazy. They wanted dirt. They wanted personal. They wanted intimate.
The site always amazed David Hedison, I think. He didn’t really understand why people would visit. We provided a nearly complete credit list vetted by him, as well as frequently asked questions and upcoming appearances. This was a very different experience then hunting through TV Guide and Variety.
The fan base also changed with the internet, and not for the better.
In print, we were a bunch of fans who wanted more adventures from our favorite TV show. It was hard work and it scared a lot of people off.
On the internet, the fans were far less friendly (an early sign of what we see today).
One time, a fan sent a note on the mailing list asking how to learn to be better. In hindsight, she was probably fishing for praise. Then, I thought if you wanted to write–because it is something that takes a lot of time to do–you wanted to learn. I got verbally smacked when the fan sneered and said, “Not everyone can afford editors to fix their writing.”
Uh, I use a copy editor to catch the dumb stuff. I don’t use a developmental editor to tell me how to write.
Between the website and the fan behavior, it started to very apparent that I needed to stay away from the fan politics. Eventually, I dropped off the list. It was no longer fun if we couldn’t have a conversation without people melting down.
It was a lesson I learned again when I was on the writing message boards. About ninety-five percent of the writing community fits into two categories. They pass around advice that’s plainly wrong and say the best sellers (who are in the other two categories) don’t know anything because the wrong advice is so common.
When someone on the writing message boards asked for advice, I always felt like I had to not say what I knew was true, or be very careful about what I did say. One time I got my hand smacked by another writer because I “you don’t understand a thing about outlining”–this after I said “This is my experience with outlining” and said why it didn’t work for me.
I’ve ended up doing some of the same things for Facebook.
Meeting David Hedison
The first time I met David Hedison, two other core fans and I drove to Massachusetts to see him in a play. I was so nervous! I was convinced I was breaking out in wrinkles all over.
We told the theater we were friends of his and they sat us in the second row the first night and the first row the next night. The stage was so close to us we could have reached out and touched the actors.
And then David Hedison walked out on stage.
My first thought?
Holy cow! He’s three-dimensional!
I hadn’t realized how flat film made actors look.
After the performance, we got to meet him. He was bouncing around–lots of energy–and got us sodas and chatted with us. He was very nice and friendly. The next night we got to see a photo session with all the actors. They goofed around and mugged for us.
I met him numerous times after that. He knew he could trust the core group of fans. We saw him in more plays and at conventions.
Because of this influence, I started to see actors as people as not celebrities. I’d see actors who were professional and ones weren’t.
I’d get that lesson in professionalism over and over.
David Hedison was at one con where they did a Q&A on stage. The interviewer wandered off-topic, asking about other actors (sort of like if you write a mystery and the interviewer starts talking about Michael Connelly and not you or your book). He diplomatically found a way to end the session and had the audience laughing.
If I picked up a magazine with an interview, I knew what I was going to get. He never dished gossip on anyone.
When I started focusing more on my writing and my personal website, all those things I learned from the degrees of influence filtered in.
One of the classes I attended at the conference brought up the degrees of influence. But at the end of her second workshop, the instructor did something she didn’t intend to. She brought up politics on one of her slides.
Politics was part of the conference because you have them at work and even within your family or the church. The other speakers kept it at that level.
She inserted personal opinion.
I’m sure she thought everyone agreed with her (I didn’t). But it had an unintended influence. If I see her name on an agenda, I won’t take a class from her again because I can’t trust her.
We all influence someone else, every day, all day. I doubt if David Hedison knew he influenced me, but I knew.