The above video is offered just for enjoyment. It is blurry but the sound quality is good. It is Michael Landon’s final appearance on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on 5-9-1991. Prior to this appearance he had announced to the public that he had inoperable cancer of the pancreas and liver, and was a short-timer. He died on July 1, 1991. I cannot make anything of those numbers. It is a delightful interview.*
Or did he … on this blog, celebrity deaths are always taken with a grain of salt. 53 days after this appearance, he was gone. I don’t have any evidence that his death was a hoax. And, I have another purpose here.
Landon was born Eugene Maurice Orowitz on October 31, 1936. He was a real Bar Mitzvahed Jew. His family tree reminds me of my own, going back a couple of generations and then into question marks. His mother was the daughter of John and Peggy O’Neill, said to be a dancer and comedienne. Maybe that is where Landon got the show business bug. I don’t see anything out of the ordinary here, but maybe readers can fill me in. As I said, I have another purpose here.
Of course, I have only seen him when he is performing, as in the video above. But some elements of a personality come through, and he seems to have a welcoming manner and delightful sense of humor. His laugh is infectious, and he smiles on meeting everyone. I first came to know him as a kid watching a TV show called Bonanza, where he played Little Joe Cartwright. He would later star in two other series that I did not see, Little House on the Prairie, and Highway to Heaven.
Highway to Heaven is available on Netflix, all 111 episodes of it. I started watching months ago, and found them to be the antidote to modern television, each episode having a positive message and happy ending. Much of it is saccharine and melodramatic, predictable and heart-tugging. “God” is one of the characters, though never seen. Of course I like it! I hate when I turn on a show or movie only to find people betraying and harming one another, but that seems an essential plot device anymore. No one ever can be trusted. So much of what is available on Netflix is so dark!
So I am a Pollyanna. I own up to it.
More than a few times characters in Highway have cancer or are facing loss of a loved one, possibly predictive programming. Landon’s character, Jonathon Smith, is a “probationary angel,” and is sent to earth to resolve various situations where people are in trouble, pain or suffering. He and his costar, Mark Gordon (Victor French) by powers vested in Jonathon, appear in these people’s lives as carpenters, painters, gardeners, coaches, teachers or counselors. They fix things up, and then leave. Smith, as an angel, does not need food or sleep. Gordon, a human who does not have “the stuff” that Smith has (the ability to perform miracles), is nonetheless Jonathon’s constant companion.
Highway to Heaven may have been the last television series that was based on the premise that people are good and kind, and that there is a God. Each episode resolved difficulties. Bad people either changed or got just deserts. Characters were normally smart and observant and set a good example for viewers. Violence was rare, and since Smith was invincible, easily resolved.
Landon died on July 1, 1991 at age 54. Victor French, his costar, died of lung cancer (a three-month illness) on June 15, 1989, at age 54.
And that is what makes me suspicious. The only positive force in the vast wasteland of television, and both stars die of cancer, and young. It is almost as if they were ushered out. There would be other popular shows with an upbeat message, like Full House and Fresh Prince, but never again would a show deal directly with spirituality or be built on the premise that people are good and want to do the right thing for themselves and others.
The show had a nice run, but then its stars dying young and two years apart … is possible, of course, but statistically highly unlikely, so much so that I suspect one or both deaths were fake.
But I cannot prove a thing. It seems the good they die young.
*This is some backdrop – Carson and Landon were acquainted but not friends. Carson one time ate at a restaurant where, as he left, he was hoaxed into believing he had run over the owner’s cat. He felt terrible about that. Later he and Landon had dinner at the same restaurant, and by pre-arrangment Carson was given a menu on which every single item was some form of dead cat.