Way back in March someone alerted me to a Facebook post that said Kent was going to be at the Mid Atlantic Nostalgia Convention. I read it and thought, "I could do this. It's in Maryland, that's not too far away from where I live."
I also thought, "Oh, but wait, it starts one day after my son's tenth birthday. Would I be a jerk if I skipped out on the kid right after his birthday? Probably."
Skip ahead many months to July when I was making my reservations for the trip. I, being a good mother, turned to my son and asked if he would like to go to the convention with me. He excitedly said, "Yeah, I'll go!"
"Okay, I can do this," I thought, "I can take Michael to meet Kent and we'll all have a good time. He won't drive me crazy. Of course he'll let me hang out with Kent for hours. Because ten-year-olds have exceptional attention spans. Right?"
I placed my misgivings aside and bought plane tickets for two.
Skip ahead to Thursday, September 15th. While I was flying back from a business trip in Arkansas the convention was starting in Maryland. My Facebook friend, Doug, posted that he had met Kent and I came up in their conversation! Then while I was driving home from the airport fellow Kent fan and owner of an Adam-12 replica car, Jeffrey, was having his car's door panel signed by Kent! I was stuck in traffic on 85 and Kent was leaning against Jeffrey's car doing a television interview. I already knew this convention was going to be extra special and couldn't wait to get on that plane the next day.
|Thank you for letting me use your pictures, Jeffrey!|
Finally, it was Friday, September 16th! The day Michael and I would fly to Baltimore, then drive an hour to the convention and meet Kent! By now my entourage had grown. My online friend, Addie, was coming from Manhattan to meet us! I was so excited I got up way too early and could hardly eat any breakfast. I only drank coffee, but didn't need it. I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed without the aid of caffeine. I was so anxious I couldn't sit still. I had to move! We left for the Charlotte airport much earlier than we needed to.
|Michael passing time in the airport.|
|Here's Ryan, his car, and Kent.|
Thank you, Ryan!
|"Reed" behind the wheel.|
|Kent's table with his pictures.|
While Kent was signing the man's baseball and recounting a story about the MacGyver episode he appeared in, another man wearing an Orioles T-shirt walked up to the table. He began to insist that I go ahead of him. I told him it was quite alright for him to go first, I would be there for a while. When the man got up to Kent he told him that he was trying to be a gentleman, but I wouldn't let him. Kent said, "Oh, that's OK, Keely and I are old friends." I picked myself up off the floor while he and Kent talked.
After the Orioles fan walked away, Kent, Michael, and I chatted for a few minutes about the show and our recent move to North Carolina. I didn't want to stay at the table too long, my knees were literally shaking. You'd think I would be used to this by now. We left and told Kent we'd see him at the Q & A session he was doing with Bernie Kopell and Robert Fuller in a few minutes.
|I'm short and we were pretty far from the stage, |
so that is why this picture is not good.
Sorry. They get better, though, so keeping reading!
A lot of the questions during the Q & A went to Bernie Kopell, a.k.a. "Doc" from Love Boat, and it was easy to see why. He was hilarious. Some of the stories were not appropriate for my ten-year old, but I enjoyed them nonetheless. For instance, someone pointed out that a particular Get Smart episode Bernie was talking about was from '69. Bernie replied, "Well, I know that's a great position". The room exploded in laughter and Michael asked, "What's so funny? I don't get it."
Kent did manage to get a few words in between Bernie's bawdy jokes and questions about Laramie, though. He told us about the first time we played a police officer on Dragnet. It was during the filming of "The Big Explosion" (S1, E2). Kent's role required him to come knock on the door, then say a few lines to Sgt. Friday after the door opened. Kent did that and nailed his lines, but Webb wasn't satisfied. Kent's face was not in the shot when he was saying his lines. He told Kent, with a few curse words thrown in, that he needed to do it again. Webb wanted to get his face on camera as he spoke so his "mother could see his mug on screen".
While Kent was waiting on the porch for his cue, he stewed. He did not like the way Webb talked to him. His twenty-four-year-old mind contemplated taking Webb out back for some "boxing lessons". He had recently done this with another director who cussed him out a few weeks ago. But Kent came to his senses and he remembered that he was under contract with a wife and baby at home. He flubbed his line when he did it again, then suffered through take after take until he got it right and Webb was satisfied. In the middle of the ordeal Webb whispered to his on-screen partner, Harry Morgan, "This kid is f*@$ing good". Webb had fallen in love with McWhirter and the rest is history.
|A face only a mother could love.|
(Hey, I'm a mother, I should know.)
Kent also talked about working on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Another show, like Dragnet, associated with a singular, creative powerhouse. Both of these visionaries, Ozzie Nelson and Jack Webb, had tremendous respect for the actors and crew that brought their visions to light; but that was where the similarities ended. Kent described Nelson and Webb as "two sides of the same coin". "One of them never smoked, drank, or cussed" and the other was Jack Webb.
After the Q & A we, along with everyone else in the room, walked up to the stage to say "Hi" and get pictures of three men behind the table. Somehow, we ended up walking out right behind Kent. (Honestly, I didn't plan that.) Addie still hadn't met Kent, so I figured this would be as good a time as any. I got his attention and introduced them, he shook her hand and said "Hello". A full three minutes after this happened it hit Addie that she had been touched by Kent. She vowed never to wash that hand again. Her excitement continued later that night when she got to share the hotel shuttle with Kent, Fuller, and Kopell.
On Saturday we got to the convention as soon as it opened. Before we went to Kent's table, where a line had already formed, we headed over to see "Doc". As soon as I approached his table, Kopell said to me, "You're famous, somebody was talking about you last night." Thankfully, it was Kent, not some random stranger. After we posed for a picture with him, Kopell told me Kent said I was "wonderful". Kopell then told me I was cute and I let him know that I thought he was pretty great, too.
We walked back over to Kent's table where there was still quite a line. I passed the time by talking to his assistant for the convention, Ashley. Much to my surprise, I found out that she lives about ten minutes away from us in North Carolina. She knew the organizer of the event and requested to work with Kent since she was an Adam-12 fan. I couldn't believe there had been fan right in my backyard and had to go all the way to Maryland to discover her.
|My new friend, Ashley.|
I also passed the time by acting as Kent's unofficial photographer. Every time a fan would walk up to the table and want their picture taken with Kent, I would use their phone and snap the photo for them. I think I did OK, but one man confused me by having a camera with actual film in it.
Around noon Addie left to go find some lunch. I, being laser-focused on Kent, could not feel hunger and decided to keep hanging around the table. Then, suddenly, Kent looked at me and said "Follow me and bring your stuff." He told the fans in line that he was taking a break and would be back. I looked at Michael and told him, "Come on. When Kent McCord says follow him, we follow him." Michael and I nearly ran to keep up with Kent and his long stride as he led us out of the ballroom, past vendors in the hall, up some stairs, and into the celebrity greenroom. He found seats near the back of the room for me, Michael, and him. For the next two hours, we sat in those seats and talked like old friends.
|I don't remember when during the course of the day we took this picture,|
but this seems like a good time to insert it into the story.
One of the first things we talked about was how Kent met his wife, Cynthia. He had told the story at the Q & A, but I wanted to make sure I got it right. He met her when his friend, Stuart, borrowed his car to take Cynthia out. After their date all of the kids from school got together at the local Bob's Big Boy, including Kent. He sat across from Cynthia and they played a little bit of footsie under the table. By the end of the night, Cynthia decided to go with the Kent, the guy who owned the car.
I asked Kent about the footsie part of the story, I wanted to make sure that was accurate. He confirmed that, yes, his foot was on Cynthia's that night and her foot was on his. He then touched my foot with his demonstrate. Now, I don't know what Kent McCord had on the sole of his shoe, but when his black New Balance sneaker came in contact with my foot a jolt of electricity went through me and all time stopped.
Somehow, I managed to pull myself together. Thank goodness I did or else I would have missed all of the other stories Kent had to tell. I would have never heard about his coach not letting him leave a scrimmage early to attend Rick and Kris Nelson's wedding. The next day after he looked at the papers, the coach asked, "Why didn't you tell me it was Tom Harmon's daughter's wedding? I would have let you go." To which Kent replied, "I would have hoped you would have let me go for anyone's wedding."
If I would have blacked out after playing footsie with Kent, I would have also missed him playing me part of this interview on his phone. I would have missed the personal photos he showed me on his phone. I would have also missed hearing about the time he was an extra on Gidget.
|See the young man in the tan trunks |
behind Gidget's father? Guess who.
|See the elbow and tan trunks running in|
front of Gidget and her father? Guess who, again.
|See the fellow in tan trunks and a blue|
shirt now running behind Gidget and her father?
You guessed it.
In case you want to watch this episode, it's entitled "The Great Kahuna". You may have heard of it.
After I pulled myself together I was finally able to ask Kent some burning questions. I wanted to start out with something really important, something that would show my appreciation for his life's work. I knew the perfect question, I asked him about this shirt:
|Come on, you all wondered about |
this shirt. I can't be the only one.
|I mean, what is going on here?|
It seemed like Kent really liked this infamous "kitty cat" shirt, he wore it on and off the show. I wondered if it held special meaning for him.
Kent answered that he bought the shirt in Mexico and he still has it. He even knows where it is in house. He had forgotten he wore it on the show, though. Satisfied, I moved onto the next question.
Next, I asked him about a car. Particularly, this blue Corvette.
I wanted to know if the rumors were true. If the Corvette he drove in "Ladies' Night" (S7 E16) was his personal car. One that was rumored to have been given to him by Jack Webb.
I found out that Jack Webb did give Kent a Corvette, but not that one. Webb was a Cadillac man. Every winter he would drive a hard top, then trade that in for a convertible every summer. Kent favored Corvettes and convinced Webb to try one. At this same time Kent was going through a salary negotiation with Mark VII. One day Webb called Kent into his office and tossed the keys of the '71 Corvette he had purchased to Kent. It was his way of giving Kent a bonus. Kent appreciated it, but would have rather had the money.
Now that I had the really important questions out of the way, I needed to ask Kent something that has been driving his fans nuts. "What's the deal with Woman's Story?" I asked.
Most of us female fans have been dying to see this 2000 movie he made with Erin Gray, but we can't find it anywhere. Kent replied that he didn't know either. For some reason the movie's star, director, and writer, Gary Conway, never released the film. He showed it at film festivals, but never gave it a wider release. Kent himself has only seen a pirated copy that Erin Gray somehow got a hold of. He expressed how frustrating it was to have worked on a film that no one ever saw.
Now that my questions were out of the way, it was time to move on to autographs. When we left the table Kent brought along a Sharpie marker. I made sure he put it to good use while we were in the green room.
|I always thought this press photo was funny and |
I had to have it signed. Kent thinks he looks
like his wife's crush, Tom Brady, here. I agree.
|This is Michael's. It says, |
"To Michael, nice to meet you, Kent McCord".
Now that he had told stories, answered questions, and signed autographs just for me, it was probably time that Kent return to his other fans. Before we parted ways Kent commented that there was an "inordinate amount" of current and retired officers at the convention. He wondered if the promoters had alerted local police departments. This is something Kent always advises organizers to do when he is making an appearance. He resolved to ask the organizers later.
On our way out of the room I gave Kent a big hug and thanked him for all he did for me. He shocked me by thanking me for everything I do. He then asked if I would be back at the table and I promised I would be. Poor Michael had no choice in the matter.
We met up with Addie and returned to our position at the table. Once again, Kent was steadily busy signing autographs. One of the fans who approached the table caught my eye, he was wearing a Monkees T-shirt. Somehow the conversation turned to Michael Nesmith and I felt I had to be honest with Kent. I reached out and put my hand on his arm and told him that if Michael Nesmith were there..."You'd forget all about me, right?" guessed Kent. I told him that, sadly, it was true.
|The only face that could make me forget about Kent McCord.|
Kent signed a few more autographs then told me and Michael to come with him again. We followed as he walked to the table where Gary Lockwood and Keir Dullea, stars of 2001: A Space Odyssey sat. Michael was excited, he loves that movie and wanted to get the autographs of the stars. Kent came up to Lockwood and introduced us as his friends. Lockwood then signed Michael's book at no charge. When Dullea found out we were friends of Kent's, he also signed the book at no charge.
|Addie got Michael this cool notebook |
made from the soundtrack album cover.
As five o'clock neared, our time with Kent was coming to an end. Before the day was over, he had to run off and do an interview for the convention archives. While Kent was gone, Ashley, Addie, Michael, and I kept watch over his poster, photos, and pens.
|Here we are, hard at work.|
When his interview was finished Kent returned to an almost empty ballroom. Most of the vendors and other celebrities had packed their wares and hightailed it on out of there. Before Kent did the same, it was the perfect time to get some pictures.
|Photo by Ashley.|
|Photo by Ashley.|
|Photo by Michael.|
|He wore it in "Dirt Duel" (S5, E1).|
But our day wasn't done yet. First, we had to say good-bye to Addie and get our picture taken with her. I won't show you the picture because she said she didn't like it, but one does exist. Addie is a real person and my friend. Next, Michael and I had to eat. Our growling stomachs couldn't be ignored any longer. We went to the hotel bar and grill and ordered hamburgers. While we were chowing down, who should walk in but Kent and the one celebrity I hadn't met yet.
Robert Fuller's table had been besieged by fans all day long, the wait for his autograph was hours long. But now here he was, a few feet away with a man who called me friend. I decided to go for it. I walked over with Michael in tow. Kent introduced us and told Robert about the blog. I shook his hand and promised to avert my gaze from Johnny Gage to Doc Bracket the next time I watched Emergency! Fuller laughed and said, "Watch out, a Randy Mantooth fan!". We all laughed. Then it is over in the blink of an eye, Kent and Robert had to leave to make an appearance at the banquet that I didn't have tickets for. Now our time with Kent was truly over.
Until the next time, that is.
What a weekend! It was truly wonderful and I can never thank Kent enough for how gracious he was to me, Michael, and Addie. I left Maryland feeling that I could truly call this amazing man my "friend". And that's a great feeling.