The death of veteran actor James Garner made me mourn the loss of my father all over again.
The star of “The Rockford Files” never met me or my dad. We had no connection, family or otherwise. My Dad and I just watched “The Rockford Files” religiously during my formative years. The show’s theme song, I can hear it now as if that ol’ TV set never turned off, is as good a time machine as anything cooked up by H.G. Wells.
I just played it on YouTube and suddenly I’m a young boy again, hunkering with my dad on our leather couch for an hour of leisurely sleuthing. Father and son. Just like Jim Rockford and his irascible pa (Noah Beery, Jr.).
I consumed a freakish amount of TV as a child. Much of it went in one eye and out the other – save that two-part Hawaii episode from “The Brady Bunch.” “The Rockford Files” meant more to me. I think it was because it felt like I was watching a celebrity version of my Dad on screen. Both my Father and Garner had thick, dark hair, a quick smile and a dry sense of humor. If Columbo would harass the killer into confessing, Jim Rockford would slowly charm everyone until the bad guy emerged.
And it didn’t hurt that my Father’s first name was Jim.
My Dad didn’t always resemble James Garner. As a younger man he looked more like Richard Benjamin, the gangly star of “Goodbye, Columbus.” If you haven’t seen it, go rent or stream it. I’ll wait.
In his later years, Dad resembled the classic actor Omar Sharif. Dad didn’t act, but oh, he had range.
When I think of my Dad now, I don’t see the younger man or the grandfather who spent far too little time with my young sons. I think of him in full James Garner mode. I doubt that will ever change.
A young boy can’t help but idolize his father. It took a talented actor to convince me Jim Rockford could measure up to my Dad, and Garner was more than up to the task.