Saturday, April 24, 2010

Alias Smith and Jones: Remembering Pete Duel

"Heyes, there's only one thing been keepin' you alive all this time."
"And what's that?"
Hannibal Heyes & Kid Curry ~ Alias Smith and Jones 

Certain things make me nostalgic. The scent of an old sachet makes me remember my grandmother. A picture when I was 5 makes me remember a fishing trip. Even going through old magazines to throw away reminds me of old friendships, broken but still important. Macgyver was my television show when I was a child. He was my hero and remains a special influence even today, nearly 20 years later.

For my mother, at the age of 16, her favorite show was Alias Smith and Jones. It's one of the programs where the women's hair was definitely 1970s, their dresses all had zippers, and little plastic windows could be spotted in the telegram envelopes. But that show meant something special to her. And even now it brings back nostalgia full force.

She remembers those first glorious two seasons when she and her best friend giggled and laughed and adored their western heroes.

She also remembers December 31st, 1971 when Pete Duel (Hannibal Heyes) shot himself.

The question running through everyone's mind was: WHY!? He had so much going for him. A hit television show, fame, fortune. Something, some evil voice slithered its way into his head and convinced him to end it all. Why did he listen to that voice? What desperate murmurings did he hear that last night? Did it happen all of a sudden, or had he been contemplating suicide for months? Years?

You know, there is never a good enough reason to commit suicide. Sometimes death happens purely by accident. But there are those who pull the trigger or jump off a building or even step off a chair with a noose around their neck. What is it like to hit bottom and not be able to see the light anymore?

We'll never know the answer.

Pete Duel is gone.

But he'll never be forgotten. Every time I look into Heyes' twinkling brown eyes and watch that dimple crinkle at the corner of his smile, I feel like I knew him. Like I could look into his soul and save him. His was a soul worth saving, just like every man's soul is worth saving. The Lord wishes that none should perish. His perfect Son died to pay our penalty, so that our souls could be saved. Those satanic whisperings are lies.

I love watching my mother watch Alias Smith and Jones. I can see a tinge of sorrow whenever she looks at Hannibal Heyes, but I can also see her recapture the delight she felt as a teenager, crushing on a teen idol. This is something she and I can finally share, together. I feel the loss of Pete Duel as poignantly today as she did 39 years ago. And I delight just as strongly now as she does in the character of Hannibal Heyes. What an odd combination, loving a character while mourning the actor. But the most important thing we can do is remember those who listened to evil whisperings. Because their stories deserve to be told.