Heard the news first thing this morning: James Garner died at age 86.
Aw dang. I know that no one can live forever, but it was nice knowing that James Garner occupied the same planet.
I remember him most for his role in "Maverick." In "Maverick" and in everything I've ever seen him act in, he was the same: a crooked-smiling cracking-wise guy who didn't seem to realize that he was handsome enough to be a romantic lead.
My good friend and writing student, Bill Beecher, grew up in Norman, Oklahoma with James Garner. Bill was a funny guy with an Okie twang and he loved to tell stories about his pal who became famous. Back in Norman, James Garner was known by his birth name of Jimmy Bumgarner. My friend Bill said, "He was a little tag-along. We all called him Jimmy Bum."
When he died yesterday, James Garner was still married to his first wife, Lois, whom he wed in 1956. How quaint. Another quaint thing: I don't think he ever played a role in a TV show or movie he'd be embarrassed for his parents or children to watch. Maybe that's why so many people think of him with affection. I've seen numerous tributes on Facebook; it seems that everyone loves their own particular James Garner character.
Perhaps when you grow up known as "Jimmy Bum," you tend to remember your beginnings. It always seemed that James Garner did. I think he kept Norman, Oklahoma inside of him.
My friend Bill Beecher beat James Garner to heaven by a few years. I like to think of Bill there now, calling James Garner "Jimmy Bum," and welcoming him in.