Shrines to faded celebrities pop up online
Mr. T, Elizabeth Montgomery, Lawrence Welk, and more are idolized by fans
If bygone TV and movie stars can be measured by the fervor of their fans, then cyberspace has more of them than your average Hollywood rain-forest benefit. Their hit shows may have debuted when most families still had black-and-white TVs, and their movie careers may have peaked when Johnson was turning over the reins of power to Nixon, but if there’s even one techno-savvy boomer out there whose childhood was enriched by My Favorite Martian, it’s a sure bet he’s designing a Ray Walston home page.
Of course, any reasonably adept person can build an Internet shrine to a favorite star; the trick is to do it with taste, restraint, and (whether or not the page is meant to be ironic) a modicum of originality. Although Eric Ibarra’s Patty Duke page in progress is lacking in content — the entire bio consists of the line ”Patty Duke was born on December 14, 1946 in Elmhurst, New York, USA” — its Myst-style ”Virtual Tour” of The Patty Duke Show set is as unsettling as that sitcom’s identical-cousins conceit. And David W. Grumbine Jr. leavens his ultra-respectful tribute to the late Elizabeth Montgomery with a ”Memorial Quiz,” in which he points out that the pre-Bewitched Montgomery had ”exactly one significant feature film credit,” The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell, starring Gary Cooper.
Even obscure stars can blaze brightly in the galaxy of the Web. Apparently Kim Richards — the twinkling moppet Prudence Everett in the ’70s sitcom Nanny and the Professor — made a big impression on Eric Towell, whose page juxtaposes a publicity shot of the preteen TV darling with a more recent photo of the actress lounging in a bikini. Erin Gray, best known as Col. Wilma Deering in the 1979 show Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, gets similar treatment by Andy Czerwinski, whose cheesecake photos bear such indecipherable captions as ”is 4 screen grabs put to one pic of Erin Gray dancing wearing bra and panties from her guest appearance on Dark Justice.” For sheer impenetrability, you can’t beat Ray Davis’ Tuesday Weld site, in which Davis opines that Weld’s Thalia Menninger in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis ”pointedly capped America’s harsh social pyramid.” Brigitte Bardot should be so lucky — all she gets on her anonymously authored page is a perfunctory filmography and a few fetching photos.
Lest you think the Internet consists entirely of postadolescent males commemorating their teen fantasies, there are plenty of pages devoted to male celebs. Jeffrey Zeldman’s essay on Lawrence Welk is scarcely less pretentious than the Weld treatise (”His eyes compel you. They can focus on nothingness, just as his voice can deliver substance without style”), but one fan’s uncritical enthusiasm for the oeuvre of Mr. T is genuinely wacky, especially when the author compares his Mohawked idol to the world’s tallest tree. And you have to grin at Sarah Kilroy’s terse summary of the career of Star Trek‘s DeForest Kelley: ”He went on acting in many Westerns and eventually played the role of Dr. Leonard McCoy, which changed his life forever.”