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Jewish World Review / August 10, 1998 / 18 Menachem-Av, 5758

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas Endangered species

WHAT DO THE FOLLOWING HAVE IN COMMON, besides their having died this year: Shari Lewis, Roy Rogers, "Buffalo Bob'' Smith, Alan Shepard, Robert Young and Jerome Robbins? The answer is that they all contributed something worthy of our approval, praise and emulation.

The late, great Shari Lewis and friend
It can be dangerous to live in the past, but the loss of such wonderful people within weeks of each other is an occasion to consider the substantial truths they taught and might still teach us.

When I was young, my parents never worried that I might learn something bad from "Buffalo Bob'' and Shari Lewis. Television was a welcome guest in our home. You could even watch the news as a family. Other shows -- like "Kukla, Fran and Ollie,'' "Ding Dong School'' and "Romper Room'' -- taught children right from wrong and instilled positive moral and patriotic values. Some scoff at such things today, but it might be argued that the rejection of those values has led to many of our present predicaments. Then, a stained dress went to the cleaners. Now, it goes to the FBI crime lab.

"Captain Kangaroo,'' "My Friend Flicka'' (and another horse named "Fury''), "Lassie,'' "The Mickey Mouse Club'' and so many other shows were part of the clean entertainment and virtue building blocks that television in those days accepted as its duty to impose. Yes, impose!

Alan Shepard, one of the original seven American astronauts, gave us something to look up to, literally. Years ago I worked in Houston and came to know many of the astronauts. While some had personal struggles and failings common to humanity, they carried with them the greatness and hopes of their nation. Much of the space program is now taken for granted, but who can watch the original films of those Apollo launches, or the dramatic re-creations by Tom Hanks, and not feel the thrill come back? You can see it still in the eyes of the once-and-future astronaut, John Glenn.

Robert Young, though troubled later in life by personal demons that led to a suicide attempt, personified what we wished our families could be in "Father Knows Best.'' His gentle, loving leadership taught lessons we have forgotten in our sex-obsessed age. Young, a successful screen actor before coming to television, was equally wonderful in the TV series "Marcus Welby, M.D.''

Jerome Robbins made the human body beautiful on stage. His choreography in "West Side Story'' and in so many other outstanding American musicals (made truly great by his dances) lifted spirits and caused audiences to forget their troubles, c'mon be happy.

The fun and excitement these people gave us was good and it was clean, and that's why those of us old enough to have personally experienced it can tell our children and grandchildren about them with pride. I wonder what this generation will want to share with the future? Old videos of "Dawson's Creek,'' or "Ellen,'' or "Married With Children''?

Larry King recently interviewed four men from television's Golden Age: Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Steve Allen and Art Linkletter. In addition to expressing their criticism of and contempt for much of what passes for contemporary entertainment, these men talked about what they couldn't do on TV because of censorship in those days -- and what they would never think of doing. But these men had real talent, and the laughs they got were from live audiences, not laugh tracks. Falling ratings are the people's verdict on the trash served up today.

The federal government recently announced it is adding a West Coast salmon to a list of threatened species. Too bad we don't have a similar way to preserve the principles of some of those brave and talented people who have died this year.

To say that Lewis, Rogers, Smith, Shepard, Young and Roberts will be missed is only part of it. Who will replace them?


8/04/98: In search of an unstained president
7/31/98: The UK is ahead of US in one area...
7/28/98: Murder near and far
7/21/98: Telling the truth about
homosexual behavior
7/17/98: One Nation? Indivisible?
7/14/98: Who cares about killing when the 'good times' are rolling?
7/10/98: George W. Bush: a different 'boomer'
7/08/98: My lunch with Roy Rogers
7/06/98: News unfit to print (or broadcast)
6/30/98: Smoke gets in their eyes
6/25/98: Sugar and Spice Girls
6/19/98: William Perry opposed
technology transfers to China
6/19/98: The Clinton hare vs.the Starr tortoise
6/17/98: The President's rocky road to China
6/15/98: Let the children go
6/9/98: Oregon: the new killing fields
6/5/98: Speaking plainly: the cover-up continues
6/2/98: Barry Goldwater: in our hearts
5/28/98:The Speaker's insightful remarks
5/26/98: As bad as it gets
5/25/98:Union dues and don'ts
5/21/98: Connecting those Chinese campaign contribution dots
5/19/98: Clinton on the couch
5/13/98: John Ashcroft: another Jimmy Carter?
5/8/98: Terms of dismemberment
5/5/98: Clinton's tangled Webb
4/30/98: Return of the Jedi
4/28/98: Desparately seeking Susan
4/23/98: RICO's threat to free-speech and expression
4/21/98: Educating children v. preserving an institution
4/19/98: Analyzing the birth of a possible new nation
4/14/98: What's fair about our tax system?
4/10/98: CBS: 'Touched by a perv'
4/8/98: Judge Wright's wrong reasoning on sexual harassment
4/2/98: How about helping American cities before African?
3/31/98:Revenge of the children
3/29/98: The Clinton strategy: delay, deceive, deny, and destroy
3/26/98: Moralist Gary Hart
3/23/98: CNN's century of (liberal) women
3/17/98: Dandy Dan
3/15/98: An imposed 'settlement' settles nothing
3/13/98: David Brock's Turnabout

©1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Inc.