Hominy & Hash: CARROLL O'CONNOR WAS PART OF THE FAMILY
by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- I didn't know him and yet I knew him so w= ell. Carroll O'Connor, born in the Bronx as my husband was -- raised in Qu= eens as I was -- pursued a career we would follow for just those reasons. =
Later, after playing judges and prosecutors, detectives and fathers, = he came into our lives as part of the family.
Then, we all knew him and used the character he played in "All in the = Family" as apoint of reference:
"You want to know my father? He's Archie Bunker."
We'd laugh,knowing this person was raised by an opinionated, hard-work= ing man whowould defend his family, church, union and country to the death = all withstrong loyalty and a convoluted sense of telling right from wrong. = Thereare men in our own families we didn't see as often or know as well.
But, that was Archie. It's Carroll O'Connor who died. O'Connorwas= a soft-spoken man of keen intellect, deep faith and a dedication tohis cra= ft. His wife, Nancy, was his loving and constant companion forjust shy of= 50 years.
He was totally different from Archie. In the years followingthe fin= al episodes of "All in the Family," we would see O'Connor'srange, most rece= ntly playing a barkeep grandfather in "Return to Me."Not until these later = performances could we see what a stretch it hadbeen for the actor to bring = Archie to us, complete with the rolling eyesof a bigot and a distinct Canar= sie accent.
His personal life became public when his only son died, a loserin t= he war against drugs. Young Hugh O'Connor, on a straight courseinto a losi= ng battle, took his own life before so-called mind-ameliorating drugs dragg= ed him down into oblivion.
The older O'Connor knew his son wanted out of his addiction andhe a= lso knew that at Hugh's lowest moments during recovery, the drugdealer woul= d come around. It happened over and over.
A very angry O'Connor named names, shouted accusations anddidn't ca= re who heard him. We saw this furious father take his place incourt when t= he dealer sued him for slander. After two years of delaysand appeals, the = judge threw the case out of court. Only occasionallywould we see Carroll O= 'Connor, most often in suit and tie, alwaysdignified, a smile, a wave, but = no longer that sparkle in his blue Irisheyes.
What is the story here? Are we mourning this actor for who hewas a= nd where he came from? Or, are we mourning the character heplayed right i= n front of us at home, not at the movies, not on stage.He played Archie bro= adly but not as a cartoon. We all knew a real live"Archie."
Just as political correctness was something to think and talkabout, O= 'Connor's Archie was a full-blown example of what not to do,what not to say= . He brought it all out into the open but apparentlydidn't realize it w= asn't there all along as "common knowledge." He'dstart in, we'd hold our b= reath and our tongues as well, but oh, how we'dlaugh.
"Everybody knows," he'd start a line -- but, no, Archie,everybody d= oes not know nor think the way you do. Just you.
Inside the character of Archie Bunker was a cariature of Archie,him= self. The role was so perfectly played it was like the virtualreality prog= rams popular decades later. We were voyeurs peering intothe Bunker's place= in Astoria.
We never had a chance to mourn Archie Bunker -- because he neverwen= t away. Reruns of the popular television show will go on forever,around th= e clock, around the world. For generations viewers will seethere was a tim= e some of "All in the Family," was in every family.
Carroll O'Connor, the neighborhood boy whose stellar career wefollo= wed, is gone. We hardly knew the man once Archie took over hislife. And s= o it is that now, even in death, it's Archie we thank forthe legacy.