Tuesday, September 8, 2015
See the Man
I don't believe I'd thought of Martin Milner, in anything more than the most fleeting of ways, in 20 years, at least until the sad news of his journey to Fabulon came out over the weekend.
His was never the biggest or most serious of careers, and he leaves at a ripe old age after what seems a life of deep content with his lot. Even so I find it's left me rather pensive.
He wasn't really my type, but Grandmother Muscato thought he was wonderful, and Adam 12 was a regular favorite at her house. It makes a funny but oddly treasured memory - Grandmother in her proper cardigan and lapdesk game of solitaire, me with a book, each in our accustomed chairs in her cozy sitting room, out in the kitchen the dishes from our just-completed dinner in the drainer (Grandmother Muscato made a roast chicken to make grown men weep, and she always deviled me an egg). She had the first color television in the family (bought in 1971, when her team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, at least made the World Series), and the crisp, sunny skies of Los Angeles seemed - were, really - a world away from our cloudy little Great Lakes city, almost as exotic as the milieu of easily solved crimes encountered by Officers Milner and McCord.
He actually had a rather substantial film career - from Life with Father to Valley of the Dolls, and ending up in a childhood favorite, The Swiss Family Robinson - and it's no mean feat to head two hit series. We see him here in costume, such as it is, for The Private Lives of Adam and Eve, in which he shared title roles with none other than Mamie Van Doren (it also features Mickey Rooney, typecast as the Devil - it's probably atrocious, but it doesn't sound dull).
I was too young for his first hit, Route 66, so to me he'll always be Police Officer Pete Malloy, on call at the end of that ever-monitory radio ("Adam 12, Adam 12...") and keeping the street of LA safe for viewers across the country on Thursday (then Tuesday) nights. It's nice to know that he seems to have been every bit as low-key and pleasant off-screen as on, and as unimpressed by fame as he was by NBC's tame incarnations of street punks and petty crooks. Untempted by the likes of Mamie or worse, he was married for 58 years, which must be practically a Hollywood record. I have a feeling she was a lucky lady, and not just because of how nicely he fills out a fig leaf.