Honey West , for those who don't know, was the first "girl" detective series on TV. It wasn't a huge success, lasting one 1965-1966 on ABC. But for some kids of that time, especially girls, who had never seen a woman run her own business, use her head and even get into fights, it was a momumental series.
So the passing of actress Anne Francis last week at age 80 following a battle with cancer needs to be honored.
Francis was the "private eye-full" Honey West, complete with tear gas earrings, lipstick radio transmitters, a black garter tear gas mask (what every woman needs) and other cool gadgets that had, until then, been reserved just for boys like James Bond.
She got all the great toys and a pet ocelot named Bruce.
Honey also had to put up with a lot of sexism like that "private eye-full" comment. In running her late father's Los Angeles detective agency, she also had to work with the firm's former junior partner, Sam Bolt, played by John Ericson. While Sam was, admittedly, quite good looking and obviously in love with Honey, he also was dumber than a box of bricks. Not as dumb as Sheena's Bob (she was another childhood hero), but Sam would never be mistaken for a Ph.D. candidate. Sam also thought it his duty to try to boss Honey around. Silly man.
Honey West was created during the 1950s by Skip and Gloria Fickling for a pulp fiction series. But the TV version was a bit tamer, more sophisticated and very glamourous. Who cared how thin the plots were as long as Francis got to change her clothes at least three times an episode?
So does this very dated TV series hold up? Yes, and no.
Francis is obviously having a lot of fun with the character and she is fun to watch. The scripts are so-so. The gadgets are cool, but not very sophisticated looking. It's more the idea of these items than what we actually would see in a Bond movie. And the martial arts that Honey West supposedly knows are quite awkward and phony. It wouldn't be until 1966 when America got a glimpse of a real kick-ass woman who made fight scenes seem real in the form of Diana Rigg's Emma Peel on The Avengers.
Flawed, of course. But I wouldn't part with my Honey West DVD.
It was one of the coldest mornings last year, but that didn't seem to matter to Randy or the others who were swimming with the Navy SEALS as a fund-raiser. It was an amazing sight and no could help but be moved by watching these hearty men and women come ashore, freezing, but happy and knowing they had just raised money for a SEAL who had been disabled fighting for our country.
I was there to interview Randy for a cover story for Mystery Scene. I had brought the towels in case his wife, the singer Wendy Webb, was unable to get his car to the finish line. We didn't want this New York Times best selling author to freeze.
This year, I stayed home.
But not Randy.
Once again he joined the fund-raiser and he was there for the 2nd Annual Frogman “Toasty Warm” Swim, which the organizers hope will be a yearly event to raise money for those brave men and women who have fought for this country. This year, 67 people made the swim in hopes of raising $50,000 for the Naval Special Warfare Foundation, which provides services for Navy SEALs wounded in action and college educations for children of fallen SEALs. More information is on the fund-raiser's web site and here is a link to the St. Petersburg Times story.
Randy said the water was a bit warmer this year but, I am sure, the sight was just as dramatic and the reason for the swim as important as ever.
In the cover story that Mystery Scene published, Randy discussed his volunteer work and I hope the story gave readers a different view of this author whose book Night Vision, his 18th novel about Doc Ford, a marine biologist and former government op who lives on Florida’s Sanibel Island will be published in February. (The interview ran in the Winter 2010 Issue, No. 113.)
Sometimes tells me that, as long as he can, he'll also be back next year to swim with the SEALS.